Trail Cameras: On the Hunt

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Trail Cameras: On the Hunt
Click to view this article in the Fall 2015 issue of ADVENTURESS magazine.

Trail camera strategies for fall hunting tactics

Trail camera season tends to be thought of as summertime bachelor buck groups; however, these velvet stunners will often not be the bucks potentially walking by your stand come fall. Summer patterns quickly break and deer behavior constantly changes for the following months. Run your trail cameras to try to keep up.

ON THE MOVE

There are several ways using trail cameras during season as a hunting strategy is helpful. One of them is monitoring deer movement. While it’s a lot of fun to watch velvet bucks grow in the summer, we often end up harvesting bucks we have never gotten on trail camera. The reason? Bucks are moving out of their core area during season and new bucks are constantly roaming into your area. It’s like playing cards and all of a sudden being dealt a completely different hand. It’s even more important to be on your trail camera game at this time.

One of the most interesting things we found using trail cameras during season is when all of a sudden a buck that we followed (until he disappeared) on one property, all of a sudden shows up on a completely different property sometimes a couple miles away that we also happen to hunt. This shows that movement out of the core area, and it now lets us know where he’s moved to for the time being.

This also shows if you are able to hunt multiple properties, don’t put all your eggs in one basket and try to have your trail cameras spread out at each property.

Trail cameras are also great to show you when there is too much human pressure. When you’ve shown a good number of deer each day or night in an area, followed by a quick decline in numbers, it could be because you need to back off hunting your area if you’ve been hitting it often. This can happen very quickly on fields and food plots, and can be a good idea to change up your strategy by pulling away from the field with stands that put you on trails leading to and from the field.

Any patterns you can pick up on through trail cameras are something to put to use in your hunting strategy. A major thing to pay attention to is the time of day bucks are moving. Often a buck will go nocturnal, but this can help you know when to go into an area when he all of a sudden starts showing up on trail camera during shooting light.

Also pay attention to what bucks are doing in the photos. Are they coming or going down a trail. What are they walking to or coming back from? Are they searching, chasing, aggressive?

KNOWING YOUR BUCKS

Once you’ve hunted enough and had enough success that you are getting pickier about what you use your buck tag on, trail cameras can be a major help with quick decisions to shoot or not to shoot. When a buck is very small or very big, it can be easy to make a decision to pass or shoot. However, there are going to be a lot of bucks that will be in that borderline range that you really need to look them over to know. There are a lot of bucks that can confuse you with scoring. Also aging comes into play with those practicing quality deer management (QDM). You can have a great looking buck that can be young and something you want to grow. However, when these borderline bucks come in quick only giving you a moment to decide or miss your opportunity, knowing your bucks ahead of time and determining “Shooter” and “Pass” lists can make all the difference so you don’t end up kicking yourself later.

It can also be hard to remember all your bucks. This is where it is helpful to create names off some kind of characteristic as simple as “Big 9” or creative such as “Stingray” from kicked back G2s. Check out TrailCamTrophies.com to choose from more than 1,000 buck names you can search alphabetically, by characteristics or through a random name generator.

CHOOSING A CAMERA

While certain times you might go for the best photo with a trail camera, hunting time is about just getting the deer on camera. This is why I recommend an infrared camera, as a white-flash camera can spook some deer, especially mature bucks.

Running trail cameras during hunting season is also a prime time to catch trespassers. You’d be surprised how many you’ll see. This gives you even more reason not to let them see your camera and a white flash going off in the timber can be a ‘gimme’ for a stolen camera.

If trespassers are really a problem in your area (even more typical near rivers/creeks), you can even go a step further and ‘camouflage’ your trail camera with Cambush Camo.

POSITIONING

Trail cameras are often linked with the usage of bait, so first of all, make sure you are following your state laws. During deer season, we run our trail cameras with no bait  (law) and concentrate on heavily used buck trails, landscape funnels and scrapes. Wherever we choose to position them, they are in easy access areas so we are not scenting up and pressuring the deer any more. These positions are near our treestands so we can use the information for hunting strategies and we can easily change the camera card or move the trail camera when hunting that stand.

My best luck has come from areas where multiple trails collide going into a thick area we don’t enter for hunting and on scrapes under licking branches.

When setting up on a trail, don’t position the camera facing directly at it. Face at an angle so you have more area to catch them on trail camera instead of a blur going by. On field edge scrapes, pay attention to the sun so you don’t have a lot of glare photos. Many scrapes and licking branches are visited in the evening/night, so it can help facing your trail camera to the east so the setting sun doesn’t white out your photos. ~JP