Trail photography an excellent resource
Finding an evening to hunt after work one clear October day, a busy Pennsylvania bowhunter drove 40 minutes to his favorite hunting property.
Since no shooters had shown themselves during previous outings in this particular area, the hunter had his mind set on trying a new stand site a couple hundred yards below his normal hunting location.
On his way to the creek-bottom stand he intended for the hunt that evening, he swung by a different stand he had recently sat in three times with no success. He had a trail camera hanging over a mock scrape he made there and wanted to check if anything worthwhile passed through in the days since he last hunted at the stand.
Scrolling backward through the trail camera’s viewfinder revealed a quality buck working the scrape in broad daylight around 5 p.m. just a few days earlier.
With this fresh intel, the bowhunter abandoned his original plans to hunt the creek bottom, doctored up the mock scrape with fresh scent and hurried up a set of climbing sticks within eyesight of the trail camera that gave him all the confidence he needed.
As the sun began to dip through the treetops, the hefty buck who proved himself photogenic earlier that week materialized from the ridge behind the hunter’s stand. It made a scrape beneath a hemlock, nonchalantly ambled into bow range and paused to slurp an acorn from the forest floor.
Seizing the moment, the hunter’s arrow hit its mark and another Pennsylvania buck tag was filled as a result of trail camera insight.
For those who have failed to guess it, I was that hunter and the story explains how a split-second decision made the difference between taking a buck that evening or sitting in a different stand with an undetermined outcome. The key player, though, was the trail camera and the images it held, which ultimately solidified the thoughtful rationale for hunting that particular location over another.
Trail cameras, when used properly, can provide deer hunters with a wealth of information.
During the offseason, they help hunters inventory the deer on their properties, identify potential shooters and locate high-traffic areas.
When used in-season, hunters can confirm suspected travel routes, key in on hot food sources or fresh sign and keep tabs on stand sites when they’re not able to physically be in the woods themselves. They can also be used to determine what time of day bucks are on their feet and if any noticeable patterns arise worth taking into consideration.
Placing trail cameras in strategic locations to provide the best information with consistently reliable results is the key. There are certainly some tricks worth noting in order to achieve maximum performance from these “artificial eyes” in the deer woods.
First and most obvious, hang the camera in an area deer are likely to travel. Seek out high-frequency areas that can be confirmed by deer sign along trails, inside field corners or over natural feed flats.
Whenever possible, hang cameras at waist height and facing north to avoid direct glare from the rising and setting sun. If setting over a trail, try to direct it between a 45-degree angle and straight up the trail, rather than 90 degrees parallel to the trail, which will result in more photos of approaching and straight away shots, rather than passing shots, which some cameras with slow trigger speeds will miss.
To avoid unintentional image captures, lower the PIR or sensitivity settings, and be sure there is no swaying vegetation between the camera and the deer’s expected travel routes.
A good idea is to set the camera on a multi-image burst to capture several images at a time.
Sometimes deer have their heads turned a certain way that makes identification difficult when the photo is taken. A multi-image burst often remedies this and gives users a better look at the deer in different positions.
Use caution, however, as video modes, as well as multi-image capture settings, tend to fill SD cards faster and burn through batteries at a more frequent pace than single image settings. This also is so for larger megapixel settings, which produce crisper, clearer images.
Prior to the season try to avoid contaminating the area with human scent; this means only checking cameras every couple of weeks. During the season usually entails more frequent camera visits, but do so with the same amount of scent control and stealth generally used for normal hunting scenarios.
If trail cameras are placed in the proper position the information they provide can help hunters be in the right position at the right time when a quality buck passes through. Yes, even hunters with original intentions of hunting somewhere else.
Trail cameras strategically placed in the proper locations can prove to be reliable deer-scouting tools both prior to and during the hunting season.
A buck is captured on a trail cam.