Make Use Of Trail Cameras

Upstate Outdoors
August 31, 2018 - 11:44 am

By: Philip Gentry 


On the eve of the 2018 whitetail deer season, deer hunters have been spending pre-season in the woods scouting for deer, preparing stand sites and working on food plots. Over the last 10 -15 years automated game cameras, also referred to as trail cameras, have become as integral to deer hunting as hunting boots, tree stands and guns or bows.

Amid the rise in popularity of electronics in the woods, some states have considered limiting the use of game cameras under the fear that overharvesting of game would result from too much information about the quarry. 

The Boone and Crockett Club, known for the organization’s antler scoring system and record keeping of world record harvests, will not recognize trophy animals harvested in association with the use of live-action game cameras, those devices that transmit images to a remote receiver for viewing. Devices that require the user to visit the site and obtain the images by manually removing media from the camera are acceptable.

Deer hunters who have no reservation about using game cameras have discovered the value of collecting information about their intended quarry around the clock. Game cameras are valuable for inventorying deer herds as well as helping identify travel habits of an individual animal. It’s becoming more common place for hunters to collect game cameras photos of a trophy buck or potential trophy bucks days, months, and even years before they get it in the cross hairs. 

Game cameras also greatly assist in selecting which animals are suitable to the hunter for harvest and have promoted a down turn in the “shoot and hope” practice when hunters only get a glimpse of a deer that may or may not be of trophy potential

Like bass anglers who steadfastly rely on marine sonar and electronics to pattern and identify fish that will hopefully find their way into the livewell, game cameras are one of many tools now available to deer hunters. Like bass, deer patterns change as the season evolves and hunters who don’t adapt by changing camera site locations are probably not getting the best information available.

During the early season and pre-seasons during the time when bucks may still have velvet on their antlers, game cameras are frequently used to inventory the standard herd on a piece of property, taking stock of both numbers and ages of bucks and does.

The best camera locations for herd assessment are early season food sources – oak flats, honeysuckle patches, mineral licks or baited areas.

During the pre-rut phase of the season, that time between when bucks shed their velvet and begin actively seeking out mates, hunters will be best served by moving game cameras to the vicinity of rub lines and pinch points, those areas where bucks have begun marking their territories and shedding velvet from their antlers.

Bear in mind, this time frame occurs during the hunting season and hunters should make conservative use of trail cameras without overly alerting the animals to human presence when checking the camera. Game cameras should be approached like hunting stands, from down-wind with a decidedly stealthy approach and egress from the area.

During the rut, hunters should again relocate game cameras to areas of scrape lines and the edges of bedding areas and feeding areas where doe activity is the highest.When trying to capture images during the pre-rut and rut phases, be sure to set the trigger mechanism on the camera to immediate shutter as the animals may be moving when the camera trips.

For post rut, late season game camera usage, hunters should again relocate cameras to grain food plots and other late season food sources. Secondary rutting activity can be captured by paying attention to scrape lines and rub lines that continue to be freshened.

Along with capturing some memorable images of deer on the property hunted, game cameras provide some very informative and entertaining insights into the lives and habits who also share the land with the deer population.

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