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Trail Camera Season - Learn Tips for Better Success

6/13/2012
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trail camera photoWith turkey season over and deer hunting season still months away I begin to dust off my trail cameras. After clearing up my SD cards and loading up on fresh batteries I start to get anxious to put my cameras in the woods. However, I prefer to approach trail camera season with a great amount of caution.

Many hunters get sloppy in the summer with their scouting because they are not actually carrying a gun or bow. They seem to overlook the fact that although we observe and understand season dates, tags, shooting times, etc.; to the animals we pursue it is just another day in the wild and survival is king. Anytime we enter the woods, hunting season or not, we will have an impact on the whitetails in the area. They will not overlook the fact that we are bumping them from their beds, walking through their food sources, and leaving human scent on their travel corridors. If these encounters are rare they will usually not abandon their patterns but if they reoccur frequently the whitetails may move on to a lower pressure area. Well guess what….a trail camera that needs batteries and may be full of pictures of giant bucks just begs the hunter to return frequently.

To help prevent unwanted pressure on the mature bucks that I am hunting I stick to a few simple guidelines:

  1. I personally prefer not to put out any trail cameras until after July 4th. The majority of the bucks in my area will not really start to show how big they are until this time frame and I see no reason to risk spooking my big bucks when I can’t really tell how big they are anyway.
  2. Choose locations that are low impact. My favorite locations are field edges that I can drive my truck right to the camera. This way I leave very little ground scent, I am in the area for a short time, and deer are usually a little more forgiving of vehicle intrusion than they are of foot traffic.
  3. Only check cameras in the middle of the day to limit the amount of interaction with the local deer.
  4. When accessing more remote locations I approach with nearly the same caution that I would when accessing a stand for hunting. I will only access these areas with a favorable wind direction and while using proper scent control methods.
  5. I change camera locations often to prevent over pressuring a given area. I may return to a previous location later in the summer but I like to give areas a rest.
  6. If I get a picture of a mature buck, especially one that I am after, I will usually immediately pull the camera and leave him alone. I may check the area closer to hunting season but I really see no reason to take pictures of the same buck all summer. The risk is way too high that I may spook him out of the area.

With all of this being said, I have had trail camera locations that I could run nearly year round. Maybe because of easy access or its’ proximity to other human activity it was conducive to frequent visits. These locations are few and far between though and I prefer to err on the side of caution.

Trail cameras are a great tool to use in the pursuit of mature whitetail bucks and more importantly are just plain fun to use. There is no better way to experience that Christmas morning feeling in the dog days of summer. However, hunters need to be careful to not use these cameras to their own detriment. Use them wisely, enjoy your summer, and good luck finding the deer of your dreams.

Corey Wilkinson

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