Trail cameras have changed the way we hunt. Less than a decade ago, hunting consisted of hanging stands based on sign and hoping a monster buck would wander by. Now we set up cameras to capture pictures of elusive mature whitetails. These time-stamped images help us decide where and when to hunt. Trail cameras have taken a lot of surprise out of the game.
Scouting still consists of spending time in the woods searching for sign, but now if you find a scrape line or a cluster of rubs you hang a camera in hopes of capturing images of bucks frequenting the area. These days, a lot of the excitement of laying your eyes on a monster buck comes when sitting behind a computer screen.
From a quality deer management standpoint, one of the most positive aspects of trail camera use is the ability to selectively harvest mature whitetails. A lot of hunters these days are establishing what they call a "hit list" of bucks to hunt each fall. Trail cameras let us know what deer are on our property and help in determining specific deer to hunt.
"On our hunting leases, we run multiple cameras all year long to know what deer are living on the properties," Aaron Oelger, director of marketing for Bushnell, said. "We want to know where deer are at different times of the year and we want to know which bucks made it through the previous hunting season. In late summer, we use the trail cameras to help us determine which deer we want to focus on once the season opens."
Trail cameras are for strategic use, but they are also amazingly fun. Every time you pop your SD card into the computer, you never know what is going to appear. The same camera could be picking up deer, turkey, bears, bobcats, mountain lions and more. It's the rarities and the awkward moments we capture on trail cameras that truly bring an element of childish excitement to the process of surveying your deer herd.
"Three or four years ago I was just using cameras to monitor deer during the fall, but nowadays trail cameras have taken my deer hunting to a whole knew level," Oelger said. "I'm engaged year-round because I'm interested in knowing what goes on with the deer through the different seasons. Right now I'm getting pictures of a doe and her fawns almost every day. It's so cool to watch them all interact, and it's just a ton of fun."
Setting up trail cameras is a strategic process. In order to get the pictures you want, which likely are pictures of bucks, you need to set your cameras where the bucks will be at different times of the year. In the late stages of summer, the best place to get pictures of bucks is on their way to and from feeding areas. If your state allows supplemental feeding and the placement of minerals, then setting up cameras over feed or licks is a perfect opportunity to capture quality images.
Trail cameras are both entertaining and educational. They allow you to keep tabs of the deer on your hunting ground, while adding another enjoyable aspect to your passion for hunting.
See you down the trail ...
Brandon Butler is an outdoor columnist for the News Tribune. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org