We start scouting the deer on our property with trail cameras in the humid days of summer and continue through January. We install 25 to 30 trail cameras on the property in high traffic areas along trails off of fields or food plots, along the edges of habitats, and along the river’s edge.
Long gone are the days where we continuously walked the property to get a feel for our deer. Instead, these trail cameras help us get a glimpse of what is going on at Tara with more accurate information and data.
The photos that the trail cameras take tell us a story. Through these photos we can tell how many deer are on the property, the size and quality of the bucks in the area, how many fawns were produced this year, and much more. These cameras sometimes catch non-target species such as a bear or a hog or even a poacher.
One of the funniest series of photos we have seen show a doe and two fawns walking down a trail closely followed by a coyote. The next photo shows the coyote with its tail tucked running back down the trail with the doe in close pursuit. We can only imagine what happened off camera.
Trail Cameras as a scouting tool
Trail cameras are a valuable tool for scouting our property. The information they provide helps us to determine the best locations for our hunters to set up. Some locations see a lot of deer traffic during the day, whereas others may only see deer at night, making it a less desirable location for a hunter.
The information that the cameras collect helps us to create a better hunting experience as well. The cameras collect data on the moon phase, barometric pressure, temperature, time, etc. This information often correlates with deer activity so that we learn about the conditions that make the deer show up and which conditions cause the deer bed down. For example, if barometric pressure is over 30, we tend to see more deer movement in our area.
Even if a hunter ends up not having success in a specific spot, the ability to view photos from the previous 10 days to 2 weeks provides them with a sense of excitement and anticipation for the hunt.
Tips for Installing a Trail Camera
We’ve had a lot of practice using trail cameras and have learned a lot about how to get the best photos that tell the story of your deer population. The following are some of the thing we have learned about placing and using trail cameras.
In order to capture the best photos, we install the cameras along high traffic areas. These would be highly frequented trails along food plots, a salt lick, or adjacent to fields. During the rutting season, a good location to place cameras is along a trail at habitat edges. Cameras can also be placed along water sources, where animals might stop to drink.
When placing a trail camera, it’s important to consider the angle of the sun at certain times of the day. Avoid placing the camera in a location where the photos will be obscured by the sun at any time.
Clear out any overhanging branches or shrubs that might blow into the camera’s frame during periods of high wind. Since the cameras are motion-activated, you might end up with dozens of photos of a tree limb if you have not removed any potential obstructions.
Consider the height of deer when attaching the camera. If you place the camera too low, you’ll only capture the legs of the animals, but if you place it too high, you’ll only capture the top of the antlers. We recommend you put it about waist high on a tree (approximately 3-4 feet from the ground).
If you place the camera adjacent to a field, we recommend that you use regular motion. If it’s placed on a trail, put it on the high trigger settings so that you won’t miss any of the deer that go by.
Don’t visit the cameras too regularly or you risk spooking the animals. We check our cameras once a week early in the season to 10 days or 2 weeks later in the season. In our experience, the deer don’t generally spook from the camera itself.
Review your photos regularly to see what the cameras are capturing. See some of our trail camera photos here.