Trail cameras are a great scouting tool and have certainly led to the demise of more than a few trophy bucks over the last decade or so. However, as good as they are at getting you closer to that buck of your dreams, they are equally effective at ruining your entire whitetail setup. Well, actually the trail camera isn’t to blame. You are. Here are 5 ways you can actually spook the very buck you’re chasing when using a trail cameras.
Trail cameras can either help you or hurt you depending on how and when you use them.
You Can’t Stay Away From Your Camera
Sure, it is exciting when you reach for that full SD card with visions of monster bucks on it. But when it comes to making a trip to your trail camera being overzealous is the kiss of death. The key to killing big bucks (or any buck) is the element of surprise. In other words, the moment the buck you are after know they are being hunted the odds tilt drastically in their favor. Return trips to swap SD cards in your camera will ultimately tip your hand. Aside from the shear commotion of reaching your camera, you have to contend with ground and airborne scent that will further educate deer. Speaking of scent...
You Took No Scent Control Precautions
Yeah, it’s spring time. Time to take it easy and maybe get some yard work done. However, if you take that same approach with your trail camera reconnaissance you’re in for a rude awakening. The reason is that I don’t think mature bucks can’t tell the difference between the off-season and hunting season. Especially in areas that receive very little human traffic. Sure, farmers can probably get away with a little more intrusion but someone like me who specifically hunts mountain bucks, any hint of my presence can spell the end.
The bottom line is you should treat each trip to your trail camera as if it were an actual hunt no matter what time of year it is. Go through the same scent-control procedures as you normally would and try to avoid touching the surrounding vegetation as much as possible. Also, pay attention to wind direction. For example, if your camera hangs on the edge of a bedding area you can actually hurt your chances by checking the card when the wind is wrong. Personally, I try to schedule my “card checks” just prior to a thunderstorm. My thought is that this can help dilute any ground scent that is left behind. And, if the storm is really close, the accompanying wind and noise could also hide my comings and goings.
You Placed Your Camera Too Close To The Target Buck
It has been my experience that mature bucks spend a lot of time in their bedding area or “safety” zone. If you locate a buck's bedding area the last thing you want to do is walk into it and hang a trail camera. The better option would be to hang your camera on the fringes in order to locate preferred travel routes to and from the presumed hiding location.
Any time you get close to a big bucks core area you should proceed with caution. I’ve hung trail cameras in such areas before but I did so with the thought that they would remain there for the entire hunting season or they wouldn’t be checked until I returned to hunt.
Sure, you may end up with an image or two if your camera is placed at ground zero. However, the success will be short lived because it will only take a trip or two for that trophy buck to figure out what’s going on. And by the time you figure out that he has figured you out….it will be too late.
The Target Buck Saw The Light
The debate of whether or not a standard white flash will spook a mature buck is almost as complex as which broadhead is the best. There are simply too many factors involved in each scenario to establish a definite winner. What I do know is that until I see definitive proof that a white flash will not spook a mature buck I will opt for the infrared version or “no-flash” at all.
Honestly, I have no problem believing a big buck could be spooked by a white light flashing in its face. They are so cagey and eccentric by nature; why take the chance. Also, infrared or no-flash models are harder to locate by fellow hunters who happen to be in the area after nightfall; for whatever reason.
Location can also pertain to how you set your camera up. For example, if you hang your camera on a game trail, try not to point it directly into the eyes of approaching bucks. This might result in unintentionally alarming them.
The Buck Of Your Dreams Heard Your Camera
I have some newer model trail cameras and when they snap an image I can’t hear a thing. However, I have a few older models that are highly reliable (that’s why I still have them) but they do emit a sound when triggered. Unless you still have a few of the older models or very cheap models in your arsenal then sound shouldn’t be an issue. If you do have one and you realize that it is making a sound you can still keep it in the lineup. I would just consider sitting it up near a food source or bait pile (where legal) instead of a highly sensitive security zone.
Trail cameras can be a powerful scouting tool or you can cut your own throat with them without even knowing it. Try to avoid the aforementioned mistakes and you will be one step closer to filling your trophy buck tag. Best of luck.
If you have any additional advice please share below.