There is no denying that trail cameras can be an effective scouting tool which can lead to the demise of your biggest whitetail buck ever or simply a little more meat in your freezer. However, if your game camera isn’t used properly it won’t deliver either one. Here’s 8 trail camera tips that will help you get better results this year.
Don’t Look At The Sun
Your mother probably told you the same thing. However, when it comes to game cameras that advice is still prudent. Nothing will drive you crazier than checking your trail camera only to find dozens (sometimes hundreds) of images of nothing but sunlit vegetation. The reason? Heat and movement.
Facing your camera into the sun will result in the temperature changing (rising/falling) in conjunction with the summer/fall breeze blowing vegetation around. Your trail camera puts the two together and immediately thinks a game animal is nearby. Valuable card space is eaten away and hopes are dashed when you realize there is no trophy buck standing center frame…only brush and sunlight.
While it's not always possible we prefer positioning trail cameras so that they face North.
Trail cameras are sensitive to heat and movement so do your best not to provide both before a living, breathing animal shows up.
Theft Proof It
It is a sad but true fact, if you leave your game camera hanging in the woods without some sort of protection the odds are good it won’t be there when you return. And, while there are a few commercial lock boxes designed for your game camera, most leave a lot to be desired. It’s true you can’t really stop a determined thief but if you have the means a heavy-duty camera box is the ticket. Also, if you happen to live or hunt in an area that harbors bears then the heavy-duty option is really the only option. You can either make them yourself or buy one at your local pro shop.
A bear can destroy a game camera in a matter of seconds if not properly protected.
If you're not a fan of lock boxes another option is to hang your trail cameras outside the natural line of sight. Specifically, hang your trail cams up high. Not only will this be less obvious when someone walks by but bucks sensitive to cameras will not see them as well. A win-win, plus an unique perspective on a bucks rack.
Cover Your Stench
Hunting season may be months away, but that mature buck you’re chasing doesn’t know it. All he knows is that someone stopped by the gas station and then biscuit world before walking into his stomping grounds. He will react accordingly and you may be none the wiser to his actions.
To fix this dilemma, you should treat every trip to your trail camera like you are climbing into the stand to hunt. This means making sure you are as scent-free as possible. This includes boots, clothing and your body. Everything must be clean and odor free. It’s also a good idea to time camera checks just before a big rainfall when possible.
Leave It Alone
One of the biggest mistakes trail camera users make is the lack of control when it comes to checking their camera for images. Sure, it’s exciting to pull SD cards and see big antlers on your computer screen. But if you are making frequent trips to your camera you can expect the action to eventually slow down or even stop as it will scare off your bucks. Try spreading out your camera checks and resist the urge to visit them too often. The result will be less pressure on the very buck you’re chasing. And as you already know, mature bucks don’t respond well to pressure of any sort.
Just because it is summer doesn’t mean that buck doesn’t know your comings and goings. Especially if you’re frequently checking your trail camera. Mature bucks just know.
Batteries for Trail Cams
Don’t skimp on your trail camera’s batteries. While you might save a little buying cheap batteries, more expensive Lithiums will last two to three times longer than alkaline batteries. Plus they will perfom better in extreme hot and cold weather and you'll get a little more range from your flash. Longer battery life will allow trail cams to sit longer with fewer visits.
It’s also a good idea to start with a camera model known for good battery life. This, combined with quality batteries, will only make your overall system stronger.
Move It or Leave it
Spend enough time with a trail camera and you will learn the fine art of knowing when to move it and when to be patient and let it do its job. Don’t be afraid to move your camera if you think a better location exists. Quite often hunters will wait longer than they should expecting deer to suddenly show up. They may or may not. A lot depends on the time of year, available food and cover or the phase of the rut. Consider all of these factors before deciding to stay or move. If you want more information on this topic be sure to see our blog post "Trail Camera Placement Strategies for Different Times of the Year".
Location, Location, Location
The best camera and hanging techniques in the world won’t amount to much if the location you choose is subpar. Consider the time of year and what your goals are before hanging your camera. Pinch points, funnels, food sources, game trails and bedding areas always produce action so make sure your location of choice is somehow connected to one of those.
Good real estate means everything whether you’re buying or selling a home, opening a new business or trying to kill a big buck. When it comes to hanging your trail camera, the exact location won’t matter if the overall area doesn’t hold older class bucks to begin with.
Trail Camera Software
Trail camera technology has come a long way and with that comes an even bigger need for an easy, convenient method for organizing and breaking down all of the info gathered. It can be difficult to put all of the puzzle pieces together when you’re pouring over hundreds of big-buck images. Software programs such as those offered by DeerLab are a great way to break down every image in your collection. This will allow you to uncover hidden data that might not be obvious to the naked eye or with average methods. If you haven't tried DeerLab out be sure to see how it can help. While at it sign-up for their free 14-day trial. I believe it will completely change the way you look at your trail camera photos.
Trail cameras are a great scouting tool. However, with a little forethought and preparation you can raise their level of performance no matter what camera you use.
We would love to hear from you. Do you have a secret for getting the most out of your trail camera? If so, we would love to hear about it. Share your top tactic below.