It's late summer and the first Whitetail hunting seasons are going to start opening around the country before you know it. This is the time of the year that we start preparing and getting ready to make those first hunts. And trail cameras have become a very popular tool for whitetail hunters. So here are a few tips on how to make the most of your early season scouting by utilizing trail cams.
Early Season Scouting
Early-season whitetail hunting is very different from mid-season and late-season. During the later seasons, we start having less food available for the deer, more rut activity, and the deer are just acting differently.
Staying out of your hunting areas during the summer will help eliminate as much human pressure as possible. But by doing so, you oftentimes won't know what deer are actually in the area or what they are doing.
The information that you may have gathered about the deer in your area during the previous late-season hunt is NOT going to be the same as it is now. So the big questions to ask yourself are:
1: What deer are here?
2: What groups are they staying in?
3: How/where are they moving?
4: When are they moving?
This is where scouting and using trail cameras come in and play a huge role in gathering the data you need for a successful whitetail hunting strategy.
Types of Trail Cameras
There are two types of trail cameras: Cellular and Standalone. Both have their Pros and Cons, but both can be utilized in different scenarios to gather as much data about the area that you are hunting and help you prepare for the whitetail hunting season.
Cellular cameras have an obvious advantage. Once you get them set them up, they deliver pictures directly to your phone. This can help avoid any unnecessary disturbance of the deer's habitat, allowing them to continue about their normal habits without any interference from your scent or them seeing something out of place. Spending time in a potential hunting area can really mess up the deer's natural patterns and potentially change those behaviors before you ever even figure them out.
Cellular cameras are an excellent tool to use in areas where deer may be traveling or near a natural food source. You can go in, set up your camera once, and watch it on a day-to-day basis and see if the areas start to have more traffic during different times of the day or if it is slow.
You may not get very many pictures, but hopefully, the few that you do get will tell you what you're trying to learn without having to go in there frequently.
Standalone cameras are typically a little bit easier to use and are lower maintenance. The biggest disadvantage of Standalone cameras is that you have to go into the camera itself and change out the SD card periodically to get the pictures. This means more opportunities to disturb the whitetail population in the area and that you're not getting real-time data.
There are mixed opinions on putting a trail camera over a feed source if you are planning on hunting it. However, if you are looking to gather a lot of data about that area, standalone cameras are a great tool to use at a staged food source in easy-to-access areas. You know that deer are eventually going to come there. You know they're going to stand there and eat. And you know while they are doing that you will get their picture.
This is a great way to get an inventory of a lot of the deer in the area. You can see what groups travel together, feeding schedules, and how they travel to and from the food source.
Tips For Setting Up Trail Cameras
If you want to get the best results from your trail cameras in any situation, here are a few tips.
Use Trail Cameras Seasonally
Even though they have made trail cameras pretty long-lasting and durable these days, they are still electronic devices that need regular care. They can be used during scouting and throughout the season, but don't leave them out year round.
After you have finished your hunting season, gather them up and bring them inside for some TLC. Clean them up, take out the batteries, take out the SD cards, and store them inside until you are ready to put them out for your early season scouting.
Prep Your Trail Cams
When you are getting ready to use your trail cams again, get yourself some fresh batteries and use formatted SD cards that are the right class of card for the camera that you have. But most importantly...
There's absolutely nothing worse than finding a spot you want to put a camera, you're expecting results, and you find out a couple of days later that your camera's not working. Not only did you waste that time setting up the first time, but now you have to go back in and disturb the place more to set it up a second time.
When you set up your cameras, you want to get in and out as quickly as possible and just let them do their work.
Pay Attention To Height
When you're putting cameras on trails you want to try and set your camera up higher than the deer's eye level. You see them all the time; Those trail cam pictures of a monster whitetail buck...glowing eyes staring right at the camera.
Even though we have no glows and silent shutters, these deer live here day in and day out. They know every branch in the area and then all of a sudden, one day, they see something unfamiliar. Good chance that if they are staring at the camera, they have sensed something is off and they are going to be more skittish than before.
Never face your cameras East or West! Think about it...at sunrise and sunset, you're going to end up getting a whited-out picture of sun glare.
Facing your camera North or South will get you the best quality lighting for your camera.
Point Down The Trail
If you're setting your camera up on a known deer trail, set up your camera so that you are looking down the trail. This will get you the most exposure to the animal moving to and from the field of view, instead of just passing by in front of it.
It also will help you see any groups of deer traveling together. If you position it perpendicular to the trail, you get one deer instead of all the deer that may be trailing behind them.
Or worse, only just get half the deer as it enters or exits the frame.
Choose Open Areas
The last recommendation is to choose an area that doesn't have a ton of movement around it. If you place your camera in a tight area any blowing branch or rustling of leaves could potentially set off your camera - leaving you with a bunch of pictures of nothing.
Helpful Trail Camera Accessories
Some of the more obvious accessories that you want to purchase for your trail camera are formatted SD cards that are the right class for your camera as well as extra batteries. But an often overlooked accessory that can help with your trail camera placement is adapter hangers.
There are a lot of different kinds, but you can attach them to a tree or fence post and have a lot more variety in your ability to position your camera. These are also really helpful in getting your camera above the deer's eye level, as mentioned before.
A Word Of Caution
Trail cameras can be a very valuable tool to whitetail hunters. But the one thing to keep in mind above all else is to not become a slave to your camera.
Even with the most perfect placement, your camera is most likely only seeing a small percentage of what is going on around it. If you base your entire hunting strategy solely on what your camera is capturing, you may end up becoming overly anxious about what you're seeing (or not seeing) and making rushed decisions.
It is always good to go into any hunt with a plan. And trail cams definitely help to gather data and develop a plan for your hunting season, but don't be hunting based solely on your camera.
So, with that being said...
Go out, get yourself some trail cameras, get some pictures, and start developing your hunting plan. And when you are working on your hunting plan, make sure to check out SKRE Gear's whitetail hunting gear. These camo bundles are designed specifically for whitetail hunters and are on sale now!