Tips For Impactful Trail Camera Scouting

By Jessica Graham

During summer, deer hunters begin to get excited for the upcoming bow season. Lots of scouting and treestand work begins now in preparation for opening day. Over the last 20 years we have seen hunters completely change hunting strategies to incorporate trail cameras. We have seen the technology advance with demand from the users from the 35 mm flash cameras to the advanced cell cameras we have today. Knowledge gathered while you are away has helped hunters learn so much about their land and the individual deer on their property. We now commonly pattern deer and can figure out travel patterns and bedding locations thanks to usage of trail cameras.

However, we are our own worst enemies when it comes to trail cameras. Human intrusion and added pressure can spook off mature deer, and can cause them to visit our areas only in the cover on night. Just because you utilize scouting cameras does not guarantee success. Here are some tips from trail camera industry experts for you to incorporate into your trail camera scouting system to improve the effectiveness of your cameras and the information they collect.

Limit human intrusion
Human intrusion disrupts the natural ecology going on in your hunting area. “Having sharp woodsman skills means paying attention to all the wildlife around you at all times,” explains Scott Matherson of Whitetail’R. If you are hunting deer, you want to be conscientious of the other wildlife around you. If other wildlife is running and turkey are flushing, it alerts the rest of the animals to possible danger as well. One option to limit human intrusion is the use of cellular cameras. Reconyx, for example, has some HF2XC Hyperfire 2 Cellular cameras and an Iowa based company, Radix also has some M-COR Cellular cameras. The cameras allow users to purchase a data plan and have pictures sent to the user of the camera. The cameras give instantaneous data about what is going on in your hunting area. This is the answer for hunters that are tempted to go and check their cameras frequently. Using cellular based cameras will help reduce the number of times you are required to check cameras, and will help limit human pressure on your hunting area.

Place cameras high, above the line of sight
We all have photos of a deer, raccoon, or coyote looking curiously at our trail camera, or maybe they come and smell the camera. Just by using trail cameras, it is possible you are alerting the wildlife and creating pressure. When deer notice cameras, they are usually unsure of what it is and it will put them on alert. By placing your camera high and angling it downwards, you can help reduce the visual pressure your camera may create. Lone Wolf, another Iowa based company, understands this concept. They have an Undercover trail camera that is textured to add a concealment quality to the camera. The camera is also compatible with Lone Wolf’s 360° auto lock and leveling camera mount. The versatile mount allows hunters to securely mount cameras to branches, logs, and other terrain to conceal and hide the camera out of sight from wildlife. By camouflaging and placing cameras high you will reduce the visual impact of the camera on wildlife.

Be mindful of your entrance and exit while servicing or checking game cameras.
Being stealthy and walking quietly is something you should practice all the time you are in the timber or in your hunting zone. Likewise, walking and moving quietly will help limit your impact. Wildlife are fearful of humans, so if you can match your travel to fit into what they are used to, you can minimize entrance and exit intrusion. If you are going to put out a camera by a crop field, try using a tractor (if you can) to access your camera. If the wildlife are used to ATVs being driven on paths, then maybe this is something you should use to check your cameras. It is important to be able to get in and out without disturbing much. Match your vehicle to what the wildlife are used to seeing. If you are hunting near agriculture, maybe you should use a tractor to transport you and your cameras. Whatever you decided to use, make your entrance and exit as stealthy as possible.

Service your camera before use
Because game cameras appear rugged, it is easy to assume they can withstand a lot of abuse. This is true to a point, as they are encased in a rugged water-resistant shell, and can perform in extreme heat and cold temperatures. However, they are still sophisticated pieces of technology and should be handled and transported as such. Instead of throwing the cameras in the back of your ATV, place them in a secured location where they will not bounce around. It is also important to check for software upgrades. Performance can be improved by visiting the manufacture’s website and checking for software updates. A camera that does not work properly is not going to provide useful pictures or videos for you. Before hunting season starts, make sure your cameras are serviced and in top condition.

Find a camera with a quick trigger
Nothing is more frustrating that having a camera on a property only to check it and have tons of blank frames and misses. Selecting a camera with a fast trigger speed will help capture wildlife in the frame for viewing. Radix, for example has a Gen-600 Camera with a trigger speed that is less than .15 seconds. Browning Defender Ridgeline cameras also have a quick trigger speed, about .135 seconds. These trigger speeds are relatively fast and should capture the image of a walking coyote or deer for viewing.

Scent control all the time!
Human scent is the most offensive smell to wildlife. Therefore, when you check your cameras, you should use the same discipline that you would if you were to hunt. That means, wear clothes washed in scent free detergent, spray down, wear your boots, and use ozone technology if you can. Scott Matherson, of Whitetail’R, also pointed out the importance of the type of clothing selected to wear. For instance, fleece will trap ozone molecules and allow it to last a little longer. Fleece may not be the first choice for setting up summer scouting cameras, but it is important to wear gloves and tall boots to avoid leaving as much scent as possible behind.

Trail cameras have truly been a blessing to the hunting industry. We now have access to more information than ever before. Hunters pattern, observe, and collect information based on the photos and videos obtained from scouting cameras. With the use of trail cameras comes added pressure to wildlife. Incorporate some of the tips above into your scouting rituals to get the most information with the least amount of human intrusion. Scouting with trail cameras is often the first step in learning your hunting property and setting yourself up for a successful hunt.