The Best Times and Locations to Deploy Trail Cameras
Each season can clue you in to the population, size, and movements of the game in your area. The most successful hunters keep their trail cameras out on the fields and trails all year long.
Batteries are cheap, and even today’s budget game cams (for example:MOULTRIE M-888 ) can go for months without losing power. You have no excuses to not be deploying cameras and monitoring your hunting property over all 4 seasons.
Spring and summer – This is your chance to watch the deer and other animals grow. If you’re deer hunting, this is your prime opportunity to get an early look at the antler development of the bucks.
Fall – This is the obvious one. You should have you trail cameras out in full force during this season, because now you are after the big bucks you saw on your cameras over the spring and summer! Use well placed game cameras to pattern the deer’s movements so you know just when and where your next trophy might be hanging out.
Winter – This is a bonus season for deer hunters. If you didn’t get a buck during the fall hunt, you can use your cameras for shed hunting. Think about it, if you capture pictures of bucks with one antler, chances are very good that both antlers will be on the ground in the vicinity of your camera. Most bucks shed both antlers within a very short time, so pay close attention to the time and date stamps on your photos.
The Best Locations for Trail Cameras
The best locations for trail cameras depends mostly on what you are attempting to get photos and video of. You are looking for the likely locations and to monitor movements of wild game, and your approach needs to change alongside the seasons.
Meadows and Openings
The first type of location is an open area such as a meadow near a stream, where a field meets a tree line, and food plots. Open areas like this draw deer and game because quite often that is where food and water are found.
In these types of areas, you will expect the animals to be staying in your camera’s field of view for a period of time, and for this reason, we recommend using the photo mode on your camera instead of taking videos. If you use a longer time period between photographs, such as 4-5 minutes, your battery life will improve tremendously, and you won’t waste shots of deer with their heads down eating.
Trails and Game Paths
Who would have guessed a trail camera would work well on a game trail? As their name would imply, trails are fantastic locations to deploy your trail camera. Every hunter knows that deer, and other wild game, use trails to move through the woods to feeding and bedding locations. This makes it a great opportunity to get a picture of what is moving through your land.
Due to the fact the animals are on the move, you want to use a much shorter time interval between recording images. We suggest 30 seconds to 1 minute, depending upon how rough the geography is in your area. The thicker the terrain, the slower the animals will move through it.
While photographs of a big buck on the trail are great, a video of that big rack stepping through the woods is even better. If you know for a fact that animals are using that particular trail, then you have a golden opportunity to use the video setting on the camera if it has one.
Video mode is also a great way to capture footage of active rubs and scrapes. When you find a tree with a fresh scrape on it, which is a great location to point your camera.
A mineral lick is a great late summer spot to set up a trail camera. Once you have learned where the deer are traveling through your land, you can establish a lick.
To make the lick, I dig up a circle of soil and dump half a gallon of deer minerals into the freshly tilled soil. The rest can be dumped on top and spread over the site. I like to put two licks out per 100 acres.
Place your camera at least 10 feet from the lick, and preferably 20 to 30 feet away so not to spook the animals. Try to angle the camera downward towards the lick to get the best vantage point.
This is one of my favorite early season tactics to find bucks just after they’ve shed their velvet. Mock scrapes are magnets for drawing in bucks.
To do this, grab a rake and a shovel, and go find a good scrape tree. A scrape tree will have green branches hanging approximately 5 to 6 feet from the forest floor. Rake and dig up the brush and forest floor at least 4 to 5 feet from the scrape tree. Now you need to spray deer urine over the dug up debris to activate the spot.
Repeat this a few more times in your area and put a camera on each site. Once you find out which one is most active, you can focus your efforts there. For more information read our 25 Trail Camera Tips post
Consider Going Wireless
Cellular trail cameras are more affordable than in the past. They allow you to set up your camera in an ideal location, and receive pictures on your smartphone via text or email. You will need a few dozen Lithium AA batteries and a data plan for each camera. Imagine how fun it will be to get deer pictures on your phone while you watch the evening news. It is a blast, and if you can afford it, I highly recommend trying one.