Trail cameras open a window to the world of wildlifeSeptember 12, 2018
Column by Brandon Butler
Trail cameras have changed the way we hunt. Less than a decade ago, hunting consisted of hanging stands based on signs, and hoping a buck would wander by. Now, trail cameras capture pictures of elusive whitetails, clueing us in to what we may encounter in the woods. These time-stamped images help us decide where and when to hunt. Trail cameras have taken a lot of surprise out of the game.
Scouting still consists of spending time in the woods searching for a sign. But now if you find a scrape line or a cluster of rubs, you can hang a camera in hopes of capturing images of the bucks frequenting the area. These days, a lot of the excitement of laying your eyes on a buck comes when sitting in front of a computer screen.
From a quality deer management standpoint, one of the most positive aspects of trail camera use is the ability to selectively harvest mature whitetails. A lot of hunters these days are establishing what they call a “hit list” of bucks to hunt each fall. Trail cameras let us know what deer are on our property, and help in determining specific deer to hunt.
“On our hunting leases, we run multiple cameras all year long to know what deer are living on the properties. We want to know where deer are at different times of the year, and we want to know which bucks made it through the previous hunting season. In late summer, we use the trail cameras to help us determine which deer we want to focus on once the season opens,” Aaron Oelger said.
Trail cameras are for strategic use, but they are also a ton of fun. Every time you pop an SD card into the computer, you never know what is going to appear. The same camera could be picking up deer, turkey, bears, bobcats, mountain lions and more. It’s the rarities and the awkward moments we capture on trail cameras that truly bring an element of childish excitement to the process of surveying your deer herd.
“Trail cameras have taken my deer hunting to a whole new level. I’m engaged year-round, because I’m interested in knowing what goes on with the deer through the different seasons. Right now, I’m getting pictures of a doe and her fawns almost every day. It’s so cool to watch them all interact, and it’s just a ton fun,” Oelger said.
Setting up trail cameras is a strategic process. In order to get the pictures you want, which likely are pictures of bucks, you need to set your cameras where the bucks will be at different times of the year. In the late stages of summer and early fall, the best place to get pictures of bucks is on their way to and from feeding areas. Setting up cameras over food sources and water holes is a perfect opportunity to capture quality images.
Trail cameras are both entertaining and educational. They allow you to keep tabs on the deer on your hunting ground, while adding another enjoyable aspect to your passion for hunting.
Trail cameras aren’t only for hunters. Maybe you don’t hunt, but identify as a wildlife watcher. Setting up trail cameras is a great way to spy on wildlife in their world. You need to check specific regulations, but there are opportunities out there for you to set up trail cameras where you might obtain some really interesting photographs of wildlife. Many of my favorite trail camera photos are not of deer, but other animals I’ve had much less personal interaction with over my lifetime.
See you down the trail…
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