Are trail cameras making spotlighting obsolete?

Tom VeneskyFor many of the areas I hunt, spotlighting is a great way to see what's out there.

Deer congregate in the fields at night, and the beam from my spotlight tells me what I may encounter when the season opens. But my favorite and most productive deer hunting area is one that I can't spotlight.

There is one overgrown field in the area, and the rest of the habitat is wooded hillsides and deep hollows. For this area I rely on trail cameras, and just the other week one of them captured a few images of an impressive 10-point buck traveling with a nice 8-point.

The area where the camera is set up is one where several deer trails intersect, and the images gave me a good idea of which path the bucks were using.

With the use of trail cameras, the need to spotlight an area as a means of scouting really isn't necessary. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the popularity of trail cameras leads to a decrease in spotlighting activity.

There are certainly advantages that the cameras have over the spotlights. First, trail cameras allow an area to be monitored 24/7. Spotlighting gives you a brief glimpse – a couple of minutes actually, but the cameras are always watching.

Trail cameras are more versatile as well. While spotlighting is limited to open fields, trail cameras can be moved around, or multiple cameras can be set over a hunting area, to pinpoint deer activity.

Another benefit with the cameras is not only can the location of deer activity be narrowed down, but also the time of day, or night.

The pair of bucks I recently captured on camera moved through that particular area between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m. on three occasions. I have a stand set up not too far away, and if the cameras capture more images and establish a pattern through the fall, I know where I'll be sitting on opening day of the rifle season.

If I relied solely on spotlighting, I would only have until 11 p.m. to happen on the bucks, if they were out.

Still, there are advantages with spotlighting as well. You can certainly cover more distance and it's a fun way to watch deer and observe behavior. Spotlighting is a great social activity with family and friends, but it's not the necessity it used to be. At least not with the rising popularity of trail cameras.

There is one scouting method that beats both spotlighting and even trail cameras.


A scouting trip through your favorite hunting area is the best way to determine travel patterns, bedding areas, rut activity and everything else deer are doing. A walk in the woods has been, and always will be the best scouting technique.

But that doesn't mean I won't have a few trail cameras keeping an eye on things as well.

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