Trail cam tricks
Of all the gear and gadgets I own, none give me as much satisfaction and pleasure as my trail cameras. By strategically placing them in appropriate locations I’ve gotten pictures of fishers, turkeys, bears, racoons, coyotes, foxes and yes, even deer. However, this success didn’t come without a learning curve.
I bought my first trail camera years ago in the expectation of capturing deer images in the areas I hunt. One location was on a friend’s farm near a large cornfield. It was obvious the deer were eating the corn so, placing the camera on a tree near the edge of the cornfield seemed like a good idea. It wasn’t. The field bordered a line of trees and there was about 20 feet of space between the corn edge and the trees. I fully expected to get photos of deer walking between the trees and the corn. It didn’t happen.
After a week, I decided to go back and swap out the camera’s SD card to check on how many deer showed up. Initially, the card showed more than 300 images and I was elated thinking my hunting location was crawling with deer. Imagine my disappointment when, after opening the images, I found I had about 290 images of moving corn stalks. Since then, whenever I set up a trail camera, I am careful to remove small twigs and grass or, any vegetation that might trigger a response from the camera.
Other mistakes I’ve made include forgetting to turn the camera on and neglecting to put in a fresh SD card when I removed one from the camera. Over the years, I found it’s important to give some thought to what you are doing before simply strapping a camera to a tree.
When placing a camera, I like to put it about waist height and about five to ten yards from where I expect a deer might travel. Each trail camera has a maximum effective range so be sure your cameras set up is within that range. If the camera is too far back it might not trigger, if it’s too close, you might only get a blurry image of the side or back of a deer.
If you are running several cameras as I do, be sure to label your SD cards so that each camera has its own card. Some cards can’t be exchanged between different cameras, so if you mix them, you won’t get the images you expect. To be safe I reformat the card for the next use just in case I mix them up.
After removing a card from the camera, I insert a new one and check the recorded images on my home computer. By viewing an image on my computer, I can either enlarge or lighten it to better see any animal that may appear in the background. It might be a good idea to reformat the card after removing it from the computer just in case cards are accidentally switched between cameras.
Before placing a camera on a tree consider its orientation regarding the sun. A camera facing north or south is best. A camera facing east will be blinded by the morning sun and the same fate will await a camera facing west as the sun sets.
Since most really big bucks move mainly at night, I like to set my camera’s shutter speed to its slowest setting because this generally produces the brightest images.
Finally, use the information provided by your camera to note the date, time, and temperature to help you become aware of the deer’s travel patterns. I have some photos of some really impressive bucks but, these bucks always showed up at night. The only way to kill one of these bucks would be during the rut when they were on the hunt for an estrus doe. Just knowing they lived near my stand was inspiration enough to keep coming back and holding off on shooting lesser bucks.