Making the Most Out of Your Summer Trail Camera Setups
Trail cameras are a yearlong effort in monitoring and scouting your deer herd. With turkey season coming to a close, it is time to transition your cameras from turkey scouting locations to focusing on summer trail camera setups.
Many hunters are only concerned with getting big buck pictures and lots of them. Because of that, most use trail cameras in early fall to capture bucks in an effort to use that information to plan October hunts. Big buck pictures are nice and tracking buck movements in August and September are critically important to your early archery hunts; however, there is a lot of information that can be obtained with different trail camera tactics during the summer months.
Besides having a gallery of deer pictures, the true purpose of using game cameras is to remotely collect information on deer throughout the year across multiple areas in order to monitor the herd and plan more successful hunts. If you are only running cameras in the fall, you are missing opportunities to observe different whitetail behaviors across other seasons. A whitetail’s needs during the summer months are much different than other times of the year. For instance, deer will concentrate around food sources that are high in protein and other macronutrients this time of year for two reasons. First, does require food high in protein to aid in fawn rearing and second, bucks need protein and macronutrients for growing antlers. Areas like these are much different than where you will find a buck in the fall, but knowing this and monitoring these spots now with good trail camera placement techniques will provide a wealth of valuable information.
Pros and Cons of Summer Trail Camera Strategies
There are both pros and cons to using trail cameras in the summer. Well thought out trail camera tactics this time of year are just as important as using cameras in the fall. Although there are many advantages and potentially a few more disadvantages, we will focus on the two most important pros and cons of summer trail camera setups.
First, let’s start with the two advantages. Game cameras, as a whole, provide enjoyment for any avid outdoorsmen or women. Flipping through deer and wildlife pictures is simply fun and keeps you engaged in the sport, especially during the offseason. Watching a buck grow and develop his antlers over the course of the summer is both exciting and useful. Even though hunting is months away, the continued treks to check trail cameras keeps you constantly thinking about the upcoming season. If you have kids or others who just love the outdoors, it is a great time of year to be out in the woods. Monitoring trail cameras is a great way to share the outdoors with friends and family who may or may not be hunters.
The second advantage is summer provides the optimal time to start implementing your trail camera surveys. You can start to look at recruitment numbers and identify unique bucks, which will be the precursor to developing your hit list for this upcoming season. In addition, it also allows you to start to develop and pattern personalities on different bucks as to when, where and how he may be moving around your property. Even though their behaviors will change as fall approaches, often there are valuable characteristics that can be helpful in planning your approach for this season.
Summer trail camera strategies are not without some disadvantages, however. First, deer patterns vary by season and what you monitor during the summer months, although can be useful information, does not always translate well into hunting season. Food sources change, activity levels change and priorities for deer all change as do the seasons. Knowing this when setting up trail cameras during different times of the year will help you gather the most relevant information possible about the deer in your area.
The other big disadvantage with summer deer cameras is that too much monitoring can educate deer. Sure, hunting season is months away, but the truth is the more you invade an area to check or move cameras, the more deer become educated to your presence. Each time you enter an area, you are potentially disturbing a buck or leaving human scent, which will alert any deer using the area. Too much of this or too many personal encounters with a mature whitetail and you run the risk of bumping him and all the other deer in the area to another property. Try to avoid known core areas and focus on areas where you are less likely to disturb deer. If you have to monitor core areas, deliberately choose when to do your trail camera maintenance or think about using wireless trail cameras to monitor remotely.
Top 5 Places to Set Deer Cameras This Summer
Summer trail camera placement depends on your objectives. If your objective is to capture as many pictures as possible to see what is out there; that is completely different than pre-scouting bucks for this coming archery season. Start with your goal to help you tailor fit your own trail camera strategies. These 5 trail camera setups will ensure you are getting the most from each camera.
The Food Source
Tracking for quantity is not necessarily bad when there is a purpose behind it. The first setup strategy for summer cameras is the food source. As mentioned earlier, deer, both does and bucks, will be concentrated in areas throughout the summer months where there are high-value foods. These will include agricultural fields filled with growing soybeans or corn and food plots lush in nutrient-rich forage.
Set up offseason deer cameras on the edge of these food sources. Pictures from these camera setups will get you plenty of pictures that will be helpful in inventorying your local herd. You should be getting pictures of does, bucks (both mature and immature) and fawns with these setups. Install cameras on a tree or with a stake near the entrance and exit points of the food source. Multiple trail cameras on the same food source will keep you from missing any deer. Use still-image capture mode with the camera set on the highest possible sensitivity setting to capture far off movements across an open field. Trigger speed does not have to be super-fast because most deer will be walking and feeding when the picture snaps.
A bait station, whether being a great mineral attractant like the Big & J Meltdown or supplemental food source in these areas, where allowed by law, can increase the number of pictures you get. Mineral sites, in particular, will be a constant source of minerals and sodium for bachelor groups on your hunting property. This means a potential site where an inventory of bucks can begin.
Set you camera trigger to slower speeds when using a mineral or bait site. Keep the sensitivity setting low because the dense vegetation where most likely these areas are located will trigger empty photos.
Deer have to drink at some point during the day and in the summer heat, it can be at least several times a day. Their summer patterns will usually keep water close by a food source so start investigating there first. Look for springs and creeks that do not dry up during rainless periods or larger bodies of water like farm ponds or rivers near agricultural fields. Deer will visit water throughout the day so often a secluded water hole can provide a rare daytime picture of an elusive buck that typically only shows up at night to food sources.
Sometimes there is no water on the property you have access too. In that case, first look harder as even the smallest spring seep can be overlooked and a magnet for deer where water may be scarce. If that does not pan out, think about creating one. If it is your property or you have permission from the landowner, adding a small water basin or creating a natural water depression strategically near food sources will not only help your deer herd but give you a place for good trail camera setups.
Deer trails are used no matter what time of the year it is. Trail camera placement on used summer trails will give you plenty of pictures and also information on the timing of movements. Focus on intersecting trails with fresh activity near a food source or concentrate on pinch points in the landscape. Yes, some trails will be dormant in summer months so scout out which ones are being used to get the most out of the trail cameras. With these setups, it pays to check cameras more frequently because you do not want to waste camera time on dormant deer trails.
Trigger speeds should be fast, as deer will be moving. Keep sensitivity low and turn on burst mode on your Bushnell trail cameras to make sure even the fastest deer is captured. A trail camera tip for better results when monitoring deer trails is to look for trails running north and south so you can position cameras north to avoid whitewashed images from too much sunlight.
Staging areas are ideal spots for Hawk Tree Stands during the pre-rut, but they also make great places to set up deer cameras in the summer. Thick areas adjacent to or within easy access to food sources are where you will find your staging areas. Deer preposition themselves in staging areas in daylight hours prior to moving to a food source as nighttime falls. It is an area of comfort and those around good quality food sources will get used all year long. Position trail cameras facing north and towards deer sign in these staging areas. Keep settings on a high trigger speed because sometimes deer will just pass through these areas and not completely stop before heading out to feed.
Trail Camera Setups from the Bone Collector Crew
Before diving into the top 5 trail camera setups for the offseason, check out the unique setups and settings the Bone Collector crew will be running this summer!
Waddy’s Custom Setup and Settings:
I usually set my cameras up with a pretty aggressive and compressed approach. I throw up a camera and Big and J feed/mineral station, typically, one per 30 acres or so. I like to check them at pretty regular intervals, every 2 weeks or so usually. It seems that once I get a certain buck on a feeder or on a mineral station they take notice and stay put for the summer. This helps me get a good inventory of what’s there. For these setups, I like my Bushnell camera on photo mode with a 5-minute interval. Evaluate off of this, then readjust and watch them grow!
T-Bone’s Custom Setup and Settings:
I prefer my game cameras 4-5 ft. high with a slight angle down. This ensures that if the camera trips, day or night, I’m getting a well framed and clear image. I select for my settings to be on a 3 photo burst with a 3-minute interval. This setup seems to be a good balance for the summer, it helps save battery life, provides great information, and I can afford a little time between trips when I pull the cards.
Nick Mundt’s Custom Setup and Settings:
My cameras are usually over deer feed or minerals from Big and J for the summer. There is no need for a camera on video mode here. Videos over food or minerals will simply take up too much card space. I like keeping the settings simple with a 3-minute interval between photos. This allows me about 2 weeks between each card pull.
In conclusion, there are plenty of reasons to hang trail cameras this summer including keeping your mind on hunting and collection of information that will surely help you manage your herd and plan your fall hunts. Build your trail camera strategies this summer around food sources, bait stations, water holes, deer trails and staging areas and more than likely you will learn something useful for this coming season.