Are You Using These Trail Camera Strategies?
The leaves are changing color and raining down in the forests around us. That special smell of earth and leaves is in the air. The sun feels like it’s giving just the right light. No wonder October is many bow hunter’s favorite month. There are cynics, no doubt about it. But October has a lot to offer us as hunters. Little deer hunting pressure, more enjoyable weather and views, and rapidly increasing deer movement are just a few of them. But in order to take advantage of a deer’s movement patterns, you should use these trail camera strategies.
October trail cameras have only one mission: to give you the biggest hunting advantage you can have. No matter how much you’d like to be, you just simply can’t be in the woods at all times. Work and other life commitments draw us away more often than we would wish. But you can still keep your eyes in the woods when you use a trail camera. Simply set them up and walk away to let them spy on the deer for you. When you review the pictures, you’ll get a close-to-real-time view of which deer are in your area, what they are doing, and when they are typically there. This kind of information is absolutely critical to a good hunting plan. If you notice a reliable pattern on pictures (e.g., a mature buck keeps showing up every day at 5:30 PM at a certain brassica field), you already have a better chance of bow hunting it successfully than if you were to simply hope that he comes out to a specific tree stand location. You can easily do this with these trail camera strategies.
Some Basic Ground Rules and Trail Camera Tips
Before we get into the woods and start discussing specific trail camera strategies, we need to be sure our trail cams are in top shape. That starts with using the best technology on the market. Bushnell has wireless trail cameras that can literally send you a picture as it’s captured using a wireless connection. This is as real-time as you can get to sitting in the tree stand and seeing it for yourself. Once you get an alert that a hit list buck is in a good hunting spot, it’s time to call in sick, find a babysitter, and otherwise, do whatever you have to do to get into the woods after him.
The next things you’ll want to check before you place your cameras are the batteries. These need to be fresh each season, and may likely need to be replaced within the season as well. Cold weather will drain the batteries fairly quickly, so you won’t get as much use out of them in particularly frozen places. Make sure you use the recommended SD cards for your camera and format them properly each time you use them. Finally, make sure you understand how to use a trail camera if you got a new one during the summer.
The best settings for trail cameras will vary depending on the brand and type, so study up on them. Basically, you want to eliminate any potential issues from happening before they do. It’s a really depressing feeling when you go to check your camera and find that it has just been sitting there not taking pictures for a couple weeks during the prime hunting time of the year.
As far as game camera placement tips, there are a few trail camera strategies you can use to make sure you get the best pictures possible. As much as you can, don’t place the cameras facing into the sun because it will wash the pictures out. Try to face the lenses north or hide it within a shaded spot instead. Squat down and look at the area you’re targeting. Does it have a pleasing background? That simple detail can turn a nice picture into a work of art. Try to set your camera up at the “Goldilocks distance,” which is not too close, not too far away, but just right. Keep the trail camera height at about four feet if the deer in your area aren’t easily spooked by cameras. If they are, keep the cameras a bit higher and use branches or shims to angle it downward.
Trail Camera Strategies You Should Try
Now we’re going to dive into five specific trail camera tips for whitetails that you can use this season.
The Mock Scrape
The first trail camera strategy we’re going to discuss is an exciting one. It involves trying to get into a deer’s head and fool them using their not-so-secret weapon (i.e., noses) against themselves. In October, deer are really ramping up their social calling cards using scrapes. In fact, the pre-rut is probably the best time to use scrapes to attract deer, since that is when bucks are actively looking for does and are eager to establish a social hierarchy. But if you don’t find any natural scrapes or aren’t happy with where they are located, you’re not out of luck. Making a mock scrape is very easy to do.
Simply find a spot along a good habitat edge or near a food source that has a tree with several branches close to the ground. Trim the branches from the ground up until there is one about four to five feet off the ground. Underneath this licking branch, use a stick to scratch the leaves and debris away and expose the soil underneath. You don’t have to be careful or delicate with this either; fling the dirt and leaves as hard as you want. It’s a good stress reliever. Now it’s time for the secret weapon: a little Bone Collector deer scent. Pour some doe urine and buck urine into the scrape. You can use doe-in-estrous scent if it’s late October, which will really get a buck’s attention. Then hang your trail camera so that it’s looking square at the mock scrape. If you make one in a high-traffic area, it’s only a matter of time before a buck comes to check it out.
Use Their Belly Against Them
While it’s true that rut-crazy bucks spend most of their late October time chasing does and covering ground, they still need to feed occasionally. Plus, does still spend their time feeding throughout the fall to put on weight for the winter, which makes an agricultural field or food plot a hot spot for a buck to check for receptive does. This also makes feeding sites, where legal during the season, a very valuable tool for trail cameras.
As far as the best trail camera strategies for these areas, you have a few options. The real purpose of keeping tabs on a food source is to see when bucks are entering a field, which will let you know the best time to hunt them. Luckily, you can easily approach, hang, and check a trail camera in these areas during the day, since deer will likely bed a distance from the food source. You could place it in the center of the field (facing the woods edge) on a predetermined time interval, which will allow you to scan the deer activity every few minutes.
Bring Them to Your Camera
Where legal, placing trail cameras over bait or an attractant is a great way to see what deer are on your property. While bucks are running wild looking for does, it’s hard for them to pass up a concentrated bait pile like this when they see it. Whether you use corn, deer feed, apples, or any other scented or flavored feed, they will definitely be curious. Big & J attractants will draw deer in from a long distance due to their powerful aroma, and they come in solid block, granular, or liquid forms with different scents to suit your style. The blocks hold together longer for extended field times, while the liquid and granular versions are good for areas you can access frequently.
As far as trail camera strategies go, it’s pretty simple. Place the block or pour your attractant onto bare mineral soil or over a decaying stump or log. Dumping it onto decaying wood will allow the attractant to seep into the wood and last a while longer. How to place trail cameras in these locations is really easy: just aim it so that the attractant site is centered towards the bottom third of the camera frame.
Use Trail Networks for Camera Sites
You’re probably seeing the common theme among the trail camera strategies here, but bucks will follow does almost wherever they go during the pre-rut. Since does are more likely to still stick to basic feeding and bedding patterns, you can use this to your advantage. Find a spot along a well-used trail between a dominant feeding area and doe bedding area. Doe bedding areas will have multiple beds present and will usually be the first one located next to the feeding area, often in dense areas. Bucks will scent-check these trails and downwind of the bedding area for estrous does.
Setting up trail cameras along these trails will allow you to see when a nice buck stops by your property. In these cases, you don’t want to be checking your camera very often, since you can contaminate the area with your scent. You should either rely on a wireless trail camera to help you see deer in real-time or wear your Bone Collector clothing to check them sparingly.
The last entry on this trail camera strategies list is more applicable to southern or western states, or in particularly drought-prone areas. During dry years in these areas, having a water hole on your property to concentrate deer activity is a major magnet. Bucks are working overtime while chasing does and don’t always get the water content they need from the vegetation they eat during these periods.
Trail cam placement in these areas is also simple. Just keep the water hole in the bottom third of the picture, and you’re bound to get some pictures of bucks as they wander through. Using these trail camera tips and tricks should make sure you get some good pictures this fall.