As a novice hunter, one of the best investments you can make is a trail camera. Whether you’re hunting on a 5-acre or 500-acre property, selecting the right spots to hang cameras is a steadily evolving challenge you must face throughout the year. This is especially true since deer, particularly bucks, have varying travel patterns, habits and interests during different stages of the year. You will notice that some spots will always produce deer photos but for you to be able to establish patterns of bucks, you will have to think like a deer and not a deer hunter.
Familiarize yourself with the trail cam before actually going out in the field.
While still at home, make sure you are totally familiar with the features and functionality of your trail cam before heading out to set it up. Expert hunters recommend investing in more than just one trail cam that you know how to fully operate. Give each of the units a run in your backyard first, with you walking back and forth before them night and day at a variety of ranges so you will know the kind of images each one of them is capable of delivering. Check out how to aim the cameras. It is best to target a bit above your belt buckle, which is just right about the height for capturing images of moving deer.
Start early by conducting a survey of the most likely areas and set up many for your purpose.
During the months leading up to the season opener, you will want to inventory the deer you’ll be hunting later. This is during the summer when last year’s antlers drop. The deer will start to crave minerals to rebuild what they lose. Does will also be searching for a means to restore nutrients they have lost while caring for their fawns.
Focus on secluded food sources adjacent to cover, soft mass, mineral licks, trails leading to water sources or supplemental feed stations. Mineral sites in particular will be like magnets to the deer starting from April through August and even extending longer. You will not catch sight of your prey so easily by simply throwing salt blocks in the woods. Deer-specific granulated mineral produces optimum results. Locate a heavily used summer deer trail then clear a place on the ground or utilize available stump. Mineral dumped on the ground won’t make any difference, either. Hang the trail cam high over the mineral site, pointing it at a downward angle so images of deer looking up or down are captured easily.
When doing a survey of your property, setting up at least one camera for every 40 to 50 acres is a sensible thing to do.
Know the deer’s early season behavior.
During the early season, bucks are shedding their velvet and breaking out of their bachelor groups. The most essential thing during this stage of the season is to establish or target bucks bedding in feeding areas and their travel patterns in between the two. Mature bucks will use rubs and scrapes to delineate their territory and will visit sign posts to communicate with other deer in the area.
Target scrapes and sign posts as prime trail camera locations during this stage, paying particular attention to the dates and times the specific deer appear in each of your cameras. By charting this information in conjunction with other factors such as wind direction, you can begin to establish the boundaries of a buck’s home area and its travel pattern in different conditions.
Recognize the arrival of the rut and what it can do to any established patterns.
Once the rut arrives, most early season patterns go out the window. Bucks will now be focused exclusively on finding and breeding does and they will be covering plenty of ground to do so.
Focus your camera strategy on travel quarters during this stage of the year and pay close attention to terrain and habitat features that influence movement. Funnels, saddles and edges on the downwind side of food sources can be excellent locations to catch bucks cruising. If you have a time lapse camera that is capable of capturing action over an extended distance, don’t be afraid to place it on a food source that attracts plenty of does, making sure to face the camera to the north to avoid overexposure due to the rising or setting sun.
Know the behavior of your target during the late season.
During the late season in the weeks following the end of the season, deer will spend most of their time conserving energy in areas with south facing slopes or winter thermal cover, but they’ll also be eating a lot. Place your camera directly on food sources that are high in carbohydrates and protein, as the bucks will be looking for protein to recover the weight they lost during the rut, plus the carbs to provide the energy they need for maintenance of body temperature. If you’re staking a lot of supplemental feeding, these stations can be great places for finding out which bucks survive the hunting season