It’s that time of year again: the days are getting shorter, the mornings brisker, and very shortly, we will be spending long and solitary days out in the woods, just us and our rifle or bow, basking in the pursuit of the ultimate hunt. One of the reasons many hunters have held onto the hobby of whitetail hunting for so many years is that it provides the ultimate escape. Our everyday lives have become characterized by endless bustle, invaded by the distracting impulses of a world that is tilting more and more in a technologically-minded direction. When we get out in the woods for the first days of hunting season, though, it almost feels like we are going back in time. We escape our busy lives, get away from the endless parade of text messages, emails, Facebook notifications, and all other manner of electronic communications, and we get the chance to truly get back to nature.
Perhaps that’s why hunting has remained one activity virtually unchanged by technology. Sure, there are smartphone apps designed to help you in the hunt, and more advanced guns and bows are constantly being developed to make you a better or more efficient marksman, but the actual experience of hunting still feels like the rustic, back-to-basics escape that it always has been.
With all of that said, there is something to be gained from bringing technology into your hunt in the form of trail cameras. Some hunters love using cameras, some don’t. Some test out what trail cameras can do by starting with cheaper models while some go all-out and buy the top-of-the-line camera that the market has to offer. Regardless which demographic you fit into, however, if you can learn to use the interface of your trail camera, there is no reason that it can’t become your aid for landing the biggest buck kill of your hunting career.
Do we have your attention? Thought so.
The secret to success for how to use a trail cam is vigilance. Your cameras will obviously do you no good if you buy them only to leave them collecting dust in your garage, but they will be equally useless if you do not regularly take stock of the photos they collect. Ideally, you will have an arsenal of two or three cameras that you can place around your favorite hunting properties. The cameras should be positioned during the summer months, preferably in areas that you know are hotbeds for deer activity. Determining good areas may require a bit of scouting, but if you know where a deer bedding area is – or was in a past hunting season – start there. Place a camera in the woods near the bedding area so you can catch footage of bucks and does entering or leaving the spot. In addition, try to peg a few food sources or popular watering locations and place cameras near those spots as well. The better the areas you choose for your camera set-ups, the more likely you will be to find the kind of information that you can use later.
Once your cameras are in place, you will be able to use them as private investigators of sorts to survey your favorite hunting area. With any luck, you will catch pictures of plenty of deer, including all or most of the potential buck targets in the area. Don’t think a bunch of pictures of a buck can help you in hunting him? You’re thinking wrong. Not only will trail camera pictures allow you to determine the age of the different bucks in your hunting area – in turn helping you to decide which ones are your prime targets – they will also give invaluable information on how your target buck behaves on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis. Is he a mostly nocturnal beast or does he venture out of the bedding area during the day? (Hint: the nocturnal one shouldn’t be your target.) Is his area contained mostly to the bedding vicinity, or does he wander to other parts of the property as well? Etc., etc.
Of course, you don’t need a high-tech camera to find out all of this information, right? A great hunter can learn all of these things in person with a good day of scouting. Indeed, pre-hunting-season scouting trips can help you to pick out your buck targets for once opening day hits, but even if you like the process of in-person scouting, trail cameras can still make your job easier. When scouting, you can at best expect to catch a decent glance at every deer that walks near your position during a multi-hour period. However, you cannot be two places at once, you cannot stay out in the woods all night to judge what your bucks are doing during those hours, and you cannot save what you saw for review and reference at a later date.
If you make good use of your trail cameras in the pre-season months, however, then you will have a such a substantial bulk of information to review and reference that, once you are finally out in the woods, you will be able to spot the different bucks you surveyed from 50 feet away. You will know where your target buck is going to be at certain times and where to set up your tree stand to make sure that you can get the best shot possible. You will know how to schedule your hunting day, and with a keen eye and a little bit of luck, you should be able to land your big target buck within a matter of days.
Do we have you convinced that trail cameras are worth your time? Before you start positioning your cameras and getting to work, consider opting for trail cameras with Wi-Fi capability. You don’t want to have to repeatedly return to your cameras to check for the latest footage. Instead, the best cameras will be the ones that you can set up to send pictures directly to your computer. That way, you can keep stock of your targets from afar rather than stomping through deer territory and leaving your scent.