Trail cams are one of the coolest toys available to deer hunters. They offer a view into our hunting grounds previously unseen…but they aren’t without flaws.
Here’s why those pictures won’t help you this hunting season.
The Patterns Change
Summer deer patterns change as the temps fall and days get shorter. Food sources change, their body chemistry alters their behaviors and the deer highway you found in August that you plan to hunt intensively becomes a deer-free zone in October.
Those summertime pictures are great for seeing what kind of animals you have on your property, but they’re not always a good indicator of where they’ll be come hunting season.
Don’t waste your time hunting where they used to be.
It Only Takes One Time
I killed this buck on a trail where I only got cattle and a trespasser on the trail cam, but I liked the area so much that I set up there anyways on the season opener.
I sat all day seeing nothing until this guy came out at last light. It may have been the first time he took that route.
Unfortunate for him, awesome for me; but had I gone by the trail cam pictures alone, I would have decided that spot wasn’t worth the time and our paths may never have crossed. Maybe it’s a low percentage area, but it only takes one time for a deer to walk near your stand for you to make the kill of a lifetime.
The Trail Cam Has Become a Crutch
There is really is no substitute for good old-fashioned field research. As technology gets better, we keep trying to farm out more of that work, but do so to our own detriment.
Deer tracks, scat, bedding areas, licking branches-a trail cam photo can’t find these and put together a comprehensive pattern for deer movement on your property.
If you rely exclusively on your trail cams, you are limiting your understanding of the deer in your area and missing out on critical information needed to have a successful game plan.
Your Trigger Speed is Too Slow
Maybe there are plenty of deer walking past your camera, but you’ve got a trigger speed north of one second.
A slow trigger, in the wrong circumstances (a camera set up perpendicular to a tight trail, for example) will get you a whole lot of nothing…except beautiful pictures of the woods. Maybe you’ll get some deer butts but it won’t give you much confidence in deer numbers, causing you to set up in a different location.
This season use your trail cams, but recognize that those pictures aren’t the full story. They’re limited by many factors and are no substitute for the hard work of real preseason scouting.
Photos by Tim Kjellesvik