Patterning Whitetail Deer with Game Cameras (Scouting Cameras)
I have expressed in prior articles that have been published, which I have written, while I value game cameras, I have always said, todayís whitetail deer hunter can get a better idea of what is on his hunt ground by watching whitetail deer with optics. While there is some truth to this I must admit I have vastly under estimated the effectiveness of scouting cameras.
Just today, (10-5-2009) we retrieved six infrared game cameras from our deer hunt division in Northern Missouri. The game cameras had been in the woods for a mere 7 days. The guide that placed the game cameras arrived at my house and we began looking through the photos the game cameras had collected over the past week. As with every whitetail deer hunter that owns scouting cameras, we just couldnít wait to see what we had caught on our game cameras. In a mere 7 day time span we had collected over 2000 photos of whitetail deer from the infrared cameras. 20 of the photos were of 20 different record book whitetail bucks. Three of the bucks scored over 170 inches. One game camera revealed a huge whitetail buck that was nearly 200 inches but Iíll refer to him as 180 inches to be conservative. One deer was non typical and was visiting the location all times of the day. (This buck will hit the dirt soon.) The non typical scored over 160 at least. Then we had another typical buck that was a Boone and Crockett. All the other trophy bucks scored over 130. I was nothing short of amazed. Needless to say we are replacing the game cameras again tomorrow as now I may be addicted to infrared game cameras. My name is Darrin and Iím a game camera addict.
What was the most amazing part of the scenario is that while we have been seeing many huge whitetail bucks this year, none of the trophy bucks on scouting cameras we collected we had seen before. Further, if I wouldnít have hunt one of the scouting cameras I wouldnít even know a potential 200 class whitetail buck was inhabiting one of my farms and utilizing a small food plot on a regular basis.
Success Story of Patterning Trophy Bucks with Game Cameras
On 10-3-2009 we caught photos of a good ten point trophy buck on one of our Missouri deer properties. We put a hunter in the stand. The hunter, first night in, shot the buck and collected a 138 inch 10 point. Her (the hunter) first Pope and Young Whitetail Deer harvest. The trail camera had 4 photos during her hunt. The first photo revealed the deer coming into the game camera that night. The second photo showed the deer being arrowed. The third photo showed the whitetail deer running away. The fourth game camera photo showed the hunter walking past the scouting camera with her bow. A truly unbelievable sequence of game camera photos. In this event scouting cameras actually were responsible for the success of this particular whitetail deer hunter.
I would have posted the photos online and you may see them in a magazine in a future article but I was unable to post them as the game camera we used was an old camera and not the camera of our Official Scouting Game Camera of IMB Outfitters. Believe me though its nothing short of amazing.
Trail camera use and technology has evolved tremendously over the past 5 or 6 years. They uncover a whitetail propertyís sneakiest whitetail bucks as the game camera user is given chance to watch the property both day and night without even being on the property.
No matter a whitetail deer hunter approach to collecting a mature buck, even the most consistent whitetail deer hunters suffer more defeats than successes. It's about the challenge of harvesting trophy whitetail bucks. Without that challenge, it's doubtful that a record-book whitetail would be the most sought-after trophy in North America.
What great spyware game cameras are for todayís whitetail enthusiast. Trail cameras have now been marketed aggressively for almost a decade. Some whitetail enthusiasts say trail cameras are the one of the best tools afforded to the modern day whitetail trophy deer hunter. Some whitetail hunters say game cameras spook whitetail deer and cause unnecessary human intrusion in the woods. I do not believe game cameras spook whitetail deer. The trail cameras we utilize here at IMB Outfitters are set on 2 minute intervals, however once in a great while an employee of mine will make a mistake and program the game camera incorrectly setting the trail camera to take photos every 60 seconds. As I look over these photos I get tons of photos of the same deer in the frame. This tells me the whitetail deer are not being spooked or they would run from the infrared game cameras after several photos were taken.
Digital trail cameras may be more expensive than film game cameras however in the long run digital game cameras are simply the only thing I would use. First off the digital game camera will hold a vast memory of photos that normally would not be taken due to the limited amount of exposures on rolls of film. Also film prices and development of the photos long term will far outweigh the expenses of simply purchasing a digital scouting camera. Digital game cameras also make less noise as they had no film advancing noise, and "supposedly" the flash isnít as spooky or bright however photos are of much higher quality.
Do trail cameras spook deer?
There's nothing certain when hunting whitetail deer. Response to a trail camera falls in four categories: indifference, curiosity, caution, or alarm.
One of the key elements in placing a trail camera is making sure you are not leaving human scent or at least minimal human scent at the game camera site. Whitetail deer often investigate a trail camera's flash or its film winding noise. This is especially true at night. Whitetails are very curious animals by nature. It's only when human scent is thrown in the mix that a whitetail forms an association which computes to danger. Many of my photos show the same mature deer with their noses within inches of the game camera casing when the flash went off. Always use scent-free rubber gloves and spray the unit down with a scent-depressing product during placement. Wear rubber boots, tough as little as possible, and use Hunter Specialties human scent eliminator in and around the tree you have placed the trail camera on. Donít spray the game camera down with it for fear of ruin, but you can use Hunter Specialty wipes to wipe the outer shell of the game camera down.
If a particular buck proves to be camera shy, it's wise not to place a unit too near its bedding area or close to your tree stand locations. Instead, place it in a transitional or feeding area where the buck visits long after sunset. Be quiet when entering the area to place or retrieve your game camera for whitetail deer. Donít ride your 4 Wheeler right to the game camera and grab it. Walk in quietly as if you were hunting and use the same whitetail hunting precautions as literally with these state of the art trail cameras you really are hunting with the game cameras.
Strategically Using a Trail Camera
New scouting camera owners need to thoroughly understand their unit before heading too deeply into the woods. Reading even well-written instructions is only half the battle. Correct aiming, adequate subject distance, proper time and date settings, and battery life all need to be learned by repetitive use before achieving consistent results. I instruct all my guides to go out in the backyard and set them up and take photos of themselves to make sure the scouting camera is set up correctly and ready to take photos of whitetail deer.
Once game cameras are understood, it's then time for field placement. Prior observation of a buck in a given area is an upfront advantage. Otherwise, you'll need to find large tracks on trails, near waterholes, or around food sources for best positioning of your game camera.
Donít affix a trail camera to a stake or pole. Use a tree as that tree is not an uncommon landmark to the areaís whitetail deer herd.
Trail cameras offer two types of triggering devices, simple motion detection and passive infrared (PIR) heat detection. First-generation cameras offered only motion detection. These early models commonly snapped whole film rolls of blowing branches. The most advanced designs use motion and heat sensing and both must activate to trigger a photo or event. They're still not foolproof on sunny days, but this newest design definitely records more wildlife photos.
Timeliness of game camera triggering is a major consideration when placing a unit. Many of the less expensive trail cameras trigger slow (3-6 seconds) and produce more butts than heads.
Fast triggering units can be placed perpendicular to trails at about 5-10 feet from deer movement. Slower-responding models are best placed at the same distance, but at 45-degree angle to the trail allowing more time for a deer to be in the trigger zone.
Checking scouting camera results too often is a detriment to hunting a specific buck or area. Deer quickly wise up to human attendance in any given spot. Digital units can record well over 200 shots before new batteries weaken, therefore it's important not to invade deer domain any more than necessary. As a general rule only check a game camera once every 10 days or so. Donít keep running to your game cameras and checking them all the time.
Scrapes are great locations for placing a trail camera for buck photos. The key word is "near." It's better to aim the camera at an incoming or outgoing angle to the scrape as opposed to directly at it. This is especially true if the game camera is set for one-minute intervals or less. Consecutive flashes of a trail unit could run off some mature bucks, especially if they're in transit from another area.
Other productive spots for camera placement is were a soybean field meets a corn field, on waterholes, along rub lines, on salt licks (where they're allowed), next to white oaks with dropping acorns, and adjacent to any green patch before frost. Wherever you place a trail camera, remember that retrieving the film or memory card without disturbing deer is crucial to your hunting success.
Trail Camera Cost and Options
Affordability is not the bottom line. The least expensive are 35mm units for under $100. They serve the purpose if used wisely and sparingly but you get what you pay for. Donít skimp on game cameras if you can help it. Low-end digitals with a "2" megapixal rating or less cost about $200 and are a better buy for those planning regular use. Zooming a memory card image on a home computer is also very revealing for distant or faint subjects. Top-of-the-line models run from $300-$600 depending on available options: built-in flash, PIR sensing, movie capability, night vision, auxiliary battery pack, rechargeable batteries, megapixel upgrade, memory card capacity, mono-pod holder, and onboard viewing of images.
If you're not computer literate, models with toggle switch settings are simple to use. Programming features on the advance models, however, offer more options for time-slot settings. For example, the scouting camera can be programmed to record only during periods you've established that bucks are active, therefore saving battery life and memory card space.
Hunters have a endless desire for gaining knowledge about the lives and whereabouts of mature whitetail bucks. The trail camera of today is a great tool for the discovery of trophy whitetail deer in your area that would otherwise go unseen. It wouldnít surprise me if trail cameras will soon offer temperature and barometer readings at the time of each photo. Units already exist with remote game cameras that can be activated and viewed by home or laptop computer via satellite. Technology and intelligence of human beings are now catching up with the challenge of harvesting a mature whitetail buck?
For most of us trail cameras are entertainment that feeds a desire to stay in touch with whitetails and nature, and is the next best thing to whitetail hunting itself. The employee that reviewed photos with me acted as if he were a child on Christmas Eve. Truth known, so did I once I realized I had underestimated the effectiveness of trail cameras.