Contributors to this thread:
When to check trail cams
Will be going to some brand new land next week and will be putting out stands and trail cams. I have never used trail cams before and I have no experience using them. I have done several trial runs on setting them up so I understand how to position them to maximize their use and effectiveness. Like make sure to clear out any plants or tree branches that the wind can move and trip the IR sensors. Yep that one put 300+ pics of nothing much on my cam but lesson learned. I have two thick heavy timbered hedge rows in separate fields and one small 4-5 acre block of woods in the SE corner of a 20-25acre field that butts up to a much bigger block of woods. There is great access to my land and I can get in and out quickly and not have to enter the woods very deeply to get to my cams so I'm hoping to have minimal impact when I do check them. I also plan on taking every precaution I can to minimize any scent I will leave behind when checking them. Unfortunately I have a 3.5 hour drive to the land so I will be limited on how often I can get to the land to check the cams. What I need to know is how often is it wise to check trail cams and how close to when I will be bow hunting should I risk checking them? I know absolutely nothing about the land, or the deer that are hopefully on it. Been spending quite a bit of time on Goggle Earth and have a pretty good grasp of the habitat on the farm. The two hedgerows, #1 is about 20 acres long and averages about 200' wide #2 is about 10-12 acres long by 100-125' wide and are basically good sized funnels so stands and camera positioning should be simple. The small block of woods per the AP also should make camera and stand placement pretty straight forward as well. Also would like to add in the past I have done some preseason glassing of other farms and have seen plenty of bucks while doing so, but of the 2 dozen + bucks I have killed I have NEVER seen one before the day I killed it, so based on this how does one interpret the pictures if any of bucks that show up on your trail cams? Especially since #1 when I set them up it will be no more than 2.5 months to the beginning of increased day time buck movement and #2 I'm a 2.5 hour drive from my land. What I mean is if a mature buck only shows up on a single cam one time in two months before hunting time do I consider him less viable than a mature buck that shows up 3 -4 or more times? Should I pay more attention to numbers of deer that show up on my cams VS bucks only given most of my habitat is hedgerows? In short how do most of you use what deer show up on your cams to decide what areas to hunt? Thanks for sharing your experience with me, DMTJ/Art
I have a few trail cams. I try to NOT check them too often. Just patterns the deer to your habits. I do NOT have one, however, if I were you..... I'd invest in one of those cameras that send you photos via your cell phone. Man 3.5 hours away is a long way. I'd think that one of those would be worth it. Just my thoughts.
P-dog, love to invest in a wireless capable cam, but I have two CONSTANTLY growing sons (my 13 YO grew 4" in the last 8 months alone!) who both need to be outfitted from head to toe and a wireless cam is simply not in my budget, secondly I would loose sleep over the risk of it being stolen. My neighbor from my last farm of a year ago had someone not only steal one of his cams and stand but actually cut down the small tree he had his cam in a lock box tightly cabled to and stole it. Cordless power tools are a sh!tbag thief's best friend.
You never been on the land before, but going to put up stands. I would walk it real good before cameras and stands. As far away as you’ll have to travel, I wouldn’t be concerned with checking cams too often. Check them when you can.
I check my cams 3 times a year. May after the season, August still while still in velvet and then end of October before I start to hunt
I hope you plan on locking those cameras in... python cable, lock box with spray painted chains and a heavy master lock, lock them shut if they have that capability with small padlocks ... if not, dont expect them to be there when you return... even then with all the precautions/locks etc, there isnt a guarantee anymore .... I trust no one...
I run 2 SD cards per camera and switch them out, each cam, each card is numbered and lettered, so I use the same cards in the same camera all the time... dont mix them up ....ex. SD cards for #1 camera is lettered 1 A and 1 B, cam #2 is 2A and 2 B, etc.... I also run nothing but Energizer Lithium's AA's in mine... get them at Loews, Menards and they only run about $13 a 8 pack and will last for 6-10 months even in zero degree weather .... If you get them at Walgreens, etc. they are over $20 a 8 pack, they rip you off ....... if your going to do videos, get a larger size card or as large as the cam will take ... I do only pics, so a 4-8GB card is fine for me and they will hold well over 1000 pics..... I check my cams about every 2-3 weeks before season, and this year, I will pull them in before the season starts to prevent theft (I lost one last season when I left it out (damn state land thieves)...... if your checking them IN season, I used to do that only when I passed by them to hunt a particular set up on private land I had for 18 years (no more) ... I dont like going to them to often .... I have mine at crotch to waist level, and try to camo the cable/strap/mount etc. the best I can with leaves/branches/grass/etc. ..... some like to put them high, but you lose the range of them I believe ... also, very important, DO NOT face them into the sun if at all possible or you will have a lot of "ghost pics", the heating of the air/thermals will set them off as will the sun itself ...
I run cams more for a hobby than to pattern critters, I just like to see what is out there, thus they will all come in before the season starts to prevent theft this year ..
Thanks for the great replies so far. Good advice about the sun. Are making lock boxes out of weather proof lockable electrical boxes. Are putting out only four cams two Moultrie A5/G2s I paid less than $35/EA for with Duracell bats and a 6gb sd card and some 6MP Tasco cams. Owner claims he in around the farm 3-5 days a week so hope my stands and cams will be safe, but I'm locking both up. I plan on taking up to 3 days to walk the land and using some decent areal photos to place stands. I'm no Bill Winke but I'm hoping my 30+ years of deer hunting and the fact I'm hunting two hedgerows that are little more than long continues funnels along with a small +/- 5 acre block of woods that butts up to a much larger block of woods that runs along the entire western border of my land and has two hedgerows that connect from the south and SW from the neighbors land that makes up the southern property line will make stand placement relatively straight forward as long as there is sufficient deer sign to help me with my final stand locations. I'm putting up 3 hang on and 3 ladder stands and If I see any trees after that I have a Guido's Web and will prep any other trees for it as my land owner cares not if I use screw in tree steps. Thanks for the replies and advice so far.
One thing to consider is that when the pre rut turns into the beginning of the breeding period bucks who live on or frequent your ground can end up miles away. Likewise , bucks from miles away can show up on your ground. Especially true about mature bucks. Deer density plays a large role in how far bucks will need to travel to find a hot doe. Cameras are nice for inventories of deer who live on your hunt area but once the rut kicks off everything changes. If a mature buck has made your ground home, even if he leaves for a few days he will be back provided he's still alive. My reason for using trail cams is more for late season ,winter and early spring on mineral sites to know who made it through the season. The pics I get during those times tell me who actually lives close by. Have fun with em but I would not pass on a good shooter cause I have a picture of a nicer shooter.
My own personal opinion but I foregoing locks and try to make my cams invisible. Screw the straps, use camp string etc. As you said earlier, a guy can cut down a tree etc. The lock boxes and such are simply deterrents. I take my risks and just hope no one sees it. Since then the only thing I’ve lost cams to is bears. One mans opinion. Small cams, camo, not obvious visually, replace straps with strings, are the main things. As soon as you put them in a box or a huge cable it’s just a giant invitation.
Good point apauls . My friends who hunt public land in Arizona and put cameras out put them high up in trees out of line of sight . Just aim em down at the lick or trail. They have good success at not loosing cameras and getting pics.
How are those tasco cams at are at Walmart for 28.00.
Using cams is fun, but can be frustrating. Unless you can pinpoint a predictable travel pattern for a particular deer, the best you can hope for is an inventory of the deer that use your land. Many will not stay there year round. If you want to know what lives there, leave your cams up year round. If you are only concerned with using them for hunting season, then use them to figure out the main travel routes used by the majority of the deer. This sounds like the best use of your cams based on your distance to hunt area. If you are on their most used travel route, you will get pics of bucks you will never see again after the rut, and will soon find out who the regulars are. Remember also that a cam or multiple cams only show you what walks in front of them, not what knows they are there and avoids them. Once you figure out the best areas for movement, put your cams in a very accessible location that leaves you VERY easy access and doesn’t disturb them. They WILL pattern YOU! I’ve eaten my tag several times hunting a particular buck that cameras showed frequenting the area and passed on many good bucks in the process that I would normally have shot, so be prepared to shoot a deer that makes you happy even if he isn’t the biggest one you have pics of. The best piece of advice is don’t make a job out of it. Keep it fun.
A lot of great advice guys.
I’m far from an expert, but I think my system works for me.
I run about 25 cams on 500-600 acres. I don’t use them to pattern deer, because I believe that on my farm, patterning deer is impossible. I do use them to pattern mature buck tendencies. I pay particular attention to daylight photos of mature bucks, and when and where they occur. Especially if they happen year after year with different mature bucks using an area in the daylight. That’s an area I want a stand.
I put my cams out in July normally (I put them out in June this year). I check them once in August, and again in September, and then once again in October. I use a Polaris Ranger and drive right to the camera.
After about mid-October, I will only check cams that I walk by on the way to or from stands. Some cams may not get checked very often. Others will be checked a lot. I’ll always have 2 or 3 cams that are on traveled farm roads. I’ll check these about every time I’m on the farm. Almost all of the pictures will be at night.
I don’t start hunting my stands that are back in the brush until about October 28th.
I try to be smart. Even if I have a camera near a tree stand (most of mine are not right next to a stand), I will hunt the stand, and check the camera after. I don’t want more ground scent in the area than necessary before the hunt.
I use my cameras as a scouting tool, to let me know what areas are being used. But I also use them heavily as a tool to tell me what’s on the farm, and I try to figure the age of deer. In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to drop the string on a young buck that looks good. I’ve done it. With cams, that doesnt’ happen anymore for me. I know what bucks are usually on the farm. I have an idea of their age and size, and I can recognize them quickly, and usually already have my mind made up as to what I want to shoot.
Over time, as you have pictures of a buck over multiple years, you can learn the areas he most often frequents, and this is valuable intel. On my farm, if a buck uses an area in the daylight year after year, there’s a pretty good chance he’ll keep doing it. ALthough I don’t spend a lot of time analyzing that.
If I lived 3 1/2 hours from my farm, I’d check them all during the season as much as I could. I’d use a truck or ATV to access them. I’d do it at night after I hunted.
On my farm, trucks and ATVs don’t bother the deer. They just move off, then come right back in after I leave on the machine. I’d rather check from a machine than on foot any day
I did not read all the posts but if you’re that far away I would run them no more than once a month. Even less won’t hurt.
It’s been my experience that bucks we kill are not usually bucks we saw all summer. Sometimes, but not often. Of course I’m talking about a 200 acre place and you’re naturally gonna get an influx of roamers around go time.
I run 15 trail camera on July 15, I will check out after s month. During hunting season I check whenever I walk by when I hunt. I hunt in private then I am not worry about thief
Apauls got it right. I put my cameras high out of line of site and camo them as best I can. Never had one stolen that way. I check mine maybe once a month before season and then as I go by them while hunting. Cameras are a fun way to see what is roaming.
It all depends on what info you want to obtain. If your not hunting that particular area now then no need to check cams on a regular basis. If your hunting the area but not for any specific buck then maybe check once a week or so. If your after a specific deer you need to check cams more often to learn his tendencies. Just make sure you can get in and out with out much disturbance.
My understanding of your situation is you don’t have a ton of land you are trying to figure out. It’s not like you are trying to locate a big buck on thousands of acres. I would pack up your cameras and go walk the land and check it all out. Try to find trails they are using now and put the cameras up. Good thing it’s still July. You could also get some tree stands up on main trails. You will probably get a good idea of how deer are moving through with a scouting trip. Leave the cameras out for a month or month and a half. Check the cameras and you should have a good idea what is moving through the area.
Just my 2 cents.
Thanks to all who replied. I will heed the advice given. Will put out my cams and check them depending on difficulty of access and chances of spooking deer when checking.
I put a single trail camera up in June in the area where my hunting party (Mom, brother, wife, son) saw the largest early-season buck from the previous year. I collect the camera the night before opening day (mid-September) and see what I have captured on film. Then we try to put the least experienced hunters on that buck to get them a big one. Good luck.
I check my cameras on my land about every weekend and pay absolutely no attention to scent. I have this guy on camera every morning until around 9:00. Same thing last year with a 166 12 point. Don’t over think it.
Here is the 12 point from last year killed 2 hours before dark in October. There were 5 other bucks in the field when we killed him and 3 cameras around the edge checked weekly with no regard to scent.
Again my thanks to all for sharing their trail cam experiences with me. I am fortunate that I should be able to access any cams I put up with a minimum of effort and hopefully minimal chance of spooking any deer.