GETTING AWAY FROM THE FEED WITH TRAIL CAMS
Trail cameras are a blessing and a curse. A blessing because of everything they bring to the table for scouting and hunting proposes, and a curse for the havoc they wreak on my wallet! Trail cameras are a huge help with our scouting, especially those of us who hunt in big timber settings. The Intel we gather from trail cameras gives us insight into a deer herd, whether its surveying the bucks that frequent your property, or keeping tabs on how many fawns make it through the summer. Most of the time, we put our cameras at a destination food source, a food plot, corn pile, or maybe a mineral site.
On properties with little or no food plots, and a lot of timber, it can be very tempting to dump out your favorite attractant and place a camera on it. That is a great way to servery your deer and locate a good buck, but how much does it really tell you about deer movement?
Only watching these very small food sources gives us an artificial (for lack of a better term) picture of deer movement. In other words you may know whats there, but you don't know where they travel to and from, and what the deer are naturally doing with no human interfearnace.
I recently wrote an article for Alabama Outdoor News on the subject of looking deeper into trail camera pictures. The article talked about how you may have a camera out on a trail for 7 days, and only get pictures of deer 5 of those days. A study of the weather conditions of those days can usually reveal a pattern, as in maybe deer only travel down a particular trail with a certain wind direction. In my case, the trail my camera was on only saw deer when there was some kind of Western wind, mostly Northwestern.
What I'm trying to say here is this, getting away from the destinations, and looking more closely at the travel routes can provide much more valuable information than a bunch of photos on a corn pile. My system consists of finding the destination and backtracking the travel routes until I find a good pinch point. Once the pinch point is located, the camera goes up.
After my camera is checked, I go back through all my pictures and see what wind direction coincided with the most deer movement, this takes some time but it is well worth the trouble. I really started implementing this system last year and I saw a dramatic increase in deer sightings from the stand. It even led to my friends first deer, which just so happened to be a mature buck on public land!
Trial and error is how that spot was figured out. A South West wind in that area would whisk your scent up a separate creek bottom, well out of the way from the deer trail. The problem with that was that we never saw deer, on camera or while hunting, using that trail with that particular wind direction. After an unsuccessful early season, we realized how the deer used that particular travel route. On a cold December morning I decided that would be a good spot for my buddy to sit. The wind was from the Northeast, angled just enough to keep his scent off the main trail. A nice 5.5 year old 9 point came cursing down the trail at 8:30am.
If we had only put our cameras on some kind of food source, we may have known that buck was there, but we would not have known how to hunt that spot. A north wind in that spot is blowing your scent directly down the trail, but since we knew that's the wind they liked to use that trail on, we would find a way to hunt it. Careful tree selection and patience for the right conditions paid off when that buck took a ride home in the truck with us.
Everyone has their own system, and none of them are necessarily right or wrong. This is just the system I have implemented and it has worked for me so far. Armed with the knowledge of what the deer are naturally doing, I can make accurate decisions on where to hunt, and when to hunt.