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Lights, Camera... Satisfaction: Deer Cam Tactics

Before deer cameras were a regular hunting tool, the best way to pattern deer was to spend many hours scouting, observing and recording the movements of deer. A few tricks at observing them indirectly were tying sewing thread across trails, raking soft soil or sand along field entrances or checking fence crossings. The broken thread, interpretation of tracks and evidence of hair revealed places where deer have come and gone.

Numbers of deer, buck to doe ratios, sightings of trophy animals, and effectiveness of months of management were based on a few field visits and bits of indirect evidence gleaned from the field. Affordable digital cameras have changed the way hunters scout deer and help them understand their local deer like never before.

Digital Deer

In today's busy world the time to scout is a luxury many weekend deer hunters don't always have. Thanks to digital technology cameras are much more reliable, affordable and efficient. They are both a scouting tool and a way for landowners to assess the quality and quantity of their deer herd.

To get the most out of your deer camera, here are some ways that hunters and landowners are using them and tips for digital cameras.

Put it Where?

Hunter's Specialties Prostaffer Rick White suggested a few places to install the camera, "Put the camera along well-used trails, scrapes, rubs, food plots, bedding areas. Experiment with offbeat places such as pond edges, road crossings, livestock troughs, mock scrapes and suspected escape routes. You will be surprised where deer spend their time."

If the camera is installed next to a well-used trail. Try to place it where the trail enters thick brush and leads to a open field or where footing is tricky. This will increase the chances of the camera capturing the deer in full view of the camera. These spots are places where deer must slow down and are captured by the camera.

Most scouting cameras have an effective flash of less than 30 feet. Many cameras have an infrared or movement sensor that will activate further than the flash can capture. Aim the camera at a solid object such as brush, a tree trunk or hillside to ensure the deer is inside the camera's range or adjust the sensor to capture images within range.

If your camera has a sensor for movement avoid placing the camera near swaying branches or plants, or movement other than deer. Don't waste a memory card on photos of rustling leaves, passing cars, trail riders, hikers, squirrels, stray dogs ... etc. Unless, of course, you want to see what or who is visiting the property when it is unattended.

With the ability of many camera's to record time and date, find out not only where animals are moving, but when they are moving. Keep in mind that summer movement patterns will change as soon as the rut begins and the scouting process will begin again for the peak-rut and post-rut patterns. Try to anticipate changes in habits.

Keep `em Running

During cold weather, cameras will use batteries more frequently. Keep a spare set of batteries handy or take advantage of the newer Lithium or NiMH rechargeable batteries. Rechargeable batteries will save you money in the long run. Some digital cameras now feature an optional solar charger panel that will keep the batteries charged and require less frequent visits for maintenance.

Purchase a spare memory card for cameras that use a removable memory card. Swap cards and view them at home on your computer without taking your camera out of the action.

Don't be afraid to adjust the settings on the sensor, flash, and shutter timing delay. That's the beauty of digital photography, no film to waste and reusable memory cards. If you are absent for much of the time, make sure to secure the camera. While the prices of digital cameras are slowly dropping, they are still highly coveted by thieves.

Herd Enough?

Determine how effective your management decisions were on the placement of food plots or the attractiveness of a particular seed blend based on how often the plot was visited by deer during the season. Perhaps a change of site or a new mix of seed may be in order if the food plot was rarely used by deer. The camera will also show food plot use by other game animals such as turkeys.

As you collect photos, keep a log on the number of bucks, mature does, yearlings and fawns. Note the ratio of mature animals to immature animals. Decide if the herd has a healthy ratio of bucks, does, yearlings and fawns. Determine if there is a need to harvest any particular deer or put restrictions on harvesting certain animals for trophy management purposes.

One Last Shot

The new deer cameras will make you a more productive hunter, create a better understanding of the local deer herd, and give you insight on what the future looks like for your property — one photo at a time.

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