Okay, I’ll admit it: Juggling time between my family, business, and church leaves me little opportunity for outdoor pursuits. I have a passion for the natural world and love to hunt whitetail deer, but time constraints prevent me from fully scouting my hunting spots. Like a lot of hunters, I’m afraid I shoot from the hip too often when it comes to planning ahead for a successful hunt.
I am reminded of two old axioms: You get out of something exactly what you put into it, and nothing ventured, nothing gained.
So with that said, how can time-starved outdoorsmen scout their hunting spots more effectively? The answer is to let their game cameras do the work for them.
Strategically located game cameras are an incredible tool for deer, turkey, and hog hunters. Properly placed, these surveillance units will show you what animals appear on your hunting land, when they visit, what times they feed, the number of bucks and does in an area, and potential trophy bucks.
Experts suggest setting out game cameras in the summer to begin tracking the progress of velvet-antlered bucks. Since deer are creatures of habit, they use preferred travel corridors. Setting up a wildlife camera in an area where deer roam is a great way to chart their movements, and it takes the guesswork out of where to place a deer stand.
Ideal spots for game cameras are well-used game trails, near salt licks, around protein feeders, overlooking corn feeders (where legal), on the edge of feed fields, and near funnels or pinch points. Simply put, these high-traffic areas will concentrate the most deer and are optimum camera locations.
Select locations where you have an unobstructed view of the deer you want to photograph. Clear any grass or limbs away. Sometimes an overhanging limb blown by the wind can trigger unwanted photos. Pruning vegetation will pay dividends later.
If a suitable tree is not available to hang a camera on, a T-post works well. Moultrie makes a Deluxe Tree Mount, which adapts to a T-post or any other location. New for 2013, Moultrie also offers the EZ Tree Mount, which works well with their newer game cameras. This handy system comes with three screw-in holders to perfectly place a camera at any height.
Jeff Danker is one of the best whitetail hunters I know. This savvy Oklahoma buck hunter succeeds primarily because the deer he tracks never know he is there. Danker hangs several stands well in advance of the season opener, and then relies on his game cameras to scout for him. He knows that leaving a smaller footprint on his hunting spot can be the difference in scoring a big buck or going home empty-handed.
Alabama hunting legend Eddie Salter is also a believer in using game cameras. He advises hunters to stay scent-free when setting up cameras so they don’t contaminate hunting areas.
“Hunters will go in and look around and leave their scent all over every limb they touch,” said Salter. “Later when they hunt and see no deer, they wonder what went wrong. The truth is they’ve already educated their deer.”
Instead, Salter suggests that hunters wear scent-free hunting clothes and use gloves when they scout or check game cameras. Salter says this practice is crucial for your success.
Remember, your odds for success are the highest the very first time you hunt a stand location.
If you are hunting an area with bears, or potential trespassers, it is wise to place your cameras in a lockable box. Moultrie makes durable, solid-steel Security Boxes that effectively protect valuable game cameras. These boxes, available in two sizes, attach securely to trees.