I’ve been getting some great emails lately. I love getting them. Keep them coming! This past week I got a few concerning trail cameras, and one question about these handy gadgets kept coming up: How early is too early when it comes to putting out trail cameras for whitetails?

DISCLAIMER: I’m by no means a whitetail trail camera expert – there are individuals more versed in this this topic – but I would like to provide my two cents.

Anyone that has followed my writing or videos knows I like to step outside established norms. I’m no different when it comes to trail camera usage. Personally, I like to get my trail cameras out during the last week of April or during the first week in May, and no, I’m not putting them out to document antler growth. Yes, watching bucks sprout new antlers is fun, but my purpose behind hanging cameras early in the year is more about uncovering patterns to help me plan for early-fall success.

I have a WIldgame Nano 16 three feet up the trunk of a cottonwood in a timbered bottom. The bottom is a perfect pinch leading to my starting-to-get-established food plot, and it’s located on a heavily used trail. The camera has been set for exactly 14 days and has collected 178 deer photos. Yes, I have sorted through them to identify triggers from the same deer within a 10-minute timeframe. After 10 minutes, unless I can clearly see some identifiable feature, I dub the deer on camera a “new arrival.”

Between the hours of 5:20 a.m. and 9:20 a.m., 23 of the 178 photos (13 percent) showed deer traveling eastbound (coming from the west) on the trail. During this time frame, deer travel numbers were way down. However, all of these deer showed up at what I’ve labeled an established bedding area. I know this because I have a Moultrie M-880 Gen2 trail camera located near the bedding area. Between the hours of 5:20 p.m. and 8:20 p.m., deer travel skyrocketed – 153 of the 178 pictures (87 percent) showed deer traveling westbound (coming from the east) on the trail. Of that 87 percent, 74 percent (rough percentage/used time correlations between the two cameras) of those deer passed by my plot and were captured by my Stealth Cam G30 on their way to larger agriculture fields.

This information, at least for me, is much more valuable to my fall-planning phase than simply looking at horn growth. Why? Because I’m starting to develop an early-season hunt plan, and I already know that in the morning, if movement patterns stay the same, I will need to approach my stand from the east (walking west with my face in the wind) and can hunt the stand in the morning on westerly wind patterns. I can also get away with hunting the stand on north and south patterns as well during the morning hours. In the evening, north and south wind patterns still work, but I will need to approach the stand from the west (walking east with the wind in my face) and hunt on favorable easterly winds. I chart this information and, in August, hang stands and plan my entrance and exit routes.

The Wildgame Nano 16 (www.wildgameinnovations.com) has provided two weeks of crisp images both day and night. It’s branded with a one-second trigger, and so far, I have no evidence that suggests this isn’t true. Best of all, at least from a user standpoint, is the camera’s size. I can toss several of these babies, which measure 3 x 2.5 x 3.5 inches, in my pack. Plus, the TRUbark HD texture helps the camera blend in with tree trunks.

Stealth Cam’s (www.stealthcam.com) G30 is compact and takes brilliant images. I love the fact that it shows up-to-date battery life and gives you an active countdown (from 30 seconds) as it prepares to activate. I also appreciate being about to set the camera to a three-picture burst.

Moultrie’s (www.moultriefeeders.com) M-880 Gen2 is easy to set up, and I really like the locking device. In addition, the images are crisp and the detection range is unbelievable. Moultrie notes its detection range at a distance of 50 feet, but my tests show it has no problem 20 feet past the advertised distance.