Trail Cameras, Help or Hindrance?

By Alex Comstock

With it being May, if you're anything like me, you're starting to get all of your trail cameras out in the woods. I run a ton of trail cameras and have learned quite a bit over the last couple years. Much of what I have learned has come the hard way. Something that I have noticed and find true time and time again is that trail cameras are actually hurting people instead of helping them. In my mind, trail cameras have been the greatest technological advance in the deer hunting world, but only when used correctly. They should be a tool that is used to help your success rate, not something that hinders your ability to shoot a mature buck. 

The most common mistake I see with people and their trail cameras is the urge to check cameras often.  It can be extremely difficult to let a camera sit, and not check it every other day. It's something that I struggled with for years. I've gotten better at it, and this summer I have made the commitment to only check cameras once a month. Opposed to checking them every couple of weeks, or even every week, letting them sit a month between visits will reduce the pressure I put on deer. When you check your camera more frequently, you inevitably are putting a greater amount of pressure on your deer. Even if you never see a deer when you check your cam, but your checking it every week, you are still laying down scent. Deer will walk by when your gone and smell your scent. If this happens every week, and then one day you bump that mature buck, they will associate your scent with danger and then there is the possibility of that buck turning nocturnal. On the other hand, if that happens but then your gone for a month, there is a lesser chance of that buck knowing you've been in there or associating you with danger. That way, there is a greater chance he will move in daylight once hunting season is upon you.  

 Try checking your cameras less frequently this summer, and see if you notice more daylight activity. 

Try checking your cameras less frequently this summer, and see if you notice more daylight activity. 

One other thing that I really feel is important is the way in which you check your trail cams. I recently have started to pay more attention to detail when deciding to check my cameras and how I check them. What I mean by this is every time I go to check a camera, I'm acting like I'm going hunting. If I know I camera is near a bedding area, I want the right wind or I will pick another day to check it. I'm also always going to wear rubber boots to be as scent free as possible. One thing I know some people do that seems to be effective is to wear hip waiters when checking cameras, that way even if you brush up on some tall grass or a branch, you don't have to worry about scent. Paying attention to detail is critical in making trail cameras a tool for success.

The last thing that I think is worth mentioning is trail camera location. Time and time again people want to have their cameras right by their stand. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, especially during the season it can be helpful, but having it by your stand during the summer months, and checking it all the time could actually hurt you more than it helps you. This is especially true if your stand is a ways back in the timber. Instead, have your camera up on a field edge, or somewhere less intrusive. The best place to have a camera during the summer, is somewhere where you can drive right up to the camera and check it. Deer are more used to vehicles in fields and they won't associate you with danger.

 Here I have a camera on a field edge over a mineral site, my favorite summer setup. 

Here I have a camera on a field edge over a mineral site, my favorite summer setup. 

So this summer try to be more detailed oriented when it comes to your trail cameras. They are a tool that is suppose to help you pattern and ultimately kill a deer that you target. Using them in the right way will help you get an upper hand on a mature buck. Using them in the wrong way though, can hinder you ability to shoot a mature buck, and they can hurt you worse than they will help you.