By Mark Kenyon:
I don’t care. I love it.
These words are from the chorus of the very popular current song, “I Love It” by Icona Pop. But they’re also what many of us internally must be thinking every time we set out trail cameras to get pics of our local big deer. In our heads, most of us probably realize that every trip in to check cameras spooks deer, and maybe even the way we set up our camera does too. But in the end, we usually just don’t care. We love it.
We love the excitement we feel every time we pull a trail camera card to see what new big buck might have shown up. It’s addicting, isn’t it? I’ll be the first to admit that I’m like a kid on Christmas Eve every time I go to check a camera.
As exciting as those cameras are though, they can also be just as dangerous. Dangerous, that is, from the standpoint that trail cameras and our trips to check on them can actually seriously spook our local deer and end up hurting our chances of hunting success. That said, with most state’s bowhunting seasons opening up in a matter of weeks, today we’re sharing three ways you can spook less deer with your cameras. Take these tips into account now, and you may still have a shot come hunting season. And don’t tell me you don’t care about that!
1. Location of Camera: The first thing you have to consider when setting trail cameras is where you actually will locate them. If you want to spook a lot of deer with your cameras, go ahead and walk straight into a bedding area to set one up. If on the other hand, you’d like to spook less deer, stick to the edges. Trail cameras belong in areas that you can easily access without spooking a lot of deer, that means field edges or other zones that you can avoid contact with deer.
I also don’t recommend placing cameras too close to your stand locations. Mature bucks can get weary of trail camera locations, and if you consistently keep a camera near a stand, a mature buck may begin to avoid that location. Given the fact that you’d preferably like to shoot that deer, it would probably be a good idea to just not risk that.
2. Position of Camera: Numerous studies have shown that to some degree the physical presence of a trail camera or the flash or sounds they produce can spook deer. In order to minimize this, you can position your camera in a way that deer are less likely to notice them. I admittedly don’t always do this myself (shame on me), but I really should. Consider placing you camera at a higher level, above your own height, and then angle your camera down. This will keep it out of eye shot of any buck, and will also most likely make the impact of sounds or flashes greatly reduced.
3. Checking Cameras: Here’s a big one. Probably more deer are spooked by our actual trips to check cameras than by the cameras themselves. Every time you walk into the woods to pull a trailcam you’re spooking deer or leaving scent that will spook them later. To minimize this effect, you should both minimize your trips to check cameras and minimize the impact you make on those trips.
I would recommend checking your cameras no more than once every two weeks, and I’ve actually been trying to wait three weeks or more this summer between checking cameras. It’s a simple issue of minimizing pressure. When you do make those trips, be as stealthy as you can and scent free. If you are already taking tip #1 into account, your cameras should be placed on edges that are easily accessible. If this is the case, and if you have the means, use a truck or ATV to ride straight up to your camera and quickly make the SD card swap. A vehicle is a much less concerning presence for a deer than a person on foot is.
4. Contamination of the Camera: The last item to consider is how you are actually contaminating the camera on each of your trips to check it. This typically comes down to scent control. If a mature buck walks up to your trailcam location and then catches a big whiff of man, it’s unlikely he’ll be returning any time soon. Minimize this by spraying yourself down with a scent elimination product before hand, wear gloves when handling the camera, and use a scent eliminator on the camera itself as well.
If you play it smart, trail cameras can be awesome and exciting tools to use in the pursuit of monster whitetails. But if you don’t care about these details, I hope you really, really love your trail camera pics. Why? Because those will be the last photos you ever get of those bucks.
Personally, I’d rather have a buck on my wall than a photo of him on my hard drive.