If you aren’t careful, checking trail cameras can hurt your hunting property more than it can benefit it.
By: Cole Seitzinger
Have you ever been so excited about a deer showing up on camera, that you go in everyday to check your cameras? If you have and you didn't have the perfect set-up, the buck probably stopped showing up soon after you began over checking those poorly accessible spots. One way to avoid adding pressure to your property while checking cameras, is to stick close to areas you can access by vehicle. Most properties have fields, roads, or four-wheeler paths that allow us to reach almost any spot on the property by vehicle. Setting your trail cameras up close to these spots will allow you to drive into the area instead of walking in to it. When a deer is disturbed by a vehicle the effects are nowhere close to as bad as when they are disturbed by a human on foot. Often times the deer are use to vehicles and they simply keep their distance. If you cannot pull right up to the camera and check it from the vehicle, than leave it running while you go swap the cards. This way the deer can still hear the vehicle and may not realize you are on foot. Deer will hardly ever be alarmed by vehicle presence after the vehicle has left. They sometimes will go investigate shortly after you leave. This is a great way to set-up and check your cameras when available.
People with properties that don’t have the luxury of using a vehicle will have to take extra precaution when checking their cameras. This starts with the setup locations. Knowing your property and deer movement inside and out will make this much easier with less trial and error runs in the future. Cameras placed in or close to bedding areas should be left alone 100% of the time during daylight. If you feel the need to run cameras in bedding areas because you hunt them, then you should stick to checking those only on days you go in to hunt that spot. If you haven’t hunted it but still want to go in, then your best bet is to do this in the middle of the night when the deer aren’t there. Avoid bedding areas the best you can because it will almost always affect the property negatively. Stick to field edges and the perimeters of the property. These will be easier to check on foot and during the middle of the day when the deer should not be nearby. In addition to all that, try to keep your cameras high and off the main line of vision for the deer. If the deer doesn’t see the camera, then it is as if it is not even there, which is what you want so they don’t avoid those spots. Easy in and easy out is the main goal when checking cameras on foot. The least amount of intrusion as possible into your property will result in deer staying there all year round.
Scent control should be taken very seriously when checking cameras. Avoid wearing your everyday clothes and sneakers. You should have a pair of rubber boots you can throw on every time you go out to check a camera. Deer can smell foreign scent for a long time after you are gone. If you just got done eating a bag of Doritos, then you go finger up your camera, you are probably doing more harm than good. Unless of course the deer are use to you doing that and they like to lick Doritos off your camera, then you should probably go create a Doritos flavored attractant and make millions selling it! Otherwise, you should stick to being as scent free as possible at all times. Spray down, at a minimum, your hands and boots. If you treat it like you are going in to hunt, you should have no problem.
Timing is everything when it comes to properly checking cameras. The location of the camera will determine the time of day or night you should check them. Morning and evenings are going to be the worst times to check cameras. Wait till mid-morning to mid-afternoon when the majority of deer will be bedded up. Be aware of the time on pictures that you already got and plan your next card pull on that information. Next, you will want to decide how often you should be checking them, because every other week is way better then every other day. The anticipation always kills us, but the longer between card pulls we can wait, the better we will be.
So there you have it, you don’t need to be a silent trail camera ninja but you should take the precautionary measures to ensure that the least disruption is being done. The results are simple, more pictures of more buck equal more information for you to successfully hunt the deer on your property!