A yearly trail camera schedule for deer hunters.
By: Reese Johnson
There’s a method to this madness I promise. My trail cam schedule begins in July because I most commonly use to capture Whitetail and that’s what my cameras revolve around most. While trail cameras have many uses, it’s undoubtedly the typical reason folks are running one. Typically, I don’t run all my cameras year around, only during July-February. While I do run a few in the Spring, it is typically less and I attempt to save wear and tear on the cameras by using this method.
Trail cameras serve each individual differently and can do many different things, this yearly schedule is what I’ve developed over time as the best way to obtain quality pictures and maintain a solid army of trail cams that will last.
The beginning, usually when it all starts simply because this is when velvet growth has formed enough to really be able to tell enough to follow a buck throughout the summer. Mostly all of my cameras are either on bait sites or mineral licks, this dramatically increases your odds for getting multiple pictures of those bachelor groups. While some states don’t allow this, the food sources are most definitely where you will want to focus.
Not much will have changed entering August as far as camera setups. Most of my cameras will remain on either licks or bait with some outliers possibly checking into different areas. My greatest set of trail cam pictures came last year when I discovered a beautiful 150 class 10 point was spending time in a barn avoiding the hot summer sun. This time of year is great for trying new areas such as watering holes once you have your licks/bait sites covered.
Things will start to change at this point and I will move some cameras in anticipation depending on my schedule. When the velvet comes off, everything shifts and the previous locations don’t have the same appeal. About the middle of the month I will start shifting these cameras towards future scrape locations.
While you don’t always know where the scrapes may appear, some limbs are usually are always a favorite. There seems to be a couple on every farm and you can just as easily manipulate the deer into making a scrap with a little work. This year, I cut a few trees about 4-8 inches in diameter and then dug hole with a post hole diggers in the center of the food plot as a spot for a scrape. This gained me some pictures of bucks and others feeding in the plot, the ultimate camera setup.
The rut is in full swing and I refrain from checking cameras as much as possible while leaving them on scrapes as bucks will continue to come through those areas most of the time. At this time, all your inventory of bucks will shift and while some hang around, this is when the dispersal begins. It always seems the early season deer move to chase does in new locations while a few new bucks will come searching for does and hang around through late season.
The rut is over and the craze begins to die down. Food becomes prevalent again and that’s is where I begin to shift my focus for late season leading into the shedding of antlers. Some cameras will remain on scrapes as many are in plots that have good views of the food plot themselves.
Maintaining the food stance, I will move some cameras directly on a food plot to basically begin the watch for antler loss as we move towards the end of season.
Once the antlers begin to drop in the middle of February, I will begin to take down cameras usually while I’m out looking for antlers. At this point, I should have a good idea of which bucks survived the season and I can look forward to following the next year.
Most all of my cameras will have been brought back in, inventoried and cleaned for the next season. A few lucky soldiers however will end up in some select areas as help in patterning some turkeys in the upcoming season. This usually occurs towards the end of the month.
Hopefully I will have been able to pattern those turkeys at least a little better or will have a better idea of what is happening around the farm before I get there. This time of year is also a great time to try out the video feature and see what sounds those flocks are making. Towards the end of season, I’ll begin the take down the handful that made it back into the field until the next go around.
Take a break, give those cameras a well deserved rest. If you’re an addict like me, then try something different like on the bird feeder in the yard or a water tank where or potentially a carcass for predator pictures.
If you're chomping at the bit to get your cameras out, now could be the start. The bucks will just now start sprouting velvet and the trail camera cycle begins once again.
As I do this longer and longer, I have noticed my setups broken down into three areas throughout the deer season. Early season mineral sites, scrapes for the rut, and then finally late season food as I’ve talked about previously. Turkey season pictures are a must and can be done with fewer cameras in the field usually. The uses for these devices are endless and create some memories that will last a lifetime.