By Paul Annear
I’m not sure about you, but I am obsessed with trail cameras and even more in love with capturing monster bucks during those hot and humid days of July and August. The anticipation of checking a camera that has been on that prime inside corner gets me downright pumped. But as fun as cameras are, it’s easy to put yourself out of the game for that big buck by late summer if you’re not careful.
In particular, placing cameras deep in the timber and checking them too often are high on my summer “Do Not” list. Here’s why.
When I first began using cameras consistently, I couldn’t help but place them deep in the timber on a major trail and check them every 5-7 days. This was during my 2010 summer break from college. I captured a ton of deer on camera that summer, but I also drove many of them to spend time on neighboring properties. I’m thankful for this mistake now though, as it forced me to learn a few important lessons.
First, it encouraged me to completely re-examine my camera strategies and ultimately made me more conservative. I was quick to realize that I captured just as many, if not more, bucks on inside corners and field edges as I did deep in the woods on my southwest Wisconsin property – but when I stayed out of the timber, I educated fewer bucks.
Secondly, and most importantly, it helped me understand a few key things about properly hunting and scouting too. Trail cameras are not always best used to tell us what tree to set up in, rather they might be a better tool simply for informing you of the bucks around. My bad trail camera habits forced me to rely on the rest of my whitetail arsenal to figure out where I needed to be to see a buck in daylight. I began to scout more during late winter and spring; an invaluable time to view the woods and gather intel. Now, I rely heavily on spring scouting to get me in position come autumn. And as far as cameras, there is only one reason now that I will place a camera deep in the woods. I will occasionally place a camera close to a bedding area around mid-September in Wisconsin and not check that camera until sometime during or after the rut. These eight weeks of information can be a game changer for predicting long-term, consistent patterns year to year.
Checking cameras too often is also up there on my “Do Not” list. In doing so, you will eventually scent up your area so much that bucks will likely appear less and less throughout summer, unless you consistently run and check cameras year-round and have deer somewhat conditioned to intrusion. If you place cameras near tree stands, checking them often can be especially dangerous. They always say the first sit in a stand is the best. So, if your camera is near a stand and you’ve checked it five times before October 15th, how many stand sits does that equal? I’d rather not play that game. Deer hunting is hard enough, I don’t need to make it any harder. Cameras are supposed to help us, but if used improperly, they can easily do the opposite.
So this summer be sure to remember that keeping cameras on staging areas or field edges and letting them sit for long periods to gather intel will ensure you haven’t taken yourself out of the game before the season even begins.
– Paul Annear
For more insight into summer mistakes to avoid, read Mark Kenyon’s 6 Classic Summer Mistakes Most Deer Hunters Make