scouting deer public ground trail cameras | Muddy Outdoors

Scouting for Deer with Trail Cameras on Public Land

Successfully Find Bucks Using Trail Cameras on Public Land

Deer scouting is defined as spending time afield searching, investigating and evaluating one or more areas for white-tailed deer sign to improve the hunting experience. Basically, scouting for deer hunting is spending time in the woods looking for deer sign. Simple enough, head out a few weeks before deer season, look around and hang a few stands where you see the most sign. Or more commonly today, hang a few trail cameras and hunt in those areas where you see the biggest or the most shooter bucks. That approach can sometimes work on private land, with an emphasis on sometimes, but almost never produces consistent results on public land.

Public Land is Different

The issues with public land hunting are competition from other hunters and your inability to control the environment. It is no secret that the best hunting on public land is far from the roads. According to research from Duane Diefenbach of the Pennsylvania Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit and others, it is estimated that 87% of hunters in Pennsylvania hunt within approximately 500 yards of a road (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10871200591003445). That said, mature bucks tend to move to more interior habitats to avoid as much human interaction as possible.

On private lands, you know exactly who is hunting the same property and more than likely where those other hunters are at on most days. The same is not true on public land. You are constantly trying to beat other hunters to a prime spot in the morning, hoping your truck alone will deter others from walking in on your hunting area. Pressure likewise poses a problem when scouting for deer with trail cameras on public land. Secure deer trail cameras with locks and protective cases so your camera and all those pictures are still there when you return.

scouting deer public ground trail cameras | Muddy Outdoors

Also, you cannot control many aspects of the area you are hunting. For instance, other people who may or may not have the same hunting skills that you have, including scent control tactics, are going to be moving around your stands. Public means everyone, so hikers, bikers and certainly other sportsmen are going to be disturbing bucks in prime hunting locations. Bucks know this and finding the mature ones involves avoiding human activity as much as possible. Find areas that are not used or not used often by people. In addition, you have limited options to change the physical environment. Food plots and cutting trees are out; hunting public land means you have to find key habitat areas by scouting.

Scouting for Deer on Public Land

Scouting for deer on public land breaks down into two parts. First, start with a computer. Instead of pulling off the road in an area that “looks good”, start with scouting for deer on public land by using your computer. There are various freely available mapping programs out there. Find one that works for you and pull up topographical and aerial images of regions you are interested in scouting. This long distance scouting helps you discover key areas to setup your cameras. Look for cover funnels, habitat edges, saddles and points. Many of these tools also allow you to add points and save your maps. Perfect for identifying spots to hang trail cameras. Identified spots from aerial and topographical maps provide a thoughtful starting point to hit the ground.

Finding key locations from mapping technologies does not take the place of getting on the ground. The second part of scouting for deer on public land effectively is about studying travel patterns to and from feeding and bedding areas from the ground. You cannot be in different areas at different times so positioning your trail cameras in areas like these will give you an accurate picture of when and what types of bucks are around. Take note of access from roads and trails. Those play an important part in you getting to your stand and also how many other people may be using the area. Investigate land features, such as changes in habitat types or funnels, as possible options for stand locations. Look for past deer sign like old rub, scrapes and pellets. These clues help to determine placement of tree stands as the season approaches.

Scouting Deer with Trail Cameras

Trail cameras should be a significant part of any hunter’s scouting strategy. Deer trail camera photos provide scouting 24/7 so you can begin to understand deer movements in a particular area. They give clues to help you pattern buck activity and most importantly, they allow you to take an inventory of the bucks in the area so you know what kind of potential is available come fall. A good trail camera survey will help in the decision-making process when it comes time to actually head to the woods to start hanging tree stands.

Place trail cameras on trails leading to feeding areas when scouting for deer in the summer. As the season progresses, move some cameras to scrapes and other areas where rut activity is visible. Do not be afraid to hang multiple game cameras in close proximity to ensure you capture all the key elements of your hunting area. Public land bucks are more unpredictable than hunting deer on private land. Therefore your scouting for deer with trail cameras strategy has to compensate in order to get a clear picture of the type of bucks and their movements in your location.

One of the biggest mistakes deer hunters make is not identifying bucks that are killable from their deer trail camera photos. If you are scouting deer with trail cameras correctly, there will be hundreds of photos to sift through. Do not waste time analyzing bucks you will never be able to harvest. Observed activity of mature bucks on your trail cameras will determine if a buck will be able to be killed. If a buck is strictly nocturnal your only chance may be during the rut. If a buck is active during the day then it depends on where he is active. His activity must be in an area that is accessible for hunting without spooking him off. Luckily, cameras provide you all this information. The challenge is finding places to put your trail cameras on public land.

Where to Put Trail Cameras for Deer

Scouting for deer on public land does not have to be frustrating nor does it have to be an exercise in futility. Trail cameras are clearly not just for private land. However, as discussed earlier, do not just throw some game cameras up without some thought. Getting the best trail camera pictures required to evaluate an area is more skill than luck. To find the best bucks on public land, grab your deer trail cameras and head to these three places for scouting.0

scouting deer public ground trail cameras | Muddy Outdoors

  1. Explore newly purchased public land or boundary extensions. These areas are unknown to most hunters and often border great buck habitat that was once off limits. Land acquisitions can be found on most state and federal land management websites. Keep current with those areas that have been purchased and spend time scouting for deer in the summer on these additions. Place trail cameras on border zones to capture deer activity from adjacent properties in order to plan fall tree stand placements. Also, it is worth noting any land additions that are in the pipeline. You can get a head start on these new areas by scouting for deer hunting from your computer so you are ready to hit the ground once these areas are open for hunting.
  1. Scout fringe areas, which are edges of public land. Fringes like borders with adjacent properties or areas like pipeline right-of-ways can be rewarding and disappointing at the same time. These areas are typically closer to human access points where hunting pressure will be greater. Because of this, understanding all the possible access points of other people including roads and trails is key. If you can understand the amount of and where the pressure is coming from, you will be better able to eliminate areas where not to put stands.

On the other hand, fringe habitats often provide food sources unavailable to deer in interior forests. Also, conservation agencies frequently plant food plots or other wildlife forage in fringe areas making them highly attractive to deer. Even with the added pressure deer will routinely travel these fringe areas to feed then return to more isolated interior areas. The trick here is finding travel routes to and from the fringes. Trail cameras should be setup on several deer trails. The photos can then tell you exactly when deer are using this area. Too much pressure and deer will be nocturnal. Capture a buck on your camera during shooting hours and it is game on.

  1. Focus on small, ignored public land areas. These can be an island of unique habitat or more commonly a disconnected piece of land. Do not overlook these seemingly insignificant fragments of public land. The masses of hunters rarely consider these tracts part of the larger public lands so pressure is reduced. Big whitetails seek out separated islands of lands as pressure from adjacent properties increases. Scouting here is similar to scouting fringe areas. Positioning your trail cameras on trails will give you a good idea if this isolated piece of ground is the right place to hunt.

Speaking the words public land hunting usually send chills down the back of even the most dedicated hunter. Putting big bucks and public land in the same sentence is hardly ever believable. However, every year tags are filled with trophy whitetails from public lands. What is the common thread? Scouting. Scouting for deer on public land with trail cameras is essential for harvesting mature whitetails. No more shall you be frustrated during deer hunting seasons on public land.

how to capture velvet bucks with a trail camera in spring and summer | Muddy Outdoors

Trail Camera | How To Capture Velvet Bucks In Spring and Summer

Trail Camera Tips for Capturing Velvet Bucks in Spring and Summer

Trail cameras are an incredibly piece of technology that are continuing to grow in popularity each and every year. A trail camera provides hunters the ability to literally be in more than one place at one time and can provide a suite of invaluable information that can help when the time comes to hang tree stands or set hunting blinds and put the hunter in the best possible position to intercept that big mature buck this fall. Normally trail cameras start going up in late summer to determine patterns on velvet bucks, but spring should not be overlooked. With antlers already gaining inches every week, taking inventory now is possible, you just need to know how to capture velvet bucks in spring and early summer with your trail camera.

Mineral and Trail Camera Time | Midwest Whitetail
(Video) This week Bill Winke Gets the mineral stations out, trophy rocks set, and trail cameras out in preparation to capture velvet bucks in spring and summer.

Trail cameras are very easy to use and are becoming more and more inexpensive as each year passes. With the spring months well underway, it is not too early to begin taking inventory of the whitetails on your property, begin determining locations for your deer stands and hunting blinds, and start determining what the potential is for your farm to hold a giant this fall.

Spring Whitetail Patterns

how to capture velvet bucks with a trail camera in spring and summer | Muddy Outdoors

For some reason, many whitetail deer hunters tend to make the assumption that there is no need to begin setting and running trail cameras until the late summer months of July and August. That could not be further from the truth! The trick that many successful whitetail deer hunters know is that running trail cameras is a twelve month out of the year effort that can yield some pretty amazing and extremely beneficial information that can have you eye level with a big whitetail buck this fall.

So the question that many deer hunters ask when the topic of spring and summer trail camera placement comes up is simply, “why?” Why do we need to take the time to run trail cameras during the spring months? Well, the answer to that question is really very simple, the more information that you have the better decisions you can make. Running spring time trail cameras has very little to do with gathering information on deer antlers (although you will be able to monitor the growth of the bucks on your property)and more to do with simply gathering information pertaining to overall deer numbers and travel patterns of the deer on your farm. Deer, and especially mature whitetail bucks are truly their own individuals. They tend to have subtle traits, and things that they do that are specific to them. Typically, it’s these little “ticks” that can cause them to be so hard to hunt and have allowed them to grow and become mature. Examples of these traits might be how a specific deer responds to disturbances such as farm practices or activity on the farm. Others might be specific travel routes during various times of the year that might be different from the other bucks on the area. The bottom line is, the more information you have the more informed your decisions will be, which will help you to be successful this fall.

How and Where To Place a Trail Camera This Spring and Summer

It is pretty amazing just how different a whitetail deer behaves depending upon the time of the year. As deer hunters, the spring and summer months can often be overlooked and underappreciated in terms of its importance to a whitetails life cycle. During the summer months, food requirements change to forages that are higher in proteins and other nutrients that help adult does with pregnancy and lactation as well as helping those mature bucks produce antlers for the fall. As a result, the location of your trail cameras may not necessarily be the same ole’ oak tree that you have always used during the fall months.

During the spring and early summer months, whitetail deer will tend to stay close to food in areas where they feel secure. They will tend to be more active during the over-night periods and less during the day, especially as the temperatures begin to increase. As such, you should focus your trail cameras towards heavily used travel routes. These are obviously sure fire locations to catch the deer on your property on their feet.

In addition, the spring and summer months are great times to break the edge of the tree line and begin exploring the interior wood lots on the properties your hunt. Look for areas with signs of heavy browse and forage. During the spring and summer months, mature whitetails will tend to stay within a small area for most of the day, only venturing out during the over-night hours. If you can locate a big bucks “bedroom”, that can be very useful information that can be stowed away for the fall. In many cases, large bucks will often retreat back to these areas when the pressure gets too great during the hunting season, which is something you can use to your advantage when hanging tree stands or setting hunting blinds this fall.

how to capture velvet bucks with a trail camera in spring and summer | Muddy Outdoors

As spring gives way into early summer and spring rain is sucked into the plant growth and native browse, an opportunity comes up for spring and summer trail camera placement. Mineral and/or salt stations are craved by whitetails to balance their water uptake when eating this water filled browse. Their cravings and consistent visits to the stations makes for an unbeatable opportunity to monitor antler growth and behavior characteristics as well as get an inventory of bucks throughout the year.

Running trail cameras is an exciting and fun activity that helps pass the months during the off season, and can really help make deer season last all year long. With that said it can also mean the difference between tag soup and wrapping your tag around the antler of that trophy buck this fall. If you take the time to let your trail camera work for you, and deploy them year round you just might be surprised what you can learn!

Positioning your trail cameras for the best shots | Muddy Outdoors

Muddy Trail Camera Tactics | 5 Tips to get the Best Trail Camera Pictures

Positioning Your Trail Camera for the Best Shots

We’ve all been there. After letting your trail cameras sit in the woods for weeks, it’s almost like Christmas morning when you finally get to check what’s on them. Like an excited kid, we plug the trail camera chip into our computers and open the folder. That’s when the disappointment starts. In your haste to set the camera up, you didn’t pay attention to a few basic rules of good pictures. Now you sadly scroll through picture after picture of dark, misaligned images. Those weeks of time in the field can’t be recovered either.

Most hunters use game cameras to help with their scouting efforts. They’re our eyes in the woods when we can’t physically be there to observe it all. Because they are so discrete and unobtrusive, some people even use trail cameras for security purposes, though we’ll be focusing on the hunting application here. They allow us to keep tabs on natural deer or turkey movement patterns so that we can make a more informed decision about where to hunt. Ultimately, they can help us pinpoint a mature buck’s home range and schedule, which is very difficult to do without a camera. But more importantly than all that, trail camera pictures are just plain fun and addicting to look at and collect. Trail cameras for wildlife offer a secret glimpse into the lives of wild animals, which is a rare and special opportunity. Most hunters would be just as excited about a dramatic nature scene unfolding in the picture as a mature 8-pointer strolling through.

But in order to get a jaw-dropping picture like that, you need to consider a few things before you just mount your camera on a field edge and walk away. Specifically, there are five C’s of good trail camera pictures that you’re probably missing or not thinking through fully. Let’s discuss them below.

The 5 Tips or C’s of Good Trail Camera Pictures

If you’re not at least thinking about each of these, your pictures probably aren’t coming out as well as they could be. They don’t take very long to implement, but the payoff could be huge in terms of high quality pictures. Take a moment to read through these trail camera tips so that your next pictures will be ones you’ll want to frame and put up on the wall.

Camera Angle

The trail camera angle is one of the most important pieces to keep in mind, since it will most affect how your pictures look and determine if you get any good pictures at all. Choose the wrong angle without confirming anything, and you could end up with a bunch of below-the-knee shots that nobody wants to see. Don’t mount your camera too low or too high; you’re looking for the sweet spot of about 4 feet off the ground. At this height, you shouldn’t have to adjust the angle up or down all that much, but we’ll confirm that below. You may want to keep the height lower if you’re specifically interested in turkeys or higher if you want a larger range, but four feet is a good starting point. Also, make triple sure that your trail camera is pointed at the right spot. For example, if you’re taking pictures on a mineral site, try to keep the site at the bottom central area of the camera. If you’re on a deer trail, don’t position it directly perpendicular to the trail as you’ll miss many triggers; instead, aim it either up or down the trail so you can get some approaching or leaving shots. These pictures look more unique and can show you more detail than a broadside picture anyway.

As you set the game camera up, pick your best hunch on the camera angle. Before you leave it though, do a few test pictures. Walk in front of it where you assume the deer will be, and then look at the chip using a card reader or laptop. If you’re way out of the frame, then you just saved yourself weeks of lost time.

Contrast

For the purposes of this discussion, we’ll define the contrast as the light exposure of your game camera pictures. Too little light and you won’t be able to see anything clearly, but too much light means your pictures will be overexposed and hazy-looking. There are a few things you can do to help with this issue.

Positioning your trail cameras for the best shots | Muddy Outdoors

The easiest one is to place your trail cameras where they won’t be so sensitive to the sunlight. For example, placing them in a shaded forest setting will moderate the light levels for you and let your trail cams take great pictures throughout the day. Placing them in an open field can work on cloudy days, but it tends to overexpose the pictures when the sun is brightly shining. You’ll also find that shadows of clouds or nearby trees could be so stark that they trigger the camera. It’s no fun looking through 300 photos of cloud shadows.

If you have a great food plot you want to keep tabs on, there are some ways to mitigate the light levels and contrast of your pictures. North is the best direction to face a trail camera, because it avoids looking right into the southerly sun. When the sun is directly above and facing into the lens, each picture will be hazy and you could have many glare issues affecting your pictures. You can actually point your trail cameras east and west, but your morning or evening pictures, respectively, will get a little washed out. Just remember that north is best.

Color

Positioning your trail cameras for the best shots | Muddy OutdoorsHave you ever browsed through your pictures and had an amazing shot or two? But after a closer look, you realize the colors are really off-balance and subtract from the overall picture quality.

While the contrast and light exposure discussion above is closely tied to this and will help you tremendously with getting good, vibrant colors in your pictures, there are a few other things you can do. The Pro-Cam 10 bundle is a great option if you’re looking for a solid package, as it includes the trail camera, an 8 gigabyte (GB) chip, and 6 AA batteries.

Composition

While most hunters would be thrilled to get an awesome shot of a mature buck making a scrape, think of how much better that picture could be with the right background. For example, take that mature buck and place him on a backdrop of a scenic oak flat with filtered sunlight and a pond reflecting the tree canopy. Stunning. Now place that same buck in front of an overgrown weedy field. It’s not quite the same, is it?

Obviously, not everyone has a postcard-quality property with scenic outlooks, but you surely have some spots that are better than others. Avoid areas with too much “junk” in the background (e.g., brush, blow-down, weed patches, etc.). Just keep this in mind as you set your trail cameras up, so that when you luck out with the shot of a lifetime, the background doesn’t ruin it.

Chips

No, not the crunchy kind in a bag. We’re talking about trail camera chips. It’s tempting for some hunters on a budget to skimp on this step so they can buy more low-quality chips instead of fewer high-quality ones. Unfortunately, the chip you buy can make a big difference on getting good trail camera pictures.

Obviously, you should get the chip with the most memory you feel comfortable buying so you can leave it out for weeks without worrying about running out of room. The higher resolution pictures really burn through digital real estate quickly, so an 8 GB card should be a minimum choice to start with. If you plan on taking a lot of video, a 16 or 32 GB card would be better. Also, some deer trail cameras require certain newer cards, which basically operate faster. If you were to use a lesser quality card with one of these cameras, you wouldn’t be pleased with the result.

Never delete pictures from your card while it is in your computer. You can actually affect the way your camera reads it. For best results, copy any pictures you want to keep to your computer, and format the card in your trail camera each time you install it. This removes the pictures from the card and basically starts fresh.

Positioning Your Trail Cameras 

Now that you know what’s required for good trail camera pictures, you can focus on actually getting your camera mounted the right way in the field. If you’re wondering how to position your trail camera, don’t worry – it’s very simple. In more cases than not, there will be a suitable tree near where you want to take pictures. Simply attach your camera to the base of the tree. Secure a cable lock on it if you’re putting them on public land, just in case. Sometimes all the trees are leaning a little too much or there simply are no trees where you want to hang a camera. In that case, you need to get creative.

Positioning your trail cameras for the best shots | Muddy OutdoorsIf the trees are less than ideal, you can always use a Muddy Outdoors trail camera support, which simply screws into a tree or post. This trail camera mount allows you to adjust the angle and position of the camera itself. Of course, that won’t be of any help in an open field should you feel the need to put one there. In that case, the Muddy Outdoors dual camera ground mount is your solution. Simply stick it into the ground wherever you need a pair of eyes, adjust the height from 19 to 41 inches, and attach up to two trail cameras to it on the trail camera arms. That way, you can cover two different directions and make sure you catch anything that walks by.

If you hadn’t ever really considered the five C’s of good trail camera pictures, now you should understand why they’re important and how they can affect your scouting efforts. Whether you use them in spring to watch the development of the deer herd, or only in fall to see what the big boys are doing, you want to have the best information you can get. By locating and positioning your trail cameras correctly and making sure you use high quality gear, you can be sure you’ll get better pictures than ever before. And for those who take hunting seriously, that attention to detail matters.

Using trail cameras to spy on mature gobblers | Muddy Outdoors

Using Muddy Trail Cameras to Spy on Mature Gobblers

Muddy Trail Cameras | Remote Scouting for Spring Turkey Hunting

Wouldn’t it be ideal to have some way of spying on the secret habits of the turkey you intend to hunt, especially when you’re not there to influence his behavior? If you could find out exactly where a dominant tom goes to feed or rest, how much easier would setting up a blind in the right location be? You’re in luck and you probably already own this valuable piece of technology. Trail cameras are often under-utilized for turkeys for some reason. We associate them with spying out big bucks every fall, but usually the cameras don’t make their way back out into the woods until sometime in the summer. This is a critical mistake.

Let’s face it; you probably can’t spend every day in the woods or on the farm actually looking at wildlife. You certainly can’t do it throughout the night time hours. And would you want to sit absolutely still outside when it’s raining or snowing in the spring? Probably not. But a trail camera can accomplish all these things for you. Without trail cameras, you’re missing out on hundreds and even thousands of valuable observation hours that you can then use to pattern a mature gobbler to hunt. Most spring turkey hunting isn’t very mobile. While you can “run and gun” a little, the best strategy is to usually wait in a ground blind and let the turkeys come to your decoys and seductive calls. Because of that, the position of your ground blind is really important. Let’s look at some of the details that go into spying on the birds with your trail cameras.

Best Locations for Turkey Trail Cameras

Think about where you would ideally want to set your ground blind up. Does it make sense that a turkey would wander in front of it? It should or why would you sit there? But a little ground truthing is always a good idea. To be absolutely sure, mount a trail camera to a tree or post to see what kind of action it gets throughout the day. If you have a large field and could use more “eyes” on it, use a dual camera ground mount, which you can set anywhere you want. While you can do this on private property with little fear, take care on public lands to secure your game camera or it could become a victim to thievery.

using trail cameras to spy on mature gobblers | Muddy OutdoorsSome good location options you should target include field edges, forest openings, spring clover food plots, natural pinch points, well-used trails or logging roads, or along ditches and creeks. These areas should naturally gather some turkey traffic since they’ll use open areas for feeding and strutting, and they’ll use trails for getting from a roost to a feeding area and back again. Ideally, you should have a camera on each field or opening on the property so you can see which one draws the most turkeys, especially gobblers. Once you pull your trail camera memory cards, you can then hand pick the best-looking location to hunt after reviewing the trail camera pictures.

The Art of Good Pictures

Speaking of pictures, anyone can slap a trail cam up in a tree and get some pictures. But without some forethought, they can be poor quality or even unusable to a hunter. Sub-par pictures won’t tell us the kind of details we’re interested in finding out when the sun creates a massive blind spot or you have to weed through 2,000 pictures of waving branches before finding 1 actual turkey picture. What makes a good picture, whether it’s on trail cameras or a regular camera? Ideally it should be clear, crisp, and in full color. Blurry, black and white photos that would puzzle Sherlock Holmes won’t do you any good.

So what can you do to ensure your camera takes the best pictures? The first is to know your camera by studying the manual that came with it. While you can capture pictures on any game trail camera, there are certain settings that can drastically improve the quality if you just know how to do it. For example, you can set a camera to photograph the field at set intervals (e.g., every ten minutes) or you can allow it to take pictures only when there’s movement. You can take burst photos to catch fast-moving animals, or you could try videos for a little more detail. The Pro-Cam 12 by Muddy offers all of these features, with amazing 12-megapixel daytime pictures and 1280 x 720 HD videos with sound. If there’s a gobbler in your area, you’ll be watching and listening to him working his hens in no time.

Muddy Trail Cameras | Pro Cam 10 & Pro Cam 12
(Video) – by VantagePoint Outdoors, In this video we take a quick look at the new trail camera lineup from Muddy for 2016 including the Pro Cam 10 and the Pro Cam 12. For more information on these trail cameras and other products from Muddy, join them online at www.gomuddy.com.

As far as placement, there are a few things you can do to really improve the pictures on your trail cameras. First, position your camera so that it faces in a northerly direction (i.e., NW, N, or NE). That will eliminate the sun from creating glare and decreasing the quality of your pictures. Alternatively, find a naturally shady location (e.g. within a pine stand adjacent to a food plot) so that you can face the camera any direction without fear of the sun. You want your trail camera to blend in, but you don’t want it too covered up. Remove any branches of brushy growth from in front or the side of the camera so that you won’t false trigger it repeatedly when the wind blows.

Piecing the Puzzle Together

Once your trail cams are mounted, it’s time to let them do their work. Waiting is admittedly the hardest part because it’s just so tempting to go check after a few days. You might go nuts waiting if the trail cameras are only 200 yards from the house, but it will be much more bearable if your turkey hunting property is a couple hours away. Regardless of location, try to wait at least one week before you venture back out. It really helps to have several cameras to cover the property during that week so you can conduct a rough population estimate. If you notice groups of turkeys at each site within a few minutes of each other, you know they are different turkeys.

using trail cameras to spy on mature gobblers | Muddy OutdoorsHow do you make a good choice on where to hunt a spring gobbler, and more specifically, how do you use the information gathered by your game cameras? First, understand that where there are hens, there should be gobblers. If you have a group of hens consistently in a spring clover plot, you should definitely be seeing gobblers or at least a few jakes. They’ll often use these open areas as strut zones, so target a different area if you’re not seeing them on your trail cameras. You can also use the time of day to indicate what the turkeys are doing. For example, if you notice lots of early morning pictures, that site is probably pretty close to a roost tree. If it’s during the middle of the day and you see feeding activity, you’re probably in a solid feeding area. Use the time stamp on the pictures to see when the birds show up, which will tell you how early you need to be set up and ready to hunt. These key details can help you pick a location and get hunting some long beards.

Most people don’t think to use trail cameras for turkeys, so you’ll have a much better chance at harvesting a mature gobbler than any of your friends. If bagging one for yourself isn’t enough motivation, beating your friend should do it.

Spring Trail Camera Tips and Tactics | Muddy Outdoors

Get The Most From Your Trail Cameras This Spring

Trail Camera Tips | Trail Camera Selection, Settings, Placement, and Considerations for Spring

March is a hard and puzzling month, old man winter is confused, plants are confused, deer and turkey are confused, and you are completely lost. Plants, wildlife, and you, yourself do not even know whether or not to pull the trigger on spring activity or still lie dormant. Warm, sunny, 70 degree days one week, bitterly cold, snow storms the next is common, leaving you literally never knowing what March will throw at you. Most hunters, including yourself, are probably just breaking out of winter hibernation, and let’s face it, you were not productive were you? The most you might have achieved is getting your tree stands, ground blinds, or box blinds out of the elements over the winter, some shed hunting, but other than that you were unquestionably a dormant bear on that couch! You’re not the only one in the situation, besides other hunters both deer and turkey are in a tough transition this time of the year. During this time, it is important to act first, make the first strike on the season by getting your trail cameras out this spring and start the year’s observations. Follow these spring trail camera tactics to make the most of your cameras, your time, and ultimately your hard earned money.

Blowing the dust off, or opening the new box?

Game/trail cameras are without a doubt, one of the best management tools that a land manager can utilize. When it comes to documenting how your management implementations are progressing, a trail camera will provide information that is, in some cases, impossible to obtain otherwise. Before we dive into where, when, and how to set up your trail cameras this spring, you need to do an inventory check.

What cameras do you have? Are they still working? Are they the right camera for the situations that you will need to observe in the spring/summer?

Most likely your cameras are going downhill after a long season in the field, maybe they are still old school and lack the new features that are the standard in the industry. They might even be the reason behind the lack of bucks on your property, literally being too loud or too bright of a flash, or maybe you have mature bucks on the property, but the cameras just are not capturing all the movement! There is a lot at stake and a lot to consider. So the question is no longer if you should purchase a trail camera, but what type of camera should you purchase? There are numerous companies that make various models of cameras. Some cameras focus on trigger speeds, some feature time-lapse options, and other models feature HD video mode, or burst mode imaging. The model you choose depends primarily on what you want to know. Considering all cameras have improved their battery life and memory recently, let’s discuss their photo-capturing abilities to ensure you get the most from your unit.

Spring Trail Camera Tips and Tactics | Muddy OutdoorsFor example, if you are monitoring an area to document wildlife activity during food plot maturation, a camera with a time-lapse ability will be the best option. The time-lapse option will take photos at a pre-determined interval, therefore an animal does not need to be within a certain range to set the unit off. They will be captured on film regardless of how close or far away they are. This is ideal for open agricultural fields or food plots where wildlife congregates, especially if nailing down entrance routes into the field is tough to do. On the other hand, if you are capturing images to determine a buck: doe ratio, still images work best. Most trail camera surveys require baited sites, so any camera that takes still images will be preferred, even if it has a slower trigger speed. If a camera has a not-so-great trigger speed, it should be placed over a baited site where the animal will be stationary for some amount of time. Other cameras that have lightning-fast trigger speeds can be situated on trails, funnels, and travel corridors. By using your camera in this fashion, you are revealing useful management information but also capturing awesome photos.

Trail cameras that feature video, especially with audio, are great units that can be placed in various areas that not only provide insight on the wildlife that is using a particular area, but also make neat videos. A still image of a whitetail buck working a scrape is great, but a video where you can see and hear him in action is even better. The same goes for orienting a camera in a strut zone for turkeys. Once again, a video of a gobbling tom trumps a still photo. These camera sets are sometimes located at the base of a tree, looking up at the licking branch over a scrape. This setup provides a unique angle and adds a twist to an already great video clip. This can easily be done with the use of a tree mount in order to orient the camera in an upward angle at the base of a tree.

Today’s new camera units are jam-packed with technology and can tell you just about anything you would want to know about monitoring activity on your land. But before you jump the gun into a new camera, or think you can just settle with your old one, let’s examine the situations, and the exact requirements that you will need in a trail camera for this spring.

What is spring?

The answer is easy, spring is several things, beautiful, warm, sunny, life giving…but less harsh than winter, is unfortunately not one of them. While winter zaps battery life, it also does not require too much of a camera, there is really not a lot going on especially in heavy snowfall, and just plain old cold cannot completely kill a camera. Spring on the other hand is an explosion of life. In order to capture anything and everything that can and will be of use to you, a camera that can not only capture it is required, but one that can also survive.

Spring is wet, humid, and full of critters. Water damage (rain and humidity), critter damage (ants), and even other human’s stealing the cameras are all of concern before we even dive into specific situations of trail camera use and placement. So keep this harsh environment in mind when thinking about your current trail cameras, or new cameras on the market.

Spring food plot monitoring

While all this crazy weather is going on, it is literally the perfect time and opportune moment to start your food plots for the spring. You’re crazy to think we are suggesting to plant beans or corn during this time of year (this early), but a more effective, potentially more important food source for whitetails this time of year is early clover plots. Clover plots excel this time of year, being one of the first green sprouts that are rich in protein and nutrients a pregnant doe or a budding buck will gladly devour.

Spring Trail Camera Tips and Tactics | Muddy Outdoors

Having this extremely useful plot, especially in areas where you could not reach the acreage to plant beans or corn, will allow you to pull, hold, and observe mature bucks over the spring and summer. Whether its frost seeding a plot, installing a poor man plot, or disking or tilling up a small plot, putting in clover now can be rewarding all year long. In this instance, a camera on video mode, time-lapse mode, or simple image burst will work. Given the normally small acreage of the plots time-lapse isn’t necessarily needed, but will still be advantageous. Put the trail cameras up in early spring to observe fawns and bachelor groups in spring and summer, and be sure to keep them up. The small clover plot is an ideal area to hang a set for a staging area into larger food plots in the early season.

Deer feeders

Nutritional needs fire back up after the long winter, that much needed protein and nutrients available in clover and other food plots during the spring, can be easily supplemented or added to with a deer feeder. Consequently feeding stations make perfect opportunities to observe feeder use. In order to minimize stress on a feed site, and to keep deer and turkeys coming back, a camera should be small, quiet, and have an invisible flash. Either video, or image burst works well, but set the camera on a 5 minute or longer delay in order to avoid the thousands of pictures, but still identify each visit.

Spring Trail Camera Tips and Tactics | Muddy Outdoors

Feeders unfortunately attract unwanted attention from neighbors and trespassers, so be sure any trail camera placed over a feeder is either locked on the tree, or small and compact enough to hide well.

Strut zones

If food plots aren’t on you forte, you may want to reconsider. Pacing trail cameras on or over small clover plots will most likely reveal a strut zone, or area where toms and hens will gather during spring. Clover plots are coveted by turkeys and turkey hunters during the spring. The hens will feed there and bring in the toms, which will give you an ideal spot to set up the decoy and ground blind. Besides clover plots, open fields, Ag fields, pastures, or open wood lots make perfect strut zones.

Spring Trail Camera Tips and Tactics | Muddy Outdoors

Trail camera selection and more importantly trail camera settings will be slightly more dependent on the situation you are heading off to be your opening weekend spot. If you are in heavy timber image-bursts or video mode with minimal delay is ideal to place on funnels or routes turkeys will take going into or out of food sources, or where they might end up scratching throughout the day. For the fields and food plots place the trail camera settings on time-lapse. This will end up giving you exactly where and when the toms hang out in the field.

Mineral sites

When spring annuals and food plots sprout up, minerals and slat attractants are put down. Have you ever wondered why deer and salt are so attractive to deer during spring in particular? Sure they use the traces and nutrients, but salt is what they are after. High water content in the rapidly growing plants of March, April, and May equates to a lot of water metabolized by deer, causing a need and crave for sodium.

Spring Trail Camera Tips and Tactics | Muddy Outdoors

Luckily this need creates a very attractive site, and opportune moment for a photo session. Either a video or photo burst works well with mineral sites. One thing that goes for both mineral sites and feeders is distance of the camera….to close you don’t get the entire picture and you have the potential to disturb the deer, too far and you cannot see the detail you would like. Finding a camera with a great invisible flash range, plus high MP, quality images and HD videos should be a no brainer for purchase in these scenarios.

Trails and funnels

Placing trail cameras over trails and funnels really seem to be underestimated, and for good reason. Placing cameras over mineral sites, clover plots, fields, and strut zones are so much more effective. But placing trail cameras over trails, runs, and funnels can and often will be more effective at telling you information you will rely upon. If you have deer hunted long enough, even turkey hunted long enough, you know particular things about their movements. Mature bucks, or turkeys might be camera shy when it comes to a mineral site, or field edge. But hanging a camera, the right type of camera is essential, high looking over a trail will often catch mature buck or tom movement that will otherwise go unnoticed.

Both deer and turkeys will often take the excursion approach when it comes to their daily movements. Sure, they are on patterns when it comes to spring and even more so for summer, but that does not mean they won’t take the safest route. This is why the right type of camera is important. A small, quiet, inconspicuous, and invisible flash camera is perfect for trails. A mineral site, feeder, or clover plot might be anticipated for some sort of stress (camera flash, sound, physical sight of the camera itself), the deer get used to it and the costs (stress) do not outweigh the benefits (food and nutrients). A trail can easily be wrote off if stress is involved. Keep your trails and funnels stress free all year in order to preserve them active.

So which camera is right for you?

Your next step is to blow the dust off your old trail camera, is it even working? Is it worth it to buy the batteries needed the rest of the year, is it time to take it out back and (metaphorically) put it out of its misery?

Next, decide which scenarios you see yourself needing a camera for. Are you the avid turkey hunter, fanatical deer hunter, or the passionate land owner/manager? Are you all three, like every hunter seems to be? In that case strongly look into purchasing a camera with the following requirements.

  • Small/Compact size
  • Able to be cable locked and secured
  • High image quality ( Trail cameras in this century should be at or above 10MP)
  • Photo-Image burst capability (day and night)
  • Time-lapse capability
  • Video capability (Audio included)
  • Invisible flash (black)
  • Simple operation and backlit screen (to see in low light)
  • Trigger delay options
  • Image data: time, date, temp, camera ID
  • Waterproof housing
  • Product warranty
  • Battery type: AAs (are easiest and have great rechargeable option)
  • Detection and flash range > 10-15 yards (30’-45’ at least)
  • Wide Detection Angle
  • Several mounting options: tripod, screw in, and straps
Muddy ProCamTrail Cameras at the 2016 ATA Show
(video)- Published on Jan 16, 2016, Muddy ProCam Trail Cameras at the 2016 ATA Show, Muddy’s new line of cameras for 2016, including The Pro-Cam 10 and The Pro-Cam 12.

Spring Trail Camera Tips and Tactics | Muddy OutdoorsSpring has arrived, and with it an opportunity to gather some critical information with your trail cameras. Don’t miss this opportunity due to an old camera, or an inefficient new one. Make the right choice and follow these trail camera tips on settings, placement, and considerations for this spring.