Posts

Best Trail Camera Strategies for Your Summer

Trail Camera Strategies to Start This Summer

If you’re anything like us, you eat, sleep, and dream about deer hunting throughout the year. If there is a winter storm coming through, we’re thinking about the rut. If we’re sweating through a summer heat wave, we’re thinking about how to get ready for opening day. If that describes your lifestyle too, you probably also enjoy watching deer throughout the year by using trail cams. There’s just something special about trail cameras and how you can stealthily keep track of the deer herd on your property without them having a clue. Sure, you could start glassing fields or summer food plots in the evenings, but that takes more time than most of us actually have. Plus, you might not have any fields near you; maybe you hunt deer in a big woods setting where you can’t easily watch wildlife. These are the situations where having a few hunting cameras hung in key spots on your property can make a big difference to your hunting strategies next fall. Here are a few trail camera strategies to get you started this summer.

Top Trail Camera Strategies for This Summer

It’s not quite as simple as just throwing out a few trail cams in the woods and seeing what walks by. Sure, you could try that approach and you might get to see some wildlife eventually. But to get the most pictures, to get high-quality pictures, and to get information that will actually help you next fall, you need to focus on putting your trail camera in a spot that focuses deer traffic. Here are the best trail camera strategies for the summer.

Food Plots/Agricultural Fields

Food plots are great spots for getting pictures of deer for a few reasons. One, does and bucks alike need lots of calories in the spring to bounce back from the stress of winter. Throughout the summer, they need the food tonnage to build up their body weight and grow antlers to prepare for fall. This means high quality, protein rich forage! If you live in a forested area with very little agricultural food available, a single food plot is even more attractive to deer and your results will be better. Since it’s so critical for their survival, it’s probably the best place to hang trail cams on these locations.

For larger agricultural fields (e.g., corn, soybeans, alfalfa, etc.), the best location for game cameras might seem like the middle of the field where you can see the most deer. But since deer are creatures of the edge and will usually have set travel patterns throughout the summer, the best spot is generally along the field edge near a dominant trail. For smaller food plots (e.g., clover, cereal grains, brassicas, etc.), you can place a trail cam on a post in the middle of the plot without any issues. But really it comes down to just finding a spot that concentrates the activity and facing the game camera in the right direction. One thing to keep in mind is that facing cameras any direction but north will inevitably produce some glare in pictures at some time of the day.

Bedding Areas

Another reliable spot to capture deer pictures on your trail cams this summer is around their bedding area. After feeding throughout the night in destination fields or browsing in cutover areas, deer will shift to daytime bedding areas to chew their cud and rest. Often does and fawns will rest near or even within feeding areas, while bachelor groups of bucks will bed further away. Taking a quick scouting stroll from feeding areas and along main trails can lead you to bedding areas. They’re often easy to spot because of the oval depressions in the grass or weeds. If you’ve ever tackled a few habitat projects on your property, hinge cuts are great bedding areas to check out.

If you’ve designated some bedding areas as deer sanctuaries that are strictly off-limits throughout the year, try installing trail cams along trails on the fringe of the sanctuary instead. Be cautious about checking them too much towards the end of the summer when you want to really hold deer in-place. The bugs will likely be bad enough to convince you to only go once or twice the whole summer anyway. More than likely, you’ll find some small bedding areas outside of these sanctuaries too that you can set and forget until the end of the summer.

Travel Corridors

Of course, any main trails and travel corridors between the two areas above are also great spots to intercept deer movement. With a little desktop scouting, you can easily map these areas and find good potential corridors, but you likely have a few tree stands already hung in these areas anyway. Clear out the herbaceous vegetation in a spot along one of these trails so that you can get a clear trail camera picture. These small openings can also make deer pause long enough for a good picture.

When it comes to positioning your trail cams along trails, the common instinct is to place them so that the camera is off to the side facing perpendicular to the trail. Unfortunately, unless deer are really slow-moving, your camera will likely trigger too late and you’ll only get pictures of their rear end – hardly useful from a hunting perspective. Instead, try positioning your camera facing up or down along the direction of deer travel. Granted, you’ll still get pictures of deer moving away from you half the time, but you’ll get pictures of deer facing the camera the other half of the time.

Mineral Sites/Mineral Stations

Throughout the spring and summer, whitetails love to get an extra dose of minerals from the soil and plants around mineral stations. Lactating does need extra minerals to support their fawns, while Bucks need minerals to build their bony antlers. If you keep the station going for a couple years, you can easily train deer to keep coming back to it as a seasonal mineral source since fawns will be raised to use it. Eventually, the stations often become huge craters where deer have eaten the soil away. Luckily, you can easily set up a mineral site by scraping the debris away and exposing the soil in a given spot. Then you can incorporate some crushed mineral into the top inch of soil or simply place a block or rock on top of it. You can even place it on a semi-rotting stump, which will slowly absorb the minerals as well. But that’s about all it takes to set a station up.

If you’re installing one of these sites expressly for pictures, it’s best to locate it in a shaded understory area. Pictures from trail cams along fields and exposed sites often suffer from lots of glare, which greatly reduces the quality of the photos. But pictures within shaded areas can turn out crisp and clear any time of the day since light doesn’t interfere.

Water Sources

The final place that works great for trail cams are water sources, especially when paired with mineral sites. After eating something salty, we all crave a drink of water – deer are no different. Deer crave sodium due to the high amount of water they get in their metabolism during spring and summer. However, as the summer progresses and other waterholes or creeks go dry, a small water hole next to a mineral site will pull deer in. If you have natural wetlands, ponds, or streams on your property, you can easily locate mineral sites near them for the easiest solution. If you don’t have any water sources, you can easily sink a bucket, small rubber tank, or kid’s pool into the dirt to let it fill with rainwater. You can keep it cleaner by simply refilling it once you check cams. During hot summers or in southern, more arid areas, water sources can be the absolute best place for a trail camera setup, since it is such a draw for them.

How to Hang Trail Cameras and When to Check Them

 Once you’ve identified the spots and trail camera strategies you want to install this summer, it’s time to actually get them out. As already mentioned, pay attention to the direction you face your cameras, as south facing cameras will get lots of unusable pictures with a heavy glare. The one time you can get away with south facing trail cams is if you are in a forested or heavily shaded area. One of the best trail camera tips you’ll hear is to check the batteries and then recheck them to make sure they are fresh. You should also generally clear out some of the tall weeds, grasses, and even some brush in the area so you can avoid lots of false triggers. It’s a really deflating experience when you check your camera to find 1,000 pictures and 900 of them are of swaying grass. You can change the sensitivity level on many cameras to reduce this problem, but it still doesn’t hurt to make a small opening in front of the lens. Bring a simple folding saw with you when you enter the woods so you can easily cut any obstacles down.

Depending on where you’re hanging trail cameras, you may want to leave a trail to get back to them. For new deer bedding areas in big woods spots, for example, consider putting out some trail markers or trail marking tacks to help you find them again. This isn’t a good idea on public land, obviously, as would-be thieves could follow your tacks/markers right to the camera. But it’s a nice option for private land.

As far as when or how often to check your trail cams, it’s a tough call. The less you check them, the less invasive it is and more discrete your spying will be. After all, if you set it and forget about it for a few months, you can basically guarantee that you won’t interfere with the natural deer movement on your property. On the other hand, if your camera malfunctions after only a week of being outdoors, you could miss out on an entire summer’s worth of intelligence, which is just a terrible feeling (we’ve probably all had it happen at some point). Besides, we all feel the temptation to check them weekly. It’s kind of like Christmas morning when you get your chip and start to glance through them on the computer. If you have fresh batteries and haven’t had any issues with your camera before, let it sit in the woods for a month or two at a time, if you can bear it. If you’re not sure about your gear or if the opportunity is too great, then you’ve got two options. You can either charge right in making lots of noise (e.g., starting a chainsaw once in a while, driving an ATV, etc.), which will push deer away well before you spook them at close range. Or you can stealthily sneak in with scent-eliminating clothing and rubber boots to be incognito. It’s up to you and how your property is managed.

Good luck with your cameras this summer. With any luck, you’ll get some great pictures of deer to help guide your bow hunting on opening day this fall!

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.