Four Trail Camera Tips From The Pros

Over the last couple years I have started using trail cameras more to pattern mature bucks than to just take inventory of them. To shorten my learning curve on how exactly to pattern mature bucks I have pulled strategies from few specific podcasts which have prove to be chucked full of invaluable information. Below is the best of the best that I have found from listening to the pros themselves.


Bill Winke – Patterning A Specific Buck

Bill explains that in order to pattern a mature buck, at first you need to put out enough cameras in enough key areas. Try to put out about one camera for every 20 acres. You should start off with your cameras spread out big in order to find the full range of a buck and then narrow in on him with your cameras once you find his full range. By looking at the first sequence of photos on a buck you’re after, you can figure out where he is coming from and put cameras out in that direction to narrow down his bedding area. Once the season starts, Bill says to narrow in on specific spots, trails, and food sources with cameras by using time-lapse mode. He mentioned that a lot of cameras will only take a picture once every minute so you can run two cameras and offset them by 30 seconds to get more pictures in time-lapse mode. In regards to how and when to check your cameras, Bill says he’ll pull the cards everyday and wait for daylight pictures. He’ll even be pretty aggressive by checking pictures in the field and setting up a stand if there has been daytime movement on that camera. Lastly, Bill ends by saying that sometimes it’s best to just wait and watch the cameras rather than being out in the field leaving scent and educating deer that aren’t moving during the day.

Quick Tips from Bill Winke – If you cannot put cameras in front of bait, try putting them in small feeding areas, the back end of larger fields, or creek crossings, just stay away from bedding areas. As for scent control, try wearing waders to keep scent off tall grass and everything else you might come in contact with.

Terry Drury – Early Season Inventory and Morning Hunts

Terry Drury explains how he uses trail cameras to hunt mature bucks during the early season. Starting off before hunting season begins, trail cameras should be placed on food plots and feeders in order to gain an inventory of what bucks are around. When the season starts, trail cameras are moved primarily to scrapes in or around fields. Terry explains how his cameras always show mature bucks during that 4:30, 4:45, or 5:00 A.M. mark and you just don’t get pictures much later than that in the early season. This means that during the early season, mature bucks are back in bed before it is light out and you greatly risk bumping them on your way in for a morning hunt. You don’t want to bump them out of there beds in the morning and ruin good evening hunts, it’s just not worth it.

“Trail cameras are the single most important tool we have to hunt whitetails.” – Terry Drury

Erich Long – Negative Trail Camera Impacts

This is one of the most intriguing studies I have ever heard of being done with trail cameras. Erich Long discusses his findings from a 13 month project conducted all over the state of Ohio. The study was run with trail cameras in video mode and showed how much of a negative effect trail cameras can have on your deer herd. There were several videos of bucks high tailing their butts away from cameras after they noticed where the camera was. A test was run with two cameras set out on separate heavily used runs. Run “A” had a camera 10 ft up while Run “B” had a camera 10 ft up and just the shell of a camera at normal level. The majority of deer started using Run “A” over Run “B”, proving how a camera at eye level can have such a negative effect on deer. Videos were recorded of does spooking or acting cautious when smelling around where a four wheeler had been parked two weeks prior. Now, not every deer is the same nor is every property so you need to run your own study with your cameras in video mode. I think it’s worth mentioning that deer on food plots and at feeding stations were noted to have less of a negative response to the cameras.

Quick Tip from Erich Long – Put cameras at six ft or higher and angle down. The negative response by deer diminished by 90%.

John Eberhart – Early September Rubs

John talks about checking your cameras right around that September 6th through 10th time frame when bucks have just started to lose there velvet. If you find yourself with a target buck that has shed his velvet but the majority of the other bucks on your camera still have velvet, you need to find any fresh rubs in the area immediately. The thought is, if a buck has shed his velvet, those fresh rubs should most likely belong to him and you can figure out that bucks route and where he might be bedding. If you can get a stand up near rubs during the early season, you should have a good chance of being in that bucks core area one of the first times you hunt for him.


My Thoughts

Hunting for mature bucks in northern Michigan has proven to be more challenging than I expected. I look for any sort of edge I can gain on mature bucks and am still in the learning phase. I’m not overly confident yet that I will successfully pattern a mature buck this season but I feel better having some sort of direction with beginning the process.

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