We all love that time of year when we have our trail cameras out and start getting pictures of bucks out of velvet. The anticipation and suspense continues to grow as the summer comes to an end and season draws near. This is really my favorite time to have cameras out as this begins to set the tone for the upcoming season. I have been asked many times about how I decide on a place to hunt. My answer is simply trail cameras.
Hunting and locating deer in the East is different than the Midwest as we have limited fields and a lot more hardwoods and mountains. The first thing I do when getting ready to hang cameras on a new piece of property is look at the area on Google earth. Here I look at different layouts of the land, ridges, water, valleys etc. Next I try to locate the saddles on a topographic map. This is the first place I start. I have had a lot of success in locating deer and finding their transition areas by using this method. Saddles usually appear on the map where there is a low spot in between two ridges. Deer seem to filter through these saddles when transitioning from bedding to a food source or even later in the season during the rut when they are going up into the ridges to search for does.
Once I locate the saddle I then look for a good deer trail. I will follow that deer trail until I come to an intersection where 2 to 3 trails cross. This is where I first start hanging my cameras. I usually face my camera right at the intersection to locate which trail and direction the deer seem to use the most. I use a very fast trigger speed and photo burst to ensure to capture the animal crossing. If this location has acorns, or some sort of food source nearby, I will continue watching this area and hang a stand facing the crossing. If the activity seems to slow down or the deer seem to cross later in the evening, I simply start placing another camera farther down the trail, in the direction they are coming from, until I eventually find where they are bedding or feeding most of their time.
Once I locate a strong deer activity area during shooting light, I will hang a camera and leave it sit for a few weeks before going back in and checking it. One of the worst things you can do is check a camera too much and introduce more scent and pressure to that area. This will ultimately lead to the deer moving to another location or moving a lot more at night. Once season starts, the only time I check my cameras is when I’m hunting that location.
I will also start to introduce mock scrapes and rubs in this area as season progresses to keep deer curiosity up, all while capturing the activity on camera. Trail cameras provide us with vital information about the animals we are hunting and help give you that extra edge, but be careful, the suspense between camera checks can make you check them more than you should!