Wildlife Scouting Cameras

For years I wondered how big the bucks were that were roaming our property in the dark of night. After all, I knew that monster bucks had to be eluding me during the daylight hours only to roam the woods at night. In an attempt to reveal these mysterious nocturnal monsters I purchased a scouting camera in 1996.

After a couple of years of using the camera I was very disappointed. The camera worked fine and we had many pictures of deer, but they were the same does and spike bucks that I was seeing during the day. Something must be wrong; I knew that there had to be big bucks stalking the hillsides at night. After all, everyone always said "you know there is a big one in there somewhere".

After many rolls of film and an equal number of anxious trips to retrieve developed pictures, I came to realize that there simply were not any mystical trophy bucks roaming our property.

This scouting camera was the proof that I needed to convince myself that the problem was not nocturnal deer but it was actually a deer management problem.

In the eight years since that initial camera purchase I have gotten pictures of bucks that I had not seen, but this wasn't until after I had implemented a quality deer management plan on our property. One thing is certain, if mature bucks are not on your property you will not get a picture of them and you will definitely not see them.

You can use your scouting camera pictures to get approximate buck to doe ratios simply by observing the ratios that are in the pictures. Also it is easier to estimate the quality of the bucks on your property once you have a picture that you can study. You will also get pictures of the other wildlife that make their homes on your property.

With a scouting camera you can practically perform 24 hour scouting, especially with the new digital scouting cameras. For those of us who work it is difficult to spend a lot of time scouting, but the camera can be your eyes.

A scouting camera cannot find bucks that are not there but they do a real good job of letting you know what is.

Camera Placement

Where do you put your scouting camera? This is one of the fun parts of having a scouting camera. Deciding where to put the camera is just like deciding where to hunt.

The easiest way to get pictures of whitetail deer is to have something that attracts them. If you do this, a camera can take a lot of pictures in a short period of time. Be careful of your delay settings on your camera or you could get a lot of pictures of the same deer.

It is interesting to put the camera up at various places such as: well used trails, scrapes, rubs, food plots and minerals licks. I'm sure that you can think of a few places where you would like to know how much deer activity takes place.

Most scouting cameras have the ability to place the date and time on the photograph. This can be very helpful in determining the time of day the deer show up at your particular hotspot. I use it to let me know what time I have to be in the woods in the mornings so that I don't have to get out of bed any earlier than I have to.

Set Up Tips

There are a few things that will help ensure that you will not be disappointed with your scouting camera.

Try not to place the camera where it is facing into either the rising or setting sun.

Clear weeds away from the front of the camera so that you do not get pictures of weeds swaying in the breeze.

Do not set your camera up too close or far away from where you expect the deer to travel. A camera set up on a tree within 3 feet of the trail is too close whereas most flashes cannot reach much beyond 30 feet or less.

Fresh batteries! It is very disappointing to find out that you didn't get many pictures because your batteries have died. Rechargeable batteries are gaining popularity lately; I'm having good success using them with my digital scouting camera.

I advise buying a scouting camera that has a locking device. It would be too easy for someone to walk away with your camera if it is not locked.

I am using a digital scouting camera for the first time this year and highly recommend them. There are many advantages to the digital camera, in particular the capability of viewing your pictures right away.

The exciting part is seeing a picture of a nice buck that you didn't know was on your property. These pictures help you get out of bed on those cold mornings and make you stay in your stand longer when you get bored. Get yourself a scouting camera and have fun with it.

You can read more about our scouting camera adventures and view some of the pictures that we have taken at our site.

Written by: John Cook

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