Best Tips for Trail Cameras: Time to See What Survived the Season

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When deer season ends, don't despair. Get into the woods to scout and use your game cameras for surveying does and bucks to see what survived the season.

When deer season ends, don’t despair. Get into the woods to scout and use your game cameras for surveying does and bucks to see what survived the season.

The inevitable time is here, the end of deer season. It always seems to end as fast as it started. It’s hard to think that only 100 days ago we were fighting the “October lull” and waiting for the rut to break loose. But since then food sources have become scarce, many gun seasons have run their course, and as a result there are a lot fewer deer on the landscape.

By Jeremy Flinn

As many of us might see this as a bad thing, especially with the loss of deer we spent all season chasing. However, it is truly a good thing. The habitat could never support the number of deer we had in early fall through the winter. That’s regardless of if you live in the winter tundra of the North or swamps of the Deep South; food is simply more scarce.

Regardless of your view on this debate one thing is certain: you want to know what made it through the season! Fortunately you don’t have to sit out in the cold and bank on luck to figure this out. We can put our trail cameras to work.

The advancements in trail camera technology now allow us to monitor sites so much more efficiently, and provide us with much greater detail than we could ever gather from walking through the woods. With longer battery life, increased picture storage capacity, video capabilities, and even cellular transmission of images like with the new Moultrie Mobile technology, it’s unveiled a new sector of deer knowledge.

Doing your post-season surveying with game cameras immediately after the season ends can help you the next autumn when you're in a tree looking for a specific buck.

Doing your post-season surveying with game cameras immediately after the season ends can help you the next autumn when you’re in a tree looking for a specific buck.

So the question now becomes, you mean I throw a trail camera out there and will see what made it through? Not exactly. Using a trail camera to capture deer is not much different than hunting. There is only a certain detection range of a game camera that will trigger a picture to be taken. So as you are determining where to place trail cameras after the season, think about these few things: Food, Bedding, and Thermal Cover. Those three characteristics of a trail cameras spot will result in seeing which deer have made it through the season.

Food sources have changed dramatically through the season, from watching bucks flow through lush green soybean fields to cruising oak flats for acorn. Now as winter settles in, a deer’s diet will likely be composed of more than 60% woody browse. Though it’s a major part of the diet, it’s not an easy thing to “pattern” deer on for a trail camera placement. What is more consistent are food plots, crops fields with waste grain, and supplemental deer feeder stations (if legal). These areas will be much more efficient at capturing a deer during the post-season.

With much colder temperatures in many areas, deer will shift much of their time to thermal cover or south-facing slopes in order to conserve body heat, and subsequently energy. These aren’t the typical bedding areas you may have patterned deer to during the season, but that’s part of the game. Focus your trail camera efforts on lo- hanging pines, spruces, firs, and cedars; as well as, any major trails leading to and from south-facing slopes which will allow deer to “soak up” the sun on a cold winter day.

Don’t get discouraged this winter with low deer numbers. Instead use your trail cameras to discover the ones that made it through. Even if two of three bucks on your property didn’t make it through the season, the one buck that did could be “The Buck” for next season.

 

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