By Bob Humphrey
Because free time is in such short supply for most of us, we want to make the most of what we have. There is an inverse relationship between scouting and hunting time. The more you spend scouting, the less you’ll have to spend hunting in order to be successful. Furthermore, there are ways you can reduce your scouting time significantly, without diminishing results. One of the best is utilizing scouting cameras.
Trail cameras and plot watchers are your eyes in the woods (and fields) when you’re not there. Even better, like our military personnel, they’re on guard 24-7.
As the name implies, trail cameras are best utilized on trails, or someplace where passing deer will trigger the camera to capture an image of whatever passes by. Cameras placed at feeders can also be used to take inventory of the number deer and size of bucks on the property you hunt.
Plotwatchers, on the other hand, automatically record images at pre-determined intervals, without need of motion or heat to trigger them. This makes them better suited to large open areas like fields or food plots (thus, the name), where they record the “big picture,” - the daily comings and goings of deer across the entire area.
In addition to saving time, trail cameras and plotwatchers also allow you to scout with minimal intrusion. The more you can minimize your presence, the less disturbance you cause, and the more at ease deer will remain.
Unless you have a camera that automatically transmits images via cell phone technology (and yes, they do exist). You will have to visit the site periodically. Try keeping visits to a minimum. Bring extra cards and swap them out so you don’t linger at any one site too long.
It’s also helpful if you can position cameras near woods roads or ATV trails. You can cover your route quicker, and in a less intrusive manner. It may seem counterintuitive, but deer will be less disturbed by a passing vehicle than a walking human, especially if you follow the same route on a regular basis.
Viewing cards when you get home, or back to camp is like unwrapping presents at Christmas. And seeing what deer are on your ground and where they frequent can help you maximize your hunting time this fall. But with a little more investment of pre-season time you can increase that return over the long-term.
Keep a log or journal of your camera observations. Note things like time of day (when deer are moving), temperature and barometric pressure (which some cameras record on the image imprint) and any other weather data you may have access to. Over time you may start to see trends. For example, deer may or may not use a certain field during certain wind or weather patterns; or they may use certain parts of the property more at certain times of the season. Save your hunting time for the peak times and places and it may be a quick hunt.