Sometimes your best scouting efforts may not be enough to get the deer to cross in front of the lens of even the best trail cameras. Don’t give up! There is hope for you yet. There are some things you can do to help you sway the odds to your favor. Some will require some extra work before the hunting season begins and others will rely your ability to pay attention to the signs the deer leave behind.
Pay Attention To Water Sources
Now, I don’t mean just park a camera in front of every place there is running water. You have to find a sheltered water source. An area that is secure for deer to drink. You are not their only predator, so an area sheltered by plenty of vegetation is a must. There is likely to be a lot of tracks around as well. If you can locate the drinking area, you have found the pot of gold!
Typically, a deer will require 2 to 3 quarts of water for each hundred pounds they weigh! This only grows as the summers get hotter. If you are attempting to monitor them during the hot summer months, your best bet is to put the trail camera on a trail that leads to the water source. Once you have located the ideal place, take the usual approach to hanging the camera.
Create A Funnel
Create your own funnel and you’ll soon need a sign like this on your trail.
Deer funnels are created by deer that travel the same path over and over. The paths they travel are very predictable because deer don’t take the most direct route…they take the easiest. Knowing this you can create a path that they feel almost compelled to travel down! Keep in mind that they like easier. Flatter, safer terrain and areas with thicker protective cover are the ideal choice to place your best trail camera.
Once they find a safe trail, they are likely to use it year after year. They really are very predictable once you know what their habits are. To take advantage of this though, you will have to get out there well before the hunting season begins. You want your scent to be gone by the time they are traveling the path, otherwise they will just scatter!
Look around and locate an existing funnel. You should be trying to find a one that is likely to be between the bedding area and a food source. You can then block it. Divert them to where you want them to go! You can try cutting a small path through some dense vegetation. Deer gravitate towards area with thick cover.
Finding Bedding Areas and Feeding Grounds
Pay attention to find feeding areas. Look for clues such as droppings in the area and a lot of tracks.
We have established that deer travel in predictable patterns. To put it most simply, they leave in the morning to find food, then return in the evening. If you are able to find where they sleep, eat and drink you can put a trail camera on the path. It is here that you are most likely to film regular travelers.
You will have to get out there early in the season (possibly even the off-season) to find these spots. Early in the season the deer tend to not move around as much as later on. They will, for the most part, limit their movement to between the bedding and their primary feeding area.
The first step is to find where they bed. This will be in areas of very dense cover. Think tall grass, thickets or other types of protective foliage. You will know you are in the right spot when you see a matted down area full of droppings. They are sure to be bedding nearby.
As far as food sources, there are many different ways to go about finding these. One of the ways you can do it is to find areas where acorns or beechnuts fall. Deer will graze on pretty much anything, so finding concentrated areas of anything is a good start. If you leave in an area where crops are grown…start looking around there.
Once you have pinpointed where they sleep and eat you know exactly where to set up your trail camera.
Planting a food plot is a great way to determine where the deer are eating!
Create A Food Plot
This is a bit of a longer term plan, but if you hunt an area that is just huge, dense woods planting a food plot is worth the time and effort. All you even need to grow is clover, it really doesn’t take much.
Again, you have to plan ahead for this. If you have a plot watcher camera, set it up (or least put up the security box) before any deer arrive. This way they aren’t as likely to be spooked by it later on. It is already part of the landscape.
If you haven’t yet been able to find the bedding area, a plotwatcher camera will help you to identify the direction they show up from and head off to. You can then find the path and set up trail cameras along it. A good crop in the late summer is likely to provide a good stream of deer on film and plenty of chances to nab that buck!
Using these tips, you should definitely have success this season getting wildlife on the memory card of your game camera. If you haven’t tried one yet, you can check out trail camera reviews to find one that best suits your needs.
They do not replace the need for the old scouting ways, as you can see. You still need to be able to follow tracks and identify bedding, feeding and watering sources. But they do reduce the amount of time you have to spend in the woods by days over the course of a season!
Tips for finding a spot to hang your trail cam:
- The most obvious tip is that if you live in an area where you get snow, get out there immediately after the first snowfall. You will be able to see the trails and directions the animals use, as well as finding areas they congregate in with relative ease. It’s almost like cheating!
- Try to walk about 15 minutes or so in from any roads or public (high human traffic areas). The deer are just more comfortable moving around these lesser traveled areas.
- Find a food source. A natural one would obviously be great, but a (camouflaged) feeder or a planted food plot would be fine too. I’m not suggesting you hunt there, though. You can just use the area as a reference to see “who” is around. Check to be sure it is legal in your area.
- If you live in a hot area, find a water source. There is no better spot than a watering hole on a HOT summer day!
- If you can, combine the areas. A spot where a known trail converges onto a food or water source would be the ideal place to hang your trail camera.
- If trying to watch a rub or a scrape area you should always place the camera above the deer’s eye level. They obviously don’t know what a trail camera is, but will quickly abandon an area if they get flashes in their eyes. The idea of placing it above is that it will sort of mimic lightening….something the animals are already used to. You can wedge an appropriate sized stick behind the top of the trail camera to get it to face downwards.