Lights, Cameras, Bucks: Trail Cams Help Track Wildlife

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Having intimate knowledge of the animals you bowhunt puts more meat in the freezer. If you know where deer often appear and when they’ll most likely arrive, you have some advantages.

Trail cameras help bowhunters gather that crucial information while providing another fun activity. Bowhunters secure these cameras to trees in areas where deer feed or pass through. These motion-activated cameras snap photos or take videos whenever something walks in front of them. That helps bowhunters learn which animals inhabit the area, and gain insights into their feeding and movement patterns.

Once the cameras are deployed, the fun begins. It’s like opening a Christmas present every time you check their memory cards. Therefore, it’s a great activity to do with kids and young bowhunters. You’ll get photos of all types of animals doing things you never thought possible.

The one caveat for trail cameras is that some states don’t allow them once hunting season opens. Check your state wildlife agency’s website for trail-camera regulations.

How to Set Up a Trail Cam

Trail cameras are motion activated cameras that snap a photo when a subject walks in front of the camera. Typically, they are secured to a tree in an area with a lot of wildlife activity. These handy devices can be used to learn what animals inhabit your hunting area and study their movements. Photo Credit: John Hafner.

If you can use trail cameras, you must learn their basic operations before running into the woods to set one up. That means first choosing a location and setting up the device. This is much like choosing a great spot for your treestand. Look for an area with lots of wildlife activity, such as feeding areas or well-used game trails. You can also place them to look out from your ground blind or the base of your treestand to see if you’ve chosen a good spot.

After deciding where you want to place the trail camera, secure it to a tree using its strap or bungee cord. When animals walk by the camera’s motion detector, it triggers the shutter and snaps a photo.

For the best results, set up your camera during midday hours when animals are least active. That makes it less likely deer will see or hear you.

To defeat their strongest sense – their ability to smell danger – bowhunters often wear rubber boots and use scent-management techniques for greater stealth. Rubber doesn’t retain odors as well as leather, cloth and synthetic materials, so you’ll leave behind less human scent for deer to smell as you walk through the woods.

Before leaving your trail camera, make sure to insert its memory card and turn on the device. Also read the manufacturer’s instructions to program the trail camera and use its many settings. Once it’s on, quietly leave the area and patiently wait.

How to Check a Camera

When you’re setting up a trail camera it’s important to enter the woods during low activity periods and remain as scent free as possible, just like when you’re hunting. Photo Credit: John Hafner.

Resist the urge to rush back the next day to check your trail camera. Yes, you’re eager to see what it photographed, but give it a few days or a week.

When you return, checking your trail camera is much like setting one up. It’s an easy task, but it’s still important to enter the woods during low-activity periods and remain as scent-free as possible.

Trail cameras work just like other digital cameras. They save images on an SD card, and you remove the SD card from the camera to upload its photos to your computer. Savvy hunters replace the card with a fresh one before leaving so they never miss any action. Then they rush the used card to their laptop or home computer to see what’s hanging out in the area.

Trail cameras add a layer of fun to your hunting experience, so start looking at the many options available. The best place to check them out is an archery store with knowledgeable staff to explain each camera’s features.

Any trail camera you choose will give you insights into the woodland’s wildlife, and provide enjoyment year-round.

If you have some cool trail-camera photos, please share them with us on the Bowhunting 360 Facebook page.


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