While trail cameras are an amazing window into the wild, if you’ve ever ended up looking at hundreds of empty frames or pictures of leaves shaking in the breeze, you have probably hurled curses at the technology gods. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. Dr. Grant Woods, Pro Hunting Team member and host of “Growing Deer TV,” said the first step to getting eye-popping pics of local bucks is make sure you aren’t making any of the following four mistakes.
1. Setting Up Your Trail Camera Facing the Wrong Direction
The surest way to produce images with blown out highlights and lens flares is to set up your game camera so it’s facing east, west or south. Woods recommends setting your trail cam so it points north to capture good images throughout the year.
Also, it’s just not cool to post pictures to Facebook of fluttering leaves, waving branches and other shots of vegetation in action. So, take the time on the front end to clear a good path for capturing images and you won’t be disappointed later.
2. You Set Your Game Camera Too Low
Placing your cameras at eye level or below may provide you with a wonderful opportunity to repurchase your camera later on Craig’s List. Cameras at low heights make it too easy for thieves to add your camera to their collection. Even if you’ve used locks and cables to secure the trail cam, some folks can’t resist destroying what they can’t steal. Woods is a firm believer that elevation is a great way to keep your camera out of harm’s way.
An added bonus for higher camera placement (10 feet or so) is reducing the likelihood of spooking deer with it, especially if you’ve just started using cameras where you hunt.
3. You Think Clearance Bins Are a Great Place to Stock Up on Batteries
Who doesn’t love checking on their trail cam only to discover batteries that are deader than venison backstraps in the freezer? If you’re buying alkaline batteries because you can’t resist the savings, STOP! Woods said you’ll end up spending more in the long run. Plus, you’ll waste a lot of time lurking around dollar store clearance bins. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to keep battery life from bumming you out. Open up your wallet and let some money out to get good quality rechargeable or lithium batteries.
Satisfy that stingy streak and make batteries last longer by dialing down the sensitivity on your cam so it captures deer instead of the frequent visits by tweety birds.
You penny pinchers out there may wonder why anyone would waste perfectly good batteries monitoring food plots throughout the year instead of only during deer season. Year-round observation allows you to track antler development. You’ll also get a handle on the herd in your area — the age structure, how deer fared through the winter, and whether their numbers are increasing, decreasing or stable. Plus, it never hurts to keep up with the neighborhood thugs – coyotes, bobcats and other predators.
4. You Monitor Only a Tiny Portion of Your Food Plot
More is better when it comes to information so expand your horizons by using your camera’s time lapse feature. This will allow you to observe the entire plot while still conserving battery life. Woods advice is to set up your camera so you get images every 5 or 10 minutes at dawn or dusk, when deer are most active. Then you’ll know exactly where and when deer are entering a field.