Trail Cameras – Getting Intimate with Wildlife

Within the last couple of years, trail cameras have quickly become an essential tool for hunters and outdoor enthusiast alike.  Technology and efficiency have been huge contributing factors for the advancement and affordability of standard trail cameras on the market today.

Trail cameras allow us to peek inside the lives of deer and other game animals like no other scouting method has.  With minimal impact from human scents or disturbances created when we enter our favorite hunting spot, we can peer into the activities of all kinds of animals that inhabit our farms and wood lots.

WHY USE TRAIL CAMERAS?  Trail cameras, although quite useful for management activities, are typically used by deer hunters trying to get a peak at that big buck.  At WILDLIFE PROPERTIES, we use trail cameras for a number of management practices.  Trail cameras are useful for identifying buck to doe ratios, cataloging game movement, aging the deer within a herd, evaluating new born fawn activity and tracking the development of those fawns during the summer months.  In addition to management, trail cameras can be useful for determining when antlers are shed during the late winter and early spring months and they are useful for identifying when bucks begin to join their bachelor groups in the summer months. We hang trail cameras year round to monitor antler development and it’s always fun to see when the bucks start rubbing off the velvet from their newly developed antlers.  For serious hunters, nothing is more satisfying then being able to catalog a single buck from the time their antlers drop during the previous season, through the development months and right on to point that mature buck is harvested.  The “Complete Hunt”, from development to trophy.

CAMERA PLACEMENT & TIPS: Trail cameras are only useful when they are properly placed.  Hang trail cameras at waist level, typically 3 to 4 feet off the ground to get the best view in the frame of your pictures.  When possible, trail cameras positioned to face north will give users the best opportunity at taking photos that are not blurred out by the sun’s rays.  To avoid wasted pictures make sure that tall grasses, tree limbs and other objects are cleared from the censor range of your camera.  Nothing is more frustrating than going to check a camera where the memory card is full of pictures of the wind blowing a branch or tall grass in your cameras view.

When possible, hang cameras near bedding areas, feeding areas or on visible trails where game animals are sure to be.  If you don’t know where these areas are or they are hard to identify try putting down feed or a mineral lick to attract animals to the camera location.  It is always best if you can place trail cameras in areas that will minimize your impact to the habitat when you go to replace your batteries or memory cards.

Always make sure that your trail camera has fresh batteries and a clean memory card before you head out to the field.  We recommend that you leave a camera out for a minimum of 10 days (the longer the better) and always wear rubber boots and gloves when you are hanging a camera or checking the memory card to minimize your impact to the environment and leave as little human scent as possible.

Trail cameras have many different time-delay settings.  At WILDLIFE PROPERTIES, we recommend placing your camera on a 5 to 10 minute delay or longer but that all depends on how many pictures you want to take in a given period of time.  Most people will find that when the delay is set to less than 5 minutes, you will typically get a ton of pictures of the same deer which can make scrolling through your pictures a daunting task.

Trail cameras are a useful tool for managing and evaluating game species on your property or lease.  Once considered a novelty or a luxury for outdoor enthusiast the trail camera has quickly become a must have.  Beyond technical and management purposes, trail cameras can provide users with a truly unique opportunity to spend time up-close and personal with game animals.  Trail cameras provide users with a whole new way to intimately enjoy the land.

About the author: Nick Rhodes is an avid outdoors enthusiast and the President of WILDLIFE PROPERTIES, a recreational property development and habitat management company located in Smith Center, KS. For more information visit and sign up for the My Wildlife Property e-newsletter with tips about property management and improving habitat on your recreational property.

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