I have been running trail cameras for the last 10+ years with a varying degree of intensity. So when talks came about making these cameras illegal in some western states, my thoughts were intrigued with an experiment. It was decided that no trail cameras would be run during the 2017-2018 deer season. Boy did this shed a light on how dependent I had become to them!
It was sheer panic the week before the opener. No inventory, no scouting, no idea what was happening in the brush. Where do I even start, I thought to myself? While sitting on stand the first weekend questioning why I had made such a senseless decision, it came to me. I had observed things only a camera could have been given credit with. These observations made me the hunter I am today despite the bias ideals that trail cameras take away the element of surprise or give the hunter an unfair advantage. This would all be proved throughout the season without cameras.
Southwest Texas is a place where landowners take managing wildlife seriously and I was fortunate to be born and raised there on a working farm and ranch. We manage our deer herds for age class, buck to doe ratio, and overall caring capacity. So how do trail cameras fit into this equation? First and foremost the inventory of bucks. Yes, a “Hit-List” of bucks that can be broken down into categories of trophy, management, and culls. This all takes place during the velvet growth period and give someone a generous amount of time to seriously judge a deer lessening the chance of mistakes on age and score. This management tool is also used to get a general sense of a herd health, fawn survival, and other ratios at a real-time level throughout the year.
Another important aspect of cameras is as a scouting tool. I’m only one guy that needs to be in 20+ spots at a time. Cameras do that for me all the while sitting quietly giving no scent 24/7 for however long you want them too. This helps keep human pressure down and deer in the areas you want them to be. From feed and water stations, trails, to bedding areas the trail cameras will be where you cannot. They observe times of movement and help create patterns that are specific to your area and specific deer. I have learned the when and how deer habits change in my particular hunting area. This is translated into why they change and me being a better more efficient hunter not just scouting the biggest buck.
Every time my computer opens to start looking at SD cards I can’t help but get the feeling of sitting under a Christmas tree looking at 2000+ presents. The moment your heart explodes, when a giant appears. Or an old warrior you have played cat and mouse with returns for another year cannot be duplicated. I believe the engagement of pictures creates a longer lasting surprise followed by a greater sense of accomplishment when that one particular animal you have hunted unseen in person for years appears just to take a perfectly placed arrow. Not just, big buck, click, and boom. It can also instill hope and give one stamina to continue hunting knowing the buck is there and it’s a game of odds waiting for the pattern to change.
Whether you are a trophy or meat hunter, trail cameras can up your game. This allows for continued growth throughout your hunting life. They are an irreplaceable management tool that help dictate better management decisions for the herd at a real-time level. The progression of hunting today could have never been accomplished without the use of them. That is why I will use them as long as possible.
What’s your take on the issue? Have you had more success by running trail cams?