Are you checking Trail Cameras too often?
Photo by Whitetail Properties on YouTube
As we stated at the beginning of the summer season, summertime is trail camera time. For the diehard whitetail hunter, there's nothing like putting your fleet of cameras back out in the woods to see what is stirring. Getting pictures of big velvet bucks is like opening that present you were hoping for on Christmas morning.
Unfortunately, the Christmas morning feeling can end up doing more harm than good for you if you're not careful. The overly eager trail camera user can actually put pressure on deer at a time of year when we want to keep pressure to a minimum.
You have that urge to check your trail cameras as much as you possibly can. Who wouldn't want that Christmas morning feeling when you slide through your SD card and find a giant peering into your camera? We all do, but it's important to approach with caution.
Too much intrusion is always going to be a bad thing if you are looking to hunt mature whitetail bucks, or any game animal for that matter. You can absolutely check your trail cameras too often, especially if they are in the wrong location for regular checking.
You can probably see where this is going. There are considerations to make when it comes to trail camera checking, so let's hit on a few of the important ones. These should serve as great considerations for people who are new to trail camera usage but also as great reminders for those sloppy veterans among us.
Location, Location, Location
It absolutely matters where your trail camera is located. Location is why there is no blanket rule for how often is too often to check your camera. Some camera locations are very neutral. Meaning that deer are traveling to a spot that is very accessible for you to check that camera. For instance, hanging a camera over a destination feed field where deer are feeding all night long but traveling to get there. You're putting minimal pressure on the deer. Other areas close to bedding zones and intimate travel corridors nearby are a different story. More intimate locations in the timber or near cover are going to make pressuring deer an unavoidable thing. This is why we suggested bringing the deer into your arena in our post on positioning cameras. It's always easier and less intrusive to check your cameras in areas where deer aren't spending the bulk of their time. As a general rule, check cameras less if they are near a bedding zone or some other intimate area for deer.
Don't Be Sloppy
How well you control your scent and noise will also determine how often you should check that camera. A lot of hunters don't think twice about checking trail cameras in whatever they happen to be wearing. Yet during the hunting season they spend hundreds of dollars on scent control clothing to walk right by the same camera on their way to the stand. I'm not saying that you should gear up and spray down with Scent Killer in July to do a simple trail cam check, but you should be careful, quiet, and quick. Don't stumble out to the camera smelling like a 12-pack of Budweiser while yelling at full volume with your buddy who's stumbling through the woods and snapping sticks. Swap your cards and hit the road. It should be our goal to create as little human intrusion as possible, regardless of the time of year.
Let's Talk Numbers
So, you've been reading this entire post looking for numbers. You're looking for a definite figure on how often you should be checking your trail cameras. We're getting ready to talk numbers, but I'll preface it all by reminding you that there is no blanket answer. Keep all of the other factors we have discussed in mind. Also realize that the numbers we're about to discuss are very much a personal preference thing. Some people like to check cameras once a month, others once a week. People in both camps have experienced success in photographing big deer and subsequently killing big deer in the fall, so don't lose any sleep over it.
I happen to believe in checking my trail cameras roughly every two weeks, but I will check them weekly at some points of the summer. Keep in mind that we're talking summer trail camera strategy and not in-season strategy. I am a huge advocate of checking your camera whenever you possibly can on your trips to and from the stand to gain the most recent information, but that's a story for a different day.
If you set your cameras with location in mind and avoid being sloppy, I think that you can reasonably expect to create minimal disturbance by checking every two weeks. More is not necessarily better when it comes to checking cameras in the summer, so don't feel bad about going a month or even longer. It's not like you're trying to put a pattern on a big buck to kill it in a week or two.
I just happen to love that rush of pulling cards and seeing what pops up on the computer, so I'll push it a bit and check weekly or every two weeks. I've never noticed a disrupted pattern on any of the big bucks that I have captured on my cameras, so I assume that my checking schedule is appropriate. Just remember what I have been saying about location. I hang almost all of my cameras in neutral locations that deer know I frequent. Spots that I can literally take two or three steps off of the tractor or the ATV to change the SD card.
I don't hang many cameras near bedding zones or deep in the timber. If you do, I would absolutely suggest bumping your checking schedule to every two weeks at minimum. Probably more like once a month or so during the summer months.
When it comes to summer trail cam checking, less can definitely be more. Think inventory over patterning until we get closer to August and September.