- Chris Campanelli
Late-Season Trail Camera Strategy
If you live for deer hunting season like we do, it feels like we're in a constant transition. Just when you settle into the early-season, the rut comes along. The rut blazes through in the month of November and suddenly we're eyeing down the late-season. Whitetail hunting is a game of constant adjustment.
We have been harping on the importance of scouting information as we make the transition to the late-season. You would probably be hard-pressed to find one of our December deer articles that fail to mention the importance of scouting intel. Informed decisions are key at this point in the deer season race. One of the best informants in a deer hunter's bag can be a simple trail camera.
I know that you old-school hunters out there are apprehensive about using trail cameras, but there is no question that they can take your scouting to the next level. We utilize them during every phase of the season and during the off-season. In fact, I make most of my major stand or blind location decisions based upon trail camera results. I'd really be lost if I didn't have several of them on the farm that I hunt.
With deer now in a post-rut phase and under severe pressure from gun seasons, the importance of measuring your shots and making the most of each hunt has never been more crucial. That's exactly why we want to lean on some kind of information to make our hunting decisions during this phase. That information does not come without adjustment, and that's where we want to steer this article.
Good trail camera information doesn't come by accident. Sure, you can get lucky and catch a big buck picture or two by accident. Having not moved your trail cameras or adjusted your strategy a single inch from the summertime. But who really wants to be lucky? We're all striving to be good, and by good we mean successful.
There are pillars to success when it comes to capturing late-season trail camera pictures, so let's hit on 3 that could help the cause.
Transition to a Food Source
This one is an absolute no-brainer, and it's another point that I just cannot stop harping on in the month of December. The focus has returned to food in most areas of America. With cold temperatures and fatigued deer in the post-rut phase, nutrition is everything. If you can pinpoint a food source and put a trail camera over it, do it. There is nothing more magnetic at this phase in the season than a good food source. That could be a snowy soybean or corn field, an annual food plot, or even a simple pile of corn. Regardless of what your particular food source may be, I'm putting a lot of my chips in that basket. Food will be the magnet that draws deer into your camera stations, and that allows you to take inventory of what has survived to this point. From there you can create a game-plan.
Sunny Slopes and Thermal Cover
If you lack a concrete food source on your property, it's time to make a transition to south-facing slopes and areas with thermal cover. Cold winter winds will often push deer to spend a lot of time soaking up sun on south-facing slopes. That's an old shed hunter's trick. Cold temps also push deer into areas with thick cover that can block the wind and weather. Knowing this, we can transition trail cameras into and around those areas. You may not snap as many great pictures as you could over a prime food source, but you may be surprised at how big of a shift occurs in these kind of areas. Deer definitely start to spend more time on south-facing slopes and areas that feature thermal cover. Get your cameras into those areas.
Cast a Net
I am a huge proponent of deploying several trail cameras at any given point in the season. The more the better, and that rings true now more than ever. Remember, not every property, region, or state is the same. What deer are doing in the Midwest may differ greatly from what is happening in the South. There is a general transition going on as we wind down 2018 and look ahead to the true late-season, but it's important to put your finger on exactly what kind of transition is happening in your neck of the woods. If you place a single camera perfectly, there's no doubt that you can put the pieces of the puzzle together with a solo trail camera. However, it has been my experience that you can get a much better picture by deploying several. Cast a net of trail cameras to get a better idea of what is going on. If you can afford 2, put out 2 cameras. If you can afford 20, put out 20. The point is that you should do your best to draw information from as many places as possible. That helps you to piece the puzzle together more effectively. As any seasoned hunter knows, the puzzle pieces can be scattered at best at this point in the season. More cameras can help you to make sense of the madness.
Bonus: Fresh Batteries and Cards
So, you have been running trail cameras since the heat of July. Checking them religiously through the fall. It's now December and those cameras have become a bit less important to you. They are now dead and the SD memory cards are jammed full. Talk about a waste of your effort and money! Hey, we have all been there. Deer season can drain you for sure. Do yourself a favor and dedicate a few hours to heading to your spot and freshening up the cameras. Heck, you can kill two birds with one stone and transition those cameras to a food source, south-facing slope or area with thermal cover while you're at it!
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