Using Trail Camera Surveys to Your Advantage

Trail camera surveys are pertinent to your deer hunting success this fall. Here are some ways to maximize your surveys.

By Nathan Unger

Every summer it is important to get an accurate depiction of the amount and the type of deer that are frequenting your piece of property. How do you do that you ask? Trail camera surveys.

Trail camera surveys will help you understand how many does, fawns and bucks are in the area as well as the buck-to-doe ratio for your specific piece of land. However, as the velvet comes off in late summer and testosterone levels increase in bucks their range can tend to shift as they begin to seek out does and different food sources for the fall months.

No matter if the bucks stay or leave, trail camera surveys will give you a good estimate on age structure of bucks as well as individual characteristics of those bucks.

How to begin

trail camera survey

The first thing you obviously need are trail cameras. Be sure they have plenty of battery life, and if you are doing a survey on public land it’s probably a good idea to secure it with a lock to prevent it from being stolen.

Take your preferred choice of attractant and spread it out over an area 10 to 14 days prior to beginning your survey to give deer time to get used to the site. Also be sure to start the survey prior to acorns or any fruits fall from their trees, or else your survey will not be as accurate as it could be.

When you begin collecting data be sure your camera isn’t facing the sun or you’ll get several pictures with nothing on them which makes going through hundreds upon thousands of pictures monotonous.

Maximize your data

You then want to set your camera on field mode or food plot mode to take pictures at multiple intervals not just when deer cross, or you will miss several deer that otherwise wouldn’t be in range. For example, have it take a couple pictures 3 to 5 seconds apart then every 5 to 10 minutes. Obviously, if you want more pictures you will set it to take pictures more often.

This will enable you to pattern any bucks moving during the daylight hours or any deer for that matter. It will also allow you to see how many fawns are being dropped in addition to any does that remain pregnant.

Here is a portion of a survey we took after the season.

These surveys will show you characteristics of deer as well as if they are huntable or whether they’re strictly moving during nighttime hours.

Trail Cameras

I understand that two or three trail cameras is what most people can afford especially with all the other hunting equipment needed for a successful hunt. You don’t want to use all of your hunting budget your wife gives you on trail cameras.

If you are doing a survey over a field or plot and only have two or three, try to strategically place the cameras where you think the deer are entering and leaving the plot. You may have one buck show up on the south side of the field that would have never been caught on a camera placed on the north end.

After 14 days or so, if you’re not satisfied with your pictures move a camera to a different location and begin the survey again.

Be sure to refresh the mineral sites depending on how fast the deer eat it. You want the deer to consistently show up for 14 to 21  days to provide you ample data for your survey.

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NEXT: New to Mineral Stations? This Will Help.

New to Mineral Stations? This Will Help.

If you are looking to make mineral stations this summer, here are some ideas to help.

By Nathan Unger

Mineral stations for your whitetail herd is an essential part of deer growth over the summer months. It is vital during the entire year, but especially during the summer as their calcium-rich antlers are beginning to grow, and those velvet nubs are starting to appear.

For several of you, bucks probably already have 6 to 8 inches of velvet antler visible which is why to maximize their growth, mineral stations need to be started now.

What exactly is a mineral station?

I’m glad you asked. For those of you that are not as familiar with mineral stations, it’s an area set up to provide deer with crucial summer nutrients that will commonly contain blends of nutrients, salt, minerals and natural flavors for antler and bone structure growth. It also provides for healthy fawn sizes at birth. Typically an area where deer frequently travel, but is also not too much in the open.

If a buck feels secure when traveling his corridor to the station, he’ll likely frequent it more often. Especially when the deer are on a food-to-bedding routine this time of year.

velvet bucks

Another way to maximize the mineral your deer receives is to place the mineral on clay-like soil so that it doesn’t absorb into the soil quickly, and the deer can consume it easier. Additionally, it won’t soak into the soil as easily when it rains during those summer or late spring showers.

What if I don’t know what kind?

No big deal. Many, if not all, of your retail stores are going to carry several different kinds, and you’ll just have to choose what kind you think works well and which kinds fall into under budget. Most mineral ‘blocks’ last a longtime depending on the amount of deer visiting it daily. Sometimes they can last 3-4 months.

Granular or mineral bags should be placed out once a month depending on how much it rains, the amount of deer, etc.

I personally like a mineral called Monster Maker Mineral and Attractant by Non Typical Outdoors specifically designed by Dr. Tommy Daniel, hunter and animal nutritionist.

mineral stations

His implementation provides for the best and immediate absorption of the minerals within Monster Maker.

According to Dr. Daniel, “It does not make sense to have your deer consume mineral only to have it pass through the animal with very little being utilized.”

When do I need to start?

The sooner the better. The faster the deer can begin to absorb the nutrients into their body the healthier they’ll become and the more they can maximize their off-season growth.

Another great reason to for mineral stations is that you can place a trail camera over the site and begin to survey how many deer are on your property and what bucks are making your acreage part of their home range.

This will give you a great start on where you think you will need to place your deer stands as well as how many does, if any, you may need to harvest this season. Likewise, you can also measure the maturity of your bucks as the summer comes to an end and the ‘velvet rut’ arrives.

These stations are great because you can begin to survey the overall health of your deer herd.

*Be sure to follow state and county guidelines because not all states allow for minerals or attractants during all parts of the year.

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NEXTThree Things To Prepare For Next Deer Season

Coyotes are Impacting Whitetail and Turkey Populations More than You Think.

Each year predators kill several numbers of fawns and turkey polts. How are you going to help?

Predators are impacting our whitetail herd, and there are several ways you can help.

By Nathan Unger

This is the time of year when you can begin helping whitetail fawns and turkey polts survive. Yes, even now before they begin hitting the ground.

As temperatures drop, coyotes, bobcats, bears and foxes are only a few of the predators that place our game species in danger. Other species include raccoons, skunks, possums, hawks and cougars. Not all of these species are legal to hunt, but those that are, it is our responsibility to maintain predator populations just like other wild game.

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Foothold traps such as the one above, trappers frequently use for coyotes and other small game animals such as fox and bobcat.

Not only are fawns’ lives at stake, but turkeys as well. Not only are live young and adult turkeys at risk, but also turkey nests that typically contain several eggs.

According to 2016 National Deer Report and 15 Takeaways from QDMA’s 2016 Deer Report most predator populations are stable, however, bear populations have increased in every southeastern state.

Not only is this problematic for our deer herds and turkey flocks, but as cougars migrate east this will add an entire new dimension to the phrase ‘top of the food chain.’

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Foxes play a damaging role to turkeys as well. They can also be damaging to game birds like quail and pheasants and small game like rabbits.

Foothold traps work well like this one in the picture above. Baits for predators depends on the preference of the trapper. They range from different kinds of fish to fox urine typically used for trapping coyotes.

This doesn’t encompass the entire amount of information on trapping, but it’s a start and what’s important is to start somewhere. Begin taking one predator at a time. You might also start out with cage traps are user friendly and reliable.

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Turkey Season is Right Around the Corner

By Nathan Unger

It’s almost here! The season we’ve all been waiting for. No not March Madness or college football, but turkey season! That’s exactly right. One of the most underrated seasons in all of North America, unless, of course you’re a turkey hunter.

Why is turkey season so great?

1. It’s thrilling!

2. It allows you to be outdoors

3. It creates time to be with friends and family

4. Turkey tastes good

For all the avid turkey hunters out there you know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s the time of year when you sit between the pines on a bed of straw and call the gobblers out of their hiding. Then, your adrenaline spikes as one answers you back closer than you expected. There’s no thrill remotely like it.

Turkey hunting strikes a special chord with me since my father and I spent many hours in the south Georgia woods as I was growing up. Since I hadn’t taken up deer hunting yet, I looked forward to every spring knowing that dad would take off work for us to go hunting for a few days. Because we were practicing a DIY way of hunting, just learning as we went along, turkey hunting proved to be fairly difficult with their incredible eye sight and keen since of awareness. We would hunt many days and hear several birds without ever getting an ethical shot on one which resulted in a “we’ll get ’em next year.” As time went on, and the years went by our luck began to change. Dad recorded his first turkey which was very exciting! Then eventually his second and his third. Several years later during my college career, turkey hunting has been put on the wayside due to the busy schedules and lack of convenient places to hunt. Eventually my younger brother recorded his first long-beard while I’m still at zero.

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Hit-list gobblers for this season

My hope for this year is that I make the time to get out of town and go sit in the woods and have my first shot at one of natures most unpredictable game animals. However, if I don’t, I’ll just remember dad’s old saying that still rings in my mind, “we’ll get ’em next year.”

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