When and how long do you run your trail cameras for a deer survey?
When do you run your trail camera surveys at The Proving Grounds? How long do you run them? And how many acres per camera? I’ve read to wait until late August (after velvet shedding), but I’m not sure why as long as the bucks are far enough into the growing season that they are identifiable and the fawns are traveling with their mothers.
Any other tips for running a successful camera survey?
I’m glad to hear you are considering a camera survey. Camera surveys provide much information on learning, watching, and managing your deer herd. I usually start pre-baiting for a camera survey in late July and plan to start the actual survey in early August. Typically, it takes 7-10 days of pre-baiting with one camera per 100 acres to get at least 90% of the herd to visit the camera sites. The survey itself requires about 14 days. During this time I get enough buck pictures to uniquely identify each individual.
August is one of the best times to conduct a survey because food resources are in limited supply, many fawns are at heal, and bucks are still in their summer movements between food and cover. Waiting until after the bucks have lost their velvet can negatively affect the survey. Velvet shedding is a sign that the hormones in a buck are changing rapidly. This causes them to start behaving more aggressively toward other bucks, especially at a bait site, and alter from their summer movements. Every year I have bucks that bed and forage on my property all spring and summer and disappear shortly after losing their velvet. This can be troublesome when looking at inaccurate population data to develop a doe harvest or warm-season food plot strategy.
It is true that fawn counts can be a bit low in August because not all of the fawns are old enough to continuously follow their mothers around. However, some of the most important information gathered from a survey lies in the trends over time. Create and add these data to a simple graph year after year to see how the number of bucks, does, and/or fawns changes. These data contain the answers to proper herd management. To learn more about how I implement a camera survey, check out my camera survey techniques guide.
Growing Deer together,