Scouting for Gobblers with Trail Cameras (Episode 16 Transcript)
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WOODS: It’s March 4th, and it’s a warm afternoon. As a matter of fact, you probably see a shadow line from my hat because if I tip my hat up where the producer wants me to and get all the shadow off here, it blinds me, I can’t see. So, just pardon that shadow line on the hat today, guys, on my face, that is.
We’re at The Proving Grounds. Anytime it gets 50 degrees or about in the spring, I’m thinking turkeys. No doubt, turkeys are out strutting and doing their stuff somewhere. They probably were in this food plot before we drove up. I’ll know that because I’ve got a trail camera here.
You're probably wondering, “What in the world is that trail camera doing above Grant’s head? Well, I like to use trail cameras in the spring to scout for turkeys. The biology behind it is, is, turkeys are going to come to some open area in February and early March, depending on where you are in the country, earlier down south, later up north and sort out all that dominance. It’s like gangs coming together and fighting to see who’s gonna control the turf and get all the dates. And they want to come to a big open area to do it. They get together and this is a daily thing. They come over and say, “I’m big. I’m bad. I got the biggest fan,” whatever they're doing, and sort it out. Day after day after day until hens start becoming receptive. They're sorting out that dominance. It’s some of the best calling you’ll ever hear, is listening to turkeys at that time of year. But I can’t be on all my different food plots or openings at all the time to pattern when they're coming in. And these “strut zones” – they're gonna come into those areas in the dominance zones which really happens before the strut zone.
WOODS: A dominance zone is where a lot of turkeys come together and sort out this dominance later in the breeding cycle. A strut zone is usually where one adult gobbler will go and try to bring hens to him.
And you're wondering, “Well, why is this doggone camera so high? I mean, turkeys are, you know, waist tall or lower and you got that thing above your head.” Well, my fields and most fields I work have small rolls or undulations out there and, you know, a turkey’s feeding. It’s about a foot tall, so it could walk through and you’d never know the turkey was there if you had the camera down here.
WOODS: I literally will get a stepladder out sometime, it’s depending how much roll is in the land. Get this camera up, point it down a little bit. That let, helps me see into standing soybeans or whatever and see a greater distance. Now, what I’m using on the Reconyx cameras is the time lapse feature. And what time lapse does, allows me just to set the camera to take a picture every 10 or 15 minutes, whatever I want, during whichever times I want. So I’ll have my cameras programmed to take a picture every 10 minutes from 6:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
WOODS: On a Reconyx the great thing is while you're using time lapse, I’ll show the motion sensor is still working, so if a turkey walks up here close, even in between the ten minutes or a deer or whatever, it’s gonna take a picture. If there’s turkeys out there at 200 yards at the other side of the field, that motion sensor is certainly not gonna pick them up, but you're gonna get a picture with the time lapse feature working.
WOODS: Turkeys tend to go really slowly through the fields unless they're disturbed. So if you’ve got your camera set to take a picture every ten minutes, you're probably gonna catch all the turkeys feeding and sorting out dominance and doing all the stuff they do. Now, there’s more to this than just seeing what time of day the turkeys come. You're now also getting a really good idea of which side of the field they tend to come into the most frequently, how long they stay there and where they feed through. This could be critical for where you set your youth up or when you set your ground blind up to know that they're gonna be passing through right in front of you without calling. And ideally, I mean I love to call. I’m a “cut and run” hunter. I want to hear a turkey on the other side of the mountain and take off to it. But my 79 year-old dad or my 8 year-old daughter do not appreciate Grant’s long legs and cut and run tactics.
Using a time lapse feature on trail cameras is a tremendous way to scout for turkeys. But there’s other advantages too. We’re gonna have a big shed hunt on March 13th. We originally had it scheduled for March 6th, but as we started going through our trail camera images and seeing what’s going on, we noticed a pretty high percent of our bucks are still holding antlers. The longer they hold their antlers, the healthier they are. Now you can’t wait ‘till the last buck sheds because some rascal will hold into May and by then, you’ve got some fawns on the ground, depending on where you live and, you know, rodents have ate up half your antlers out there. But we see when 60 or 70% of our bucks have shed, and you get that shed hunt going.
But a third way that’s really important is when you’ve got it up high and usually off the field a little bit. I’m using time lapse images, time lapse feature. Ole Johnny Sneaky, now everybody’s got a neighbor like Johnny Sneaky. He doesn’t understand the rules and he has to take what he hasn’t been working for and slide into your property and hunt. Johnny Sneaky is used to looking for trail cameras down here and within 20 or 30 yards of it. He’s not looking for 200 yards across the field. You can catch a lot of trespassers and never have your cameras vandalized just by using a time lapse feature and putting your cameras far away.
WOODS: I love turkey hunting and as I admit, I’m a “cut and run” hunter. I want to hear a turkey on that side of the mountain and take off. I just love being in the woods and seeing the habitat and seeing the sign and strategizing about where that turkey is. But some of my guests and me on a tired day are not good “cut and run” hunters. That’s where scouting with trail cameras is a huge advantage. You know where to be and when to be there. What more could you ask for?
You know, before turkey season starts, we’re gonna hunt something else and next Saturday, we’re gonna have a big shed hunt. I got a bunch of people in. Some friends from the industry, just some of my hunting buddies and my brother-in-law and other folks and we’re gonna walk areas we only walk one time a year here at The Proving Grounds. Going to those sanctuaries and bedrooms and look for sheds. Now, we know we had a lot of bucks on our trail camera images this last fall. A lot of them survived the hunting season because we leave our cameras out year round, so we know we had pictures in February. Bucks still carrying their antlers. We know some of them are starting to shed, so we’ve schedule our shed hunt.
Stay with us next week and see what size sheds we find, how many sheds we find and where we find them. I hope that information helps you at your Proving Grounds.