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GRANT: You know it’s just about deer season and I enjoy hunting more – and I think a lot of people would – if their scouting really gave them confidence that a mature buck was likely to pass in front of their stand. So as we’re preparing for deer season, I wanted to share with you some of my scouting techniques, based around trail cameras that have helped me the last couple of years.
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GRANT: I started using trail cameras in 1986 as part of my master’s degree where I was researching scrape behavior – when deer were using scrapes, and who was using ‘em. Those were unknown questions at the time. And trail cameras allowed me to answer those questions and get my thesis published from it, and since then, all the way to now – 2011 – I’ve used trail cameras every year. Hopefully, some of the techniques and tactics I’ve learned will help you become a better scouter and hunter.
GRANT: Knowing that deer need food, cover, and water almost on a daily basis, I almost always use my Reconyx cameras around food and, maybe, water.
GRANT: Cover is usually omnipresent, or all over, and tough to bottleneck deer down. And using a trail camera is like hunting. You need to bottleneck them into a fairly small area to get good quality data from that trail camera. Water, especially in this drought year, can be an incredible source if you’re in a drought, but if you’ve got rivers or lakes all around, water’s not a limiting factor. Food is usually the most limiting factor in a whitetails’ range, and not only food, but high quality food. Whitetails are selective feeders, and they’re gonna go to the best food available, so I often end up placing my Reconyx cameras either on the food source, or en route to the food source, where I think the deer are passing through.
GRANT: In pressured, or areas that receive less hunting pressure, I really, really like the time lapse feature of a trail camera.
GRANT: Now, time lapse feature simply means I can put the trail camera up and program it to take an image every 5 or 15 minutes, during whatever time of the day I want. Typically, like from daylight till 10:30 in the morning, or 3:00 P.M. till dark. And that picture, every 5 or 15 minutes, is just like your best buddy sitting there, but he doesn’t stink; he doesn’t move; and he doesn’t lie. That way, you’re getting a picture of where deer are entering the field, where they’re exiting, what sex and age class the deer are using that field. If it’s an unpressured area, you may go put your stand right on that field edge. If the area sees a little bit more pressure, you’re gonna have to back off in the woods to hunt. But either way, I can drive to that field edge; aim my camera 10 or 12 feet high; get pictures of the whole field, and know exactly what’s going on without spooking the herd.
GRANT: Reconyx allows you to do that and function the motion detector at the same time, so if a buck happens to walk within range of that motion detector, or that sensor on the camera, I get that up close picture which really allows me to score it, and get the details of its rack, while scouting the whole field. That’s just a huge advantage that’s very important to my scouting operation.
GRANT: Combining the advantages of using a trail camera and protecting a food source, especially for late season, is an incredible advantage to a hunter. Typically, what we do is use that Gallagher electric fence system – only two feet tall – but has been proven to keep deer out, even during this drought, and letting that camera tell me which bucks are using it. I simply open up that gap, or that maintenance gate, at the time of year that I want to hunt it, put a camera up looking right down that fence line, and see which deer are coming and going, and at what time. Is it all nocturnal? Is it during daylight? And that’s a huge advantage, especially, if I want to take my father, or my children, hunting. That combination of preserving the preferred food source for late in the season, and being able to scout it without disturbing the deer, because they’re a little antsy come late season, has proven very effective here at The Proving Grounds.
GRANT: Now, all this sounds great, but if you really use trail cameras to do your scouting with, you’re gonna end up with gads and gads, realistically, a hundred thousand plus images a year. And that’s really difficult to keep all that in mind – and where I saw this buck, and where I saw that buck, and what’s going on. Several years ago, with that problem, that real problem in hand, I went to Reconyx and said, “There’s got to be a better way to organize all these great images.” And they created a program called MapView. It comes free, when you purchase Reconyx camera, so I’m not selling anything, and MapView allows you to just download those photos, and it will put them on maps, and arrange them, and you got your time and date, and actually see patterns of deer – not just from one camera, but all the cameras you had. Even if you moved the cameras through the year, it tracks all that data, and when you get those maps, and start seeing where deer are moving and using your property, you are a leg up on any form of scouting you can do out there walking around. Now, we’ve done that in the past and the results have been really impressive.
GRANT: A perfect example of collecting all these images, and making them make sense to a hunting application, is when we tried to go after a deer on our property we called Giant 10. Now, Giant 10 is the biggest deer on the property, that we knew of, last year. And I’ve known of him for two or three years, but I could never really get a handle on where he might be during daylight hours. Brad and I used those images collected by our cameras and developed those maps – as I was telling you about – and let me put a plan together, specifically to hunt that individual deer. Waited for the wind to get right on where we predicted he was gonna move, and sure enough, he came in right at dark. Plenty of shooting light, but not enough light for Brad to film, so I had to hold off. Man, was that painful. But we kept collecting data, and during our shed hunt, actually, we went to an area and I said, “We’re specifically here on the mission to find the shed antlers of Giant 10.” And on the first pass, Wilson Burton found Giant 10’s sheds. Man, that was rewarding for me to watch that deer; know he’s out there; and be able to predict exactly where he was feeding and bedding. This year, I’ve got a leg up on Giant 10.
GRANT: You know the same thing with another mature buck we had on the property last year. I had a guest coming in for gun season. We had a nice buck that was ranging a little farther than bucks often do on our property. But we knew where he was crossing a power line, based on putting these camera points together. Not where we had the exact camera, but putting the data together. Based on that, Brad and I were able to put a stand up, and the first day our guest was here, she connected with a great buck. She was thrilled – but I was thrilled – because I was just as excited as the hunter, being able to know that deer, learn his range, predict where he’s going to cross, and successfully guide a friend there. That was only possible by all the data we had collected.
GRANT: So, here we are in mid-August, and I actually have all my Reconyx units pulled out of hunting areas and where I always do my annual trail camera survey. Now, my trail camera survey is put out so I can learn how old the bucks are this year, which ones will make my hit list – which ones are four and a half years old or older – what’s their antlers like this year, and how many does and fawns I have. I use that data, not only for hunting, but to manage the deer herd. But as soon as that survey is over – and I’m sure we’ll share the results of that, when it’s over – I’ll move those, probably, to food plots, because when bow season opens in September, deer are gonna be prone to going into those food plots. I’ll have them on time lapse mode collecting data before bow season, so I’ll know where I need to be hunting.
GRANT: I hope you have time to collect some data with your cameras this year, and I hope you really enjoy a great deer season. Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.tv.