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WOODS: It’s Friday morning, July 16th, early in the morning and Brad and I are out early because we’ve got a lot to get done today and one of the things in the middle of July we want to start doing is preparing to monitor our deer herd, specifically by using a camera survey. Now a camera survey is where we use trail cameras and we have a specific design and our objective is to literally, get an image, a picture of a minimum of 90% of the whole herd. So, if there’s ten bucks out there, we expect to get nine or more, hard to get more than just nine, on camera. Now, we’ve got a pretty good size property and a pretty good deer density with all the food plots and timber work and prescribed fire we’ve done over the years, so we’ve got to really strategize to make this an efficient camera survey. Now, I use camera surveys for a couple of reasons. A) I want to see what the quality of the bucks are on my property so I know what I’m going to be hunting that year. And my fawn recruitment. What am I going to have in future years? How many fawns do I have? Because those are my four and five year old bucks. Four and five years from now. But, most importantly, I want to see my total density of deer and I know my food plots and the amount of rain we’ve had this year and all those factors and put it all together so I can prescribe for myself and my family a harvest plan. So, a survey is an index or a relational factor of where our population is year to year to year. And if we use the same tools and the same techniques, whether we’re at 89% of total or 91% of our total herd, it’s the same year to year to year and we can base our harvest strategy on that.
WOODS: What we call the camera station is one of the most important parts of implementing the camera survey. And a camera station is simply where you’re trying to attract deer to a specific spot so the camera is taking a picture. You can’t survey your deer herd unless you get images of them and to get images of them just sitting on a random trail or over a road or whatever, usually won’t get a high percentage of your total deer herd. So, we’re going to have a station for every 100 acres or less. We’re going to, within that 100 acre grid, we’re going to find an area that has the highest deer usage. You know, just downhill of a pond or at the edge of a popular food plot. And right here, I’ve got a food plot right behind me. There’s a creek right down here. I’ve got this old logging road that deer kind of use as a travel corridor. I put a Trophy Rock out, because deer love mineral in this late July/August time frame. And when we really get the survey cranked up, I’ll make a “U” pattern of corn.
WOODS: It’s important to get your pattern, kind of like this. Again, if you’ve got three or four bucks coming in at once, hopefully, they’re spread out and their bodies aren’t blocking the view of each other. Now how much corn you put out depends on your deer denisty and you learn. I, we typically run our cameras every three to five days. We’re working. We can’t be there every day and we don’t want our scent here every day. And on our property, we know that about 25 pounds, or half a bag, will get us two or three days. Now, you’re gonna have a bunch of squirrels and coons and birds and non-target animals coming in here. And that’s okay. You get to see turkeys and the other stuff too, but, depending on how many non-targets you got robbing your corn, makes a difference of how much you put out.
WOODS: Developing the camera station is critical. So, here’s three things in review I like. I want it in the core of my 100-acre block in an area where they use a lot. I want a dark background because I’ll get better quality images with a dark background than a bunch of native grass or twigs or something that, at nighttime, look like tines on the antler. And where the image is going to be taken, I want it really open, so there’s no interference with those antler tines and I can uniquely identify each buck. Now, another factor is: how are you going to program your camera? And when we’re doing a survey, what we’ve worked out over years and years is we want to take three pictures each time we take a set of pictures and our hope is that the deer may have its head down, ten seconds later, it turns a little bit, ten seconds later, it picks its head up. We’re gonna get at least one good view and, hopefully, two or three where we can really see the rack, put those different views together so we can uniquely identify that deer. Those are really important factors. You’ll find out how to set your camera based on your herd density. If they’re coming in all day long, you don’t need 4,000 pictures of the same deer. So you want to put, maybe, a 30 minute delay in between when it will take pictures and then when it takes the pictures – a blast of three – on a ten second interval or something like that. If you don’t have many deer and you want every picture you possibly can, don’t have any delay. If it senses an event, it takes a picture. You need to work out that time frequency based on your herd density and how frequently they’re using your attraction.
WOODS: Camera surveys are vastly different than sticking some trail cameras out in the woods and trying to locate a buck or just, generally see what the bucks are on your property. It’s a scientific design and that spooks some people. But, it shouldn’t. It’s really easy. It’s a methodical process you just walk through. And to help you out, if you look at the bottom of the screen right now, you’ll notice a call out. If you just click on that, it will take you to the written instructions Brad and I have developed on how we implement camera surveys for our clients nationwide. It’s just really a 1-2-3 sequence of what to do to develop a good camera survey. I hope you check those out, implement a camera survey on your Proving Grounds and really enjoy the benefits of learning more about your deer herd.
WOODS: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.tv.