Trail cameras: Time to start shooting deer . . . just not with arrows yet

All avid deer hunters should know it’s about time to start shooting deer — with a camera, that is.

All avid deer hunters should know it’s about time to start shooting deer — with a camera, that is.

According to my new “New York Hunting & Trapping 2013-14” book, we only have 37 more days (until Sept. 27) before the opening of the Northern Zone bow season and 40 days (Oct. 1) before the opening of bow season in the Southern Zone.

The camera I’m talking about is the trail camera, and they’ve come a long, long way since their introduction back in the 1970s. In today’s busy world, very few of us have the time to get into the woods and see what’s happening, and unfortunately, many enter the woods on opening day with a guess and/or hope hunting plan that generally results in an unfilled buck tag. I know this from experience.

Hunters today, regardless of how much time they’ve spent in the woods before the season’s opening, can increase their odds of success by using a trail cam, and it requires minimal time in the woods. They still have to find the trails and other visual deer signs, but that’s the easy part. What a hunter needs to know is what’s eating where, and/or following which trails.

A well-placed trail cam will show exactly what type of deer are there. It’s a 24 hours-a-day “eyes in the woods.” From its information, a hunter can develop a confident deer hunt game plan. Let’s take a look at what my “eye in the deer woods” will be this year.

At this year’s Shot Show, I spent a lot of time visiting all the booths of manufacturers that were unveiling new trail cameras, and believe me, there are quite a few from which to choose. Some of the qualific-ations I was looking for included a long battery life, clarity and field of view or scan, flash mode and price. Ironically, my first stop was Bushnell, which in the end, was my final choice.

They’ve introduced upgrades to their Trophy Cam HD line which include a one-year battery life, sup-erior image clarity, hybrid capture mode, hyper PIR (passive infrared), freeze-frame shutter and an ultra-low flash model. Bushnell is offering a series of four units for 2013.

Some of the standard features include eight-MP image resolution and HD video. The new hybrid capture mode allows taking a still image and video each time the camera is triggered, which is always fun and exciting to watch. The hyper PIR greatly improves the detection range to up to 60 feet.

This PIR can also now be set to automatically adjust according to the ambient temperature, resulting in fewer false triggers. The multi-flash mode allows selecting the ideal flash settings based on the location of the camera and distance to the game. And for clear, close-up images, the new, ultra-low flash setting uses only eight LEDs to reduce the risk of overexposure, and it also conserves battery life.

Other features include a very fast trigger speed and a 32-GB SD card with capacity to store more than 20,000 images. You can check out each of the Trophy Cam units at Manufacturers’ suggested retail price ranges from $200 to $300.

set-up tips

Bushnell strongly suggests sitting down and learning how the camera and all its features work and how the unit will best help get you a deer.

Finding a good area to place the cam is very important. If it’s on a game trail, set it back about 10 feet, so that when it triggers, the animal is still in the shot. Nothing should be blocking the view of the camera. Bring brush cutters to cut a clear view. Be sure the tree is straight up and down, and set the camera about 40 inches above the ground.

When setting up, try to point your camera facing either north or south. This will prevent backlighting the deer or game being photog-raphed, making its features hard to determine. Every “point” counts, and you want to know exactly how many he has.

Be sure to check your photo times. If that big fella is only around at night, you need to make some decisions. You may have to phys-ically locate where he could be bedding down and/or his morning and evening movements. But when the trophy cam photos show movement during hunting hours, I suggest setting up a stand and being ready to greet him on opening morning.

I remember as a new trail cam user, I was visiting my deer woods every other day to see what was on the camera. Remember, humans smell, and leaving our scent in the woods too frequently is eventually going to keep Mr. Buck out of the area.

When you set up a trail cam, be sure to spray it down and the bushes, etc., around it with scent killer. And when you visit, which should be no sooner than a week after setting it, spray yourself down before going into the woods.

Trail cams are a costly item and, unfortunately, there are those who walk among us and in our woods that will not hesitate to make your trail cam theirs. Put a lock on it! Google “trail camera locks,” and you’ll find plenty to choose from.

Hunters, don’t wait too long. There are things going on in the deer woods now that you should be watching. Get that trail cam set up, and be ready to fill your buck tag this season.

Turkey hunters can benefit from this same camera. It will let you know if the turkeys are visiting any of your favorite fields this October and next spring.

Categories: Sports

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