We’re already on the front steps of summer. Should trail cameras be out right now? These questions might run through your head each and every summer. And depending on who you ask for advice, you get many different responses to running trail cameras in the summer months. Whenever I am faced with a difficult decision, I make a “pros” and “cons” list. Here’s mine regarding summer trail cameras.
PRO: It’s Fun
There’s not much more that will get a hunter’s blood boiling that a few fresh pictures of a giant velvet buck hanging out nearby. I get really excited when I know there’s a shooter whitetail in my area. Fingers crossed that he sticks around!
Certain camera locations become family projects and my kids love monitoring them. I bring the kids along to the locations that we can drive to, or easily walk to. These cameras are usually on a popular food source. We anticipate with excitement each time the kids and I pull a memory card. Often we will get pictures of deer, sometimes turkeys, and occasionally a coyote, fox, pheasant, or other surprise. Maintaining trail cameras is a great way to teach young hunters woodsmanship, a love for the outdoors, and respect for the wildlife. It’s also guaranteed time spent together.
CON: Human Interference
Many overzealous hunters take to the woods each preseason, camera in hand, and ruin perfectly decent hunting spots. They forget the basic hunting ideal of “leave no trace”, and make a giant mess of human scent and suspicious behavior. They aren’t scent conscious, will hack and cut away at brush and branches, and leave many other signs of their presence. If any buck were in the area, they are probably not anymore. If they do stick around, they probably won’t cooperate with the camera.
Even a disciplined hunter can accidentally educate deer in the summer. Maybe a faint hint of bug spray, a few drops of sweat, or sun screen rubbing off on the wrong leaf and that loyal buck will find a new place to call home. I spoke with Lee Gatzke of NextBuk Outdoors and asked his opinion on summer trail camera placement. Lee said, “Basically any place a deer can expect to run into human scent (crop field, barnyard, backyard, hiking trail, two track, etc.…) is acceptable to place cameras to take summer inventory.” If a camera is too close to a buck’s core area, and he becomes suspicious, chances are he will not stick around for a second picture opportunity."
The summer is a wonderful time to take inventory on the local deer herd. Many hunters will glass fields at dusk. Glassing fields is an easy, low impact way to see who is hanging around. Running trail cameras on a preferred food source or mineral site is also a great way to take the current census of the local deer herd. For hunters who are juggling a lot and can’t find time to glass, trail cameras are a useful tool for summer scouting. I also asked Justin Hollandsworth of NextBuk Outdoors how he uses trail cameras in the summer. Justin added, “Trail cameras are my bread and butter. I like to use them throughout the summer so by September and October I know who stayed, who left, and who showed up. Observing their behavior and personality in the summer will dictate how I hunt them.”
CON: Patterns Change
I spoke with Bill Winke and asked him if and how he used trail cameras in the summer. “I don’t see a big strategy reason to run them in the summer. It's just for fun and to watch the deer grow. The real importance of cameras for patterning occurs after they shed their velvet and break up their bachelor groups.”
Bill has a different opinion and makes a good point. Many summer bachelor group bucks might be long gone by the time things get serious in the fall. Trying to pattern a mature buck in the summer could be a big waste of gas, batteries, and precious fishing time.
Some may wonder, how can trespassing ever be a “pro?” Well, I’d rather locate and deal with a trespassing issue in the summer rather than at the last minute in the fall. The same goes for wandering dogs, neighborhood kids playing airsoft or paintball, lost mountain bikers, trail runners, walkers, or any other source of interference. I don’t like to come to a hunting property with high hopes on opening day only to see more dogs than deer.
CON: Waste of Time and Resources
With the economy in such a stagnant place, and few precious minutes to spare, many people don't want to invest their time or resources into a summer trail camera regiment. Some hunters may choose not to burn up their budget or allotted free time from the family during the summer. If their finances and time are budgeted, it may be wiser to wait until September to dust off the cameras.
“Yeah” or “Nay” Maintaining trail cameras in the summer may not be the solution for every hunter. One thing is for sure, if trail cameras are being used, use them wisely. Place the camera in a logical spot, limit the amount of interference, and don’t give that wise old buck any reason to leave earlier than he needs to.