The popularity of trail cameras has grown greatly over the past five years, and for good reason. They are not only cool and fun to use but when used correctly, they can dramatically increase your chances of scoring in the field. They are used by virtually every serious hunter and deer manager and are probably the most important advancement in hunting equipment since the compound bow and portable treestands.

While the advancements in technology have been huge, the most important development in scouting cameras has been how people use them. If all you are doing with cameras is taking pictures of big bucks and showing them to your buddies, you are missing the boat. Serious deer managers and serious deer hunters are using them to make better decisions about managing deer and killing big bucks.

You need to keep a few things in mind when setting up your cameras. First, you need to be totally familiar with their operation before going afield. Play with them in your living room first, then run them for a while in the backyard. Walk back and forth in front of them at a variety of ranges (night and day) to see what they can do. Practice aiming; targeting a little above your belt buckle is about right for moving deer. Once you get the hang of it, you are ready to head to the field.

Placing cameras in areas that deer frequent is not as simple as it seems. You have to remember human scent means danger to a deer. They don’t know the difference between a gun and a camera. Set cameras where they will pick up deer, but are easy to access unobtrusively. Checking them in the middle of the day will minimize chance encounters. And don’t set them up where the wind will alert every deer in the area that danger is near. And most of all, visit them only when necessary. Or, if your budget can handle it, use remote cameras that send images to your cell phone 24-7.

Set Up Tips

-Set camera 10 to 15 feet from target area
-Set camera on a stout tree to prevent movement
-Adjust to about waist high
-A solid dark background helps frame photos
-Avoid limb-filled backdrops that obscure antlers
-Clear brush near camera to avoid false triggers
-Face camera north if feasible (away from sun)
-Put a location identifier in the target area
-Avoid areas where fog collects
-Avoid stand sites—increased hunter sign might alert deer
-Check operation and target acquisition

For more information on how to pattern bucks, click here.