By Kevin Tate
From monitoring the health and growth of a deer herd to simply filling the slow hours while waiting for deer season to open again, continuous trail cam use can be productive and rewarding all summer long.
More than just a method to help decide where to hang a stand, trail cameras have become year round tools for land managers of every description. In the past few years, technology and the marketplace have made trail cameras both more reliable and easier to use.
The first step in hanging any trail camera is considering the angle of the sun. At this latitude, pointing the trail camera any direction but north is likely to create washed out pictures and lens flare at certain times of day. By facing the camera north if at all possible, you’ll keep Murphy’s Law out of the lighting side of the equation.
The best trail cameras can reliably take clear pictures of walking deer, but almost any camera on the market can take good photos if the deer stop in front of them. The trick, then, is figuring out how to stop deer in front of the camera, or, better yet, how to put a camera facing north toward an area where deer stop.
Where the deer can be expected to stop at this time of year, and especially during the hot months ahead, is at a mineral lick.
Whether natural or man-made, mineral licks provide grazing animals with sodium, calcium, iron, zinc and phosphorus – critical components for muscle, bone and antler growth. These sites are effective draws for deer in the spring and summer when these growth processes are taking place.
Summer food plots are also excellent spots to monitor with trail cameras, and are ideal venues to use the cameras’ time lapse features. Time lapse photos of a wide area can show numbers as well as sizes of deer and also indicate when and how they’re using the field.
Hang ‘em high
If you’ll be using your cameras on public land, or even on land commonly crossed by the public, it’s a good idea to put some thought toward hiding the cameras themselves. Strapped to a bare trunk in plain view can help a camera get good photos, but it can help the camera get vandalized or stolen as well. If this is a concern, and especially if poachers and trespassers are one of the main things your trail cameras are set out to monitor, experts say hanging the cameras 10 feet high or so can be just the ticket in more ways than one.
As summer gives way to fall and the bucks break out of their bachelor groups, strategies for getting them on camera change, but a full summer’s history of their growth and travel will give you a solid place to start, not to mention a good idea of exactly what you’re looking for.