Using Trail Cameras for Late Season Whitetails
Deer seasons around the country are winding down, and whether you are still in the hunt for a bruiser late season buck, doing some doe management on your hunting property, or taking inventory before shed season starts; trail cameras are the perfect tool to keep you in the game. Trail cameras are a critical means for taking stock of what bucks made it through the hunting season and are still using your core area. Using trail cameras to keep track of what bucks are still holding antlers, and getting an idea of where and when they dropped is a fantastic strategy to get an early start on shed season. Finally, if you still have time to fill that buck tag in your pocket, using a trail camera for late season whitetails can help get you into position if you do your homework.
Making the Most of Trail Cameras on Late Season Food Sources
The rut is over, if there was a second estrus in your area, it has come and gone. The hormone raged bucks of November now have one thing on their mind, and that’s food. Several factors come into play when positioning a trail camera to find deer at a food source, and it can be trickier than you might think. Elements like bedding cover, water sources, and human pressure all affect the quality and usability of particular food sources. By utilizing trail cameras you can pinpoint active feeding areas, identify the prime feeding times, and determine entrance and exit areas to put a plan together. One key aspect of using tail cameras on late season food sources is identifying the food sources the deer are using.
Types of Late Season Food Sources
Whitetail deer are amazingly resilient and can effectively utilize a variety of food sources. By using trail cameras near or over available food sources, you can identify the preferred and active feeds in your area. Here are some ideas on where to start:
Cut Crop Fields for Late Season Trail Cameras - The same properties that make crop fields critical to farmers, and ultimately to every one of us is their ability to produce quality and wholesome foods grown for exceptional protein and carbohydrates. The region you live and hunt in will dictate the crop fields that are available, here is a list of proven deer forage crop field types to get you started:
Soybean Fields for Late Season Trail Cameras - Soybeans are packed with high quality protein that deer require to make it through the winter months and into spring. Look for a bean field with ideal bedding cover nearby. Most farmers will have their beans cut and gone from the field by now, if you can find standing beans that is the place to start. A field where corners, edges, or terraces were left standing during harvest is a bonus! Finally, don’t let a cut field that looks like a dessert of bean stubble and a few scattered pods scare you away, deer will utilize what forage is available for their nutritional needs.
Corn Fields for Late Season Trail Cameras - Like soybeans, corn fields are a primary food source for late season whitetail deer. Corn is loaded with carbohydrates that deer utilize to maintain their metabolism and it provides critical energy for the tough winter months ahead. Similar to most crop fields this time of year, corn fields have probably been harvested months ago, but residual energy rich kernels that the combine missed are irresistible to deer. Pay attention to corn fields with travel corridors nearby. If a snow storm hits and soybeans are covered in a blanket of white, search out standing corn if you can find it.
Brassicas crops for Late Season Trail Cameras - Brassica is a genus of plants in the mustard family that includes crops like turnips and radishes. Modern farming no-till practices utilize these type of crops as fall and winter “cover crops” to keep down weeds and reduce topsoil compaction, and the deer love them! When the temperature dips, brassicas plants store sugars in their root structure, making them an ideal cold weather food source that is loaded with carbohydrates that deer crave.
Corn Piles, Deer Feeders, and Mineral Sites for Late Season Trail Cameras - Depending on your local state game management laws, the use of bait, whether it’s bagged corn, prepared and bagged feed mixes, or salt and mineral, is an ideal way to catch deer on camera. Set up bait sites with travel corridors and bedding areas in mind. Remember that bait sites, especially those utilizing feed will attract other game like turkey, raccoons, crows, and squirrels; be prepared to feed the whole neighborhood when you set out to establish a bait area.
Find the Spot on the Spot for Late Season Deer Trail Cameras
Scouting to find the general areas deer are using and feeding in during their late season pattern is the first step in your late season trail camera strategy. Once you establish an approximate region the deer are using, it’s time to pinpoint the active bedding, travel, field entrance, and field exit areas. Similar to early season deer, late season deer can be fairly predictable if they remain unpressured. By using trail cameras, you can determine the true core areas the deer are using, even what times they are using what areas.
Seek Out Edges and Corners for Late Season Deer Trail Cameras - Finding travel corridors and field entrance areas offers you the best opportunity to capture deer on camera. Field edges and corners are the perfect place to start your search for heavily used whitetail travel corridors. Look for well used paths, deer tracks, deer hair at fence crossings, and fresh scat. Try to position your camera at an angle that covers an extensive amount of an established trail, or a considerable amount of the field area nearest to where the deer are entering the field.
Find Pinch Points and Natural Funnels for Late Season Deer Trail Cameras - By utilizing aerial photography and mapping, you can effectively identify pinch points and natural funnels in deer travel ways. An aerial image can really help paint the bigger picture to identify where whitetails are likely to bed and travel. Looking over an area a mile or two outside you core hunting area from an aerial view will reveal general topography and travel routes that can be lost at a micro level. By carefully deploying a trail camera in a natural funnel, your odds of catching deer on camera go way up.
Utilize Time Lapse on Late Season Deer Trail Cameras - If your trail camera supports time lapse mode, it’s a go to strategy for late season feed fields. Search out high points in the field like a terrace, or even utilize a tree step or two to gain some elevation for your camera. Setup your time lapse to run at dusk and dawn when feeding activity is most prevalent, or to run after a motion trigger if that is an option. Time lapse is an amazing tool to help you determine what areas of the feed field are being most utilized, how many deer are frequenting the area, and exactly where the deer are entering and exiting the field.
Burst Mode is Critical for Late Season Deer Trail Cameras - Late season deer move into herd mentality and commonly move in herd groups. Often times young does and bucks will lead the herd into the feeding or bedding area. When a young deer triggers the camera, make sure you are still taking pictures when that hit list buck walks past the camera. Be careful to not let a deer walk past the camera without capturing it.
Make Sure Your Camera is in Tip Top Shape for Late Season Deer - Short days, cold temperatures, and harsh conditions are the rule for late season whitetails. Those same conditions are tough on trail cameras. If you spent the pre, peak, and post rut in the stand every spare moment, and neglected your trail cameras, now is the time for a remedy. To make sure your investment in both time and money is put to work effectively, confirm your trail cameras are at their best for late season.
Use Lithium Batteries for Late Season Deer Cameras - Any trail camera is only as good as the batteries that power it. Don’t let frigid temperatures freeze up your scouting and put your trail camera under the weather. Lithium batteries will cost more up front, but it’s an investment in reliability. The operating temperature for lithium AA batteries is good up to -40, and they are shelf stable for ten years! Drop some fresh lithium batteries into your trail cameras for the late season to ensure they are up and running when the temperature drops and the time is right for that big buck to feed.
Alkaline Batteries Come in Second for Late Season Deer Trail Cameras - Not as costly as their lithium cousins, alkaline batteries can still put in a day's work if your winter temperatures are not too severe. Considerably better than carbon-zinc batteries, alkaline batteries will perform reliably down to about zero degrees Fahrenheit, but get below that and their useful life decreases by about 60%. One factor to consider with alkaline batteries is their risk of leaking. If lithium batteries are too far out of your price range, or your winter weather isn’t too frigid, then alkaline batteries could be just the ticket.
Use the Right SD Card for Your Late Season Deer Trail Camera - After all the work and worry locating the right spot for your trail camera and the expense of quality batteries, make sure you’ve got the right storage device card in your camera to record the action. SD cards are rated both by storage size and read / write speed. As a general rule, it’s always a good idea to run more storage on a card than you think you might need. Few things are more frustrating to check a camera only to find it full of pictures of raccoons and squirrels and the camera SD card ran out of memory days ago.
SD card read / write speed refers to the speed that the camera can write the digital information from the camera to the storage device. The higher the resolution, or Megapixel your camera is set to, the more critical the read / write speed becomes. Some of the newer trail cameras on the market will record full 4K video and take pictures in resolutions as high as 32MP, these types of image files require robust read / write speeds on a quality SD card.
Look for Creative Mounting Strategies for the Best Point of View and Security When it comes to Late Season Trail Camera Strategies
It’s late season, and the deer herd has been pressured for months now. From early season youth hunts to November archery seasons, and winter firearm seasons, the deer in your area have been pushed around and they are sensitive to pressure. Take into consideration how sensitive deer can be and look for creative ways to mount your trail cameras.
Aside from being careful not to pressure the deer in your core area, keep in mind that security against thieves who would like to take your trail cameras home can be a real issue. Utilizing out of the box thinking when deploying your trail cameras in the woods can help to secure them from would be thieves.
- Mount Trail Cameras High and Out of the Line of Sight for Late Season Whitetails - Once you find that sweet spot in a natural funnel, alongside a heavily used feed field and you’re ready to hang your trail camera, take a quick look around for a lofty spot to mount your camera. Using a little elevation to mount your camera can accomplish two positive goals.
First, even the slightest elevation gain will help widen the field of view in the lens and open up the images to capture more action. A small group of deer can easily cover each other up in front of camera lens mounted near the shoulder height of the deer, but raise the camera slightly and the image will reveal all the deer in the bunch.
Secondly, mounting your trail camera up and above the average line of sight of most people will go a long way to keeping your cameras secure. The old adage of out of sight, out of mind works to your favor here. Be sure that the camera is still pointed at enough downward angle to trigger any motion sensor to make sure you are recording all the action.
Put a Trail Camera Strategy to Work
For die-hard whitetail hunters, it’s hard to see the season end. Deer hunters are dedicated to their pursuit and late season cold weather isn’t enough to keep a deer hunter from the hunt. Shed season is just around the corner, and whether you are still in pursuit of a deer to put a late season tag on, or you are taking a late season inventory and tracking dropped antlers; trail cameras are the ideal tool to help your game.
With the right tools in your toolbox like aerial maps and photos, quality trail cameras equipped with cold weather batteries and the right SD card, putting a late season strategy to work is definitely attainable. Making the right investments with your late season whitetail trail camera plan of attack will help to stack the deck in your favor, no matter the goal.