I had an employer once teach that in life there are three types of people. There are “those that make things happen, those that wait for things to happen, and those that wonder what the [beep] just happened.” When it comes to hunting, which person are you? Are you going to make things happen?
A very important part of making things happen includes summer scouting. Utilizing trail cams can be one of the best ways to understand the animals you pursue and the areas you hunt.
I recently sat down with Ryan Carter of DC Outfitters to discuss the ins and outs of setting trail cameras in the backcountry. Ryan actively manages a string of over 40 cameras. The success of his clients is often unmatched. You could certainly say Ryan understands what it means to make things happen! Proof of that is Rick Houghton’s DC Outfitters 2014 giant featured on Utah’s Top 10 Monster Elk of 2014. This is one success of many for DC Outfitters.
Ryan brought up many important points to successfully setting cameras in the field. Some of these points may seem obvious; yet, we get in the field and forget. Let this be your reminder!
- Face your cameras to the North: By facing your cameras to the North you will alleviate any interference with the sun in the early morning, mid-day, and late evening hours. Nothing is worse than making it back to your camera only to find many of your pictures are white. Avoid a south facing set up at all cost. Get creative with your placement and face em’ North.
- Clear the area and create a photo path: Nobody wants a wind buck on their trail camera. Take a close look at your surroundings. If the wind were to pick up, would branches or debris activate your motion detector? Be sure to pack a saw and be sure to clear a photo path.
- Place your cameras at locations you are willing to check: You have selected what you feel will be your greatest setup yet. It is remote. It is untouched. You feel it’ll really produce but the reality is you won’t be able to check on it very often. You may not even get back to it before the hunt. Pay attention to your reality. It isn’t a great setup if you can’t check in on it.
- Buy what you can afford: It is important to understand that most cameras on the market can do the job. Clarity can be improved. Ease of use can be argued. Trigger speed, IR effectiveness, and distance are all valid points. In the end, you need to understand what is coming into your camera. You should be able to do so with a wide variety of high end and low end cameras. Simply buy what you can afford and don’t feel as though you need the best.
- Buy what you can afford to lose: It is unfortunate this even lands on this list. When referring to a lost camera, I am referring to thieves. There is little worse than a thief. Check the card if you must, but don’t be the low life type that takes a camera. Lock boxes can help; however, as Ryan has said, “lock boxes keep honest people honest.” In the end, if someone wants it bad enough, they’ll get it. You need to certainly buy what you can afford; however, make sure you buy what you can afford to lose.
- Pick camera locations that provide a trifecta of core elements: When selecting a spot for your trail camera keep in mind the obvious importance of food, shelter, and water. Do animals have access to these three elements near your placement? Check with local laws to determine if you are able to enhance the elements with attractants.
- State law may not be on your side: Let me preface by saying, if you see a trail cam in the field and take it you are an absolute waste of space. You are likely a poacher. You have complete disregard for others and their property. You are lazy. You are also welcome to never visit this blog again. That being said, if an item is left in the field for a specified period of time the law may consider it public property. This may include your trail cams, tree stands, etc. Your trail cam may get stolen. You may even know who it was that stole your property. There may be little you can do about it. As a result, keep in mind #5.
- Test the shot before leaving your camera: Are you cameras pointed in the right direction? It may not be enough to just “eyeball” it. With a little pre-testing, your shots can turn out much better. Take the time to test your camera. Is it taking the type of shot that is going to teach you the most about your setup. Take some test pictures onsite and adjust.
- Never forget your essentials: There is little worse than getting to you distant camera only to realize you forgot batteries, viewing device, and or SD cards. Before each trip, run through your checklist. Forgetting your essentials can set you back days or weeks in your scouting efforts this summer.
- Be cautious of trees that are perfect for scraping: Trees are the obvious go to for hanging your cameras. Trees are also the go to for back scratching and scraping when it comes to the animals you pursue. Evaluate the tree. Is it likely to become a scrape? Adjust your plans around tree size and venerability to be knocked around by a big bull, buck, or bear.
In the end, get out and make it happen. Many desire to experience success while hunting; yet, very few are willing to put in the time. If you want to get the Outdoor bug, start by purchasing a trail camera. I love checking trail cameras. It can be likened unto Christmas Day and the excitement surrounding the unknown of what you are about to discover. Let’s make it happen!
Special Thanks to all those who sent in some amazing trail camera pictures. (Cover Photo) Hazen Downward, Trevor Hunt (Pine Creek Outfitters), Hunter Bloxham, Sawyer Peacock, Jaron Dansie, and Jeff Pearson.