Bobby Jordan has found an easier way to scout for deer season.
Sure, the Beaumont resident still logs plenty of miles walking in the woods each year searching for deer sign, but for the last 10 years he's done just as much scouting in the comfort of his own home.
With the use of trail cameras – Jordan uses three, he can get a better idea of what kind of bucks are in the area, the trails they are using and when they are active.
It does make scouting easier because you can cover more areas with cameras, Jordan said. If you get a location that's generating a lot of pictures, you know it's a good spot.
Still, just like actual scouting in the woods, there are a few techniques behind the proper use of trail cameras.
Jordan said a common mistake is mounting the camera too high. Three feet for deer, bear and just about anything else that roams the woods is high enough, he said.
Location is critical as well if you're hoping to capture a few images of a monster buck.
Don't put them on the main deer trails, Jordan said. Big bucks don't run with the crowd. Focus on the side trails, especially the ones that have a good number of buck rubs. That's where you want your camera set up.
Shavertown resident Clark Van Orden Jr. uses a trail camera to scout the property he hunts in Franklin Township. He puts the camera out in early June and moves it around the property to pinpoint deer hotspots.
Cameras as a tool for scouting are effective, Van Orden said, as evident by a recent buck he captured on the memory card.
Just before archery season I got him on camera, and when I was hunting I saw him traveling just the way he appeared to be on the camera, Van Orden said.
Deer movements often change after hunting season begins, and that's when Bear Creek Village resident Britt Trumbower relies on cameras to tell him what the deer are doing.
This archery season, he said, deer spent time in nearby game lands feeding on acorns. Hunters were setting up along farm fields, and the deer noticed and reverted to hanging out in the game lands until after dark before moving into the fields.
On my cameras I had lots of photos in the fields on Sept. 21, not so much by Oct. 6, Trumbower said. My trail cameras are great indicators of how deer patterns change after archery starts.
Jordan hunts a 300-acre property in the Back Mountain and puts his three cameras out in August, often setting them up near a mineral lick used to attract deer. That gives him a good idea of what's in the area. Jordan removes all of the mineral licks more than 30 days before deer season begins, and relocates his cameras to specific locations, such as trails, to try and pattern deer movement.
He leaves the cameras up through deer season to get an idea of which bucks survived.
Aside from setting cameras at the right height, Jordan said it's important to spray a scent eliminator on the camera and mounting strap. That's a lesson that Jordan learned years ago when he began using trail cameras, and earlier this year he had a reminder.
I got a picture of a bear with his face right in the camera lens. I didn't have gloves on when I hung the camera, and he got his nose right in there smelling my scent, Jordan said.
When he hangs his cameras, Jordan not only sprays down the equipment with scent eliminator, he also wears rubber boots and gloves to limit his own scent in the area.
You can fool a deer's eyes and ears, but you can't fool his nose. If you don't eliminate your scent on the camera, you'll get close-ups of the buck's face right in there, and as soon as that shutter clicks they're gone. The next picture you'll have nothing.
Because deer often travel in groups, Jordan has his cameras set to take three photos 10 seconds apart. That way he'll get most if not all the deer in a particular group, as opposed to having the camera go off once every minute which would allow some deer to pass through unnoticed.
As a final touch, Jordan conceals the mounting strap with brush so it can't be seen by others, reducing the risk of theft.
As far as equipment, Jordan advised keeping it simple. A camera with an infrared flash for less than $100 is fine, he said, and a 2-gigabyte card that can hold 600 pictures is more than adequate. A camera with a motion test mode is also helpful to make sure it's pointing in the right direction.
I really enjoy the trail cameras for scouting and just getting interesting images of all kinds of wildlife, Jordan said. I've gotten bears, coyotes, skunks, turkeys and even a baby bobcat – it was short and fat with a bobbed tail.
But the best part, according to Van Orden is plugging the memory card into his computer for a first look at what the camera captured.
You get goosebumps, he said. It's either exciting because you'll have some bucks on there, or a bummer when you see nothing but pictures of crows, squirrels and opossums.
Capture anything interesting on your trail camera? A nice buck, bear, coyote or anything else? We'd love to see it. Each week we'll run a photo from a reader's trail camera on the Sunday Outdoors page. Email your photo, along with date and area it was taken (township is fine) and any other details to firstname.lastname@example.org.