I have eyes in the woods at all times.
They monitor the area where I deer hunt and give me a good idea of what I may encounter on opening day.
Trail cameras are a huge benefit to hunters, one that may replace another “tried and true” method that hunters commonly use to see what’s out there — spotlighting.
As a scouting tool, trail cameras are rocketing in popularity and they have many advantages over spotlighting.
Trail cameras allow an area to be monitored 24/7. Spotlighting gives you a brief glimpse and can only be used until 11 p.m. But the cameras, they’re always watching. Trail cameras are more versatile as well. While spotlighting is limited to open fields, trail cameras can be moved around, or multiple cameras can be set over a hunting area, to pinpoint deer activity.
Another benefit with the cameras is not only can the location of deer activity be narrowed down, but also the time of day, or night. It’s an effective way to pattern deer behavior before the season starts. With a spotlight, you can see deer feeding in a field at night where you expect them to be, and that’s about it.
The popularity of trail cameras is evident by the number of reader submissions I’ve received for each Sunday’s Caught on Camera feature. Each week, more images are emailed, and every single one is fascinating. One reader who operates several cameras told me when he downloads the memory card, it’s like Christmas morning just seeing what the cameras captured.
Despite the effectiveness, and enjoyment afforded by trail cameras, spotlighting still has its benefits.
With a spotlight, you have mobility. A drive around some country roads dotted with farm fields provides numerous spotlighting locations, and the chance to see a lot of deer. Cameras, obviously, are stationary and while they can be moved around are limited to a specific location. If nothing moves through that particular area for a few days, the camera sits idle.
Spotlighting is also a great way to observe deer behavior firsthand. The beam from my spotlight has captured sparring bucks and playful fawns, providing a nighttime show that I always feel lucky to witness.
And oddly enough, driving around dirt roads at night casting a light into fields is a great way to spend time with family and friends. The uncertainty of not knowing what’s in the next field until the beam from a spotlight illuminates the night provides a level of excitement.
Sure, trail cameras may make spotlighting unnecessary when it comes to scouting for deer, but there is yet another method that trumps them both.
Despite what technological aids are out there — cameras, lights, etc. — nothing beats simply lacing up a pair of boots and hitting the woods to scout for the fall deer seasons. While it’s one thing to see trail cameras overtake spotlighting in terms of popularity, it would be a shame to see them do the same to scouting for deer by actually walking. While the cameras are effective, they will never replace a simple walk in the woods to see what’s out there.
A scouting trip through your favorite hunting area is the best way to determine travel patterns, bedding areas, rut activity and everything else deer are doing. And like trail cameras and spotlighting, walking yields some exciting finds. I always get a rush when I find an enormous buck rub in the area I hunt. Even better is an up close encounter with a monster buck.
A walk in the woods has been, and always will be the best scouting technique.
But that doesn’t mean I won’t have a few trail cameras keeping an eye on things as well.