Trail cameras have changed the way deer hunters approach the season

The approach of bow season for Louisiana deer should find hunters really kicking up their activity as they try to get a leg up on their quarry. Trail cameras have become a big part of that preparation. Here’s how one veteran hunter uses them.

Author George Orwell warned us in his famous novel,1984, when he coined the phrase “Big brother is watching you.” It meant your actions and intentions are being monitored by big government.

Unfortunately for Louisiana’s deer, “Big brother” is watching them, too, but nobody warned them. And it’s not the government doing the spying; it’s hunters.

“Game cameras are game changers,” said Justin Turner of Mer Rouge, a deer hunter and farmer, “especially the satellite cameras. They have changed the way we deer hunt, especially in relation to big bucks. The key is to start using them early and often, especially archery hunters. A lot of people might think it’s crazy, but I’ve probably got 20 deer cams, and I use them everywhere we hunt to monitor where the big deer are, where they like to go and when they go there.”

Big bucks like this are mostly nocturnal, but game cameras help you pattern them for your best chance at a good shot.

The growth in archery hunting for big deer has been insane. Annually, the number of hunters who target trophy deer with archery equipment grows. If you are going to be that guy or gal, you better start your prep now if you haven’t already. Louisiana’s bow season is just a month away, and if you aren’t already on the trail of a big one, you are already a bit tardy.

Here’s how Turner goes about his prep and early season hunting.

“It’s hard to practice in August because it’s so hot, but the really dedicated ones have already started,” Turner said. “By all means, you need to make sure your gear is in top shape. Set up a practice schedule several times a week during September. I find it makes it easier if you can do it with friends, because they keep you motivated, and the competition keeps you sharp. And while you are keeping your shooting skills sharp, make sure you do the same with your arrow points.”

Watchful eye

There is something else that needs to be done now if not sooner.

“I like to set some cameras to get an inventory of what deer are in the woods,” he said. “Before the acorns drop, I’ll put out a little feed and try to entice them out into the open. The earlier you can find a big buck and get it patterned, the better.

“See what he does in different conditions. Archery season opens before the rut starts, so they are a little bit more predictable. In fact, big bucks are a bit lazy before the rut. They are like us. The older they get, the less they want to have to work for food, and they get grouchy. They don’t like to know you are around. And they don’t like to move that much, so early on, they will take the shortest path from their bedding area to the food and back.”

Even with the serious surveillance from his cameras, Turner admits that monster bucks are killed every year that have never seen on camera, so cameras aren’t a guarantee of success that you are getting a look at the biggest bucks. You may pattern a big deer perfectly, but then, he may turn into a ghost and you never get a shot at him the whole season. 

Turner comes from a family of hunters. His father, Barry, taught him, and he takes his whole family, including sons John and Jude — they are all bowhunters, and they all rely on cameras.

“I start early setting up cameras everywhere I plan to hunt,” he said. “A lot of people keep them up all year, but where they are in March or July isn’t as important as where they are and what they are doing this month.” 

Freedom of movement

The beauty of bowhunting, Turner said, is that you can go to where the deer are, and you can move with them. You can pop up a ground blind, hang a climbing stand or a lean-to stand where deer are traveling.

When cameras start showing bucks coming to food or roaming a trail in the daylight hours, it’s time to find a tree for your stand.

“I like to look for pinch points on trails early and then scrapes and rubs later in the season,” he said. “If you can find where they are moving along a fence line, drainage ditch or thicket, it will eventually lead to a pinch point where it brings them to the same spot each day. And if you catch them moving from bedding areas to feeding areas, they are much less likely to find you. 

“If you’ve ever hunted over food plots or feeders, you know how skittish they are all the time. That’s because they aren’t dumb. They know there isn’t supposed to be a pile of corn or rice bran or a big field of turnips out in the middle of the woods.”

Gear

Having gear in good shape and equipment you are confident in is crucial. Turner loves the Covert Black 20 LTE satellite camera, which comes in two models: one for Verizon and one for AT&T. It’s important to have good cell service in areas you put cameras if you want to get the pictures. 

Turner hunts with a 7- or 8-year-old bow that is smooth, and he won’t change just for the sake of changing. He shoots lightweight arrows with mechanical broadheads. He recommends always having a bow hanger, a good pair of binoculars and a range finder. Two other things he never goes without are an Ozonics system to help cover his scent and a Thermocell to keep the mosquitoes from carrying him off. Mosquitoes probably save more big bucks’ lives than anything else. 

One of the biggest mistakes Turner has made was trying to go into the deep woods right to where the deer live. That was a mistake.

“If they know you are coming in there, they won’t come out,” he said. “Find a spot where you won’t disturb them. Think about it. If somebody was coming in traipsing around your house, you’d know they were there. Find spots to bowhunt where you don’t leave a footprint in Mr. Buck’s neighborhood. You’ll do a whole lot better.”

Justin Turner carries a trail camera on every trip to the woods in case he stumbles onto some new, impressive deer sign and wants a camera to take a better look. (Photo Kinny Haddox)

Don’t leave home without it

Justin Turner doesn’t use an American Express credit card, but he never leaves home and goes to the woods without a game camera, whether he’s deer hunting or just scouting.

“You never know when you are going to walk up on a spot and find a giant scrape or rub or a new deer trail where you’ve never seen one before,” he said. “I always like to have an extra game camera with me so I can set it up and see what’s making that sign. It’s helped us find several big bucks over the years.”

High tech disk tool

One frustrating thing that happens to almost every hunter is putting a disc in a trail camera or your computer only to find a message such as “disk failed” or “disk will not read.”

Justin Turner learned an easy solution to erase a majority of those issues when you remove a disk from a trial camera. And it costs about 15 cents.

Keep your game camera disks clean and working right with a cheap pencil eraser like this one.

“The disk can get dirt or grime on the contacts and it just won’t work. You can take a simple pencil eraser and lightly rub the eraser on the disk to clean it, and in most cases, the problem is fixed,” he said. “The outdoor elements aren’t exactly the type of area that delicate camera systems and discs were developed for.”

And relax hunters, it won’t “erase” your disk pics.

Opening Day not far away

Opening Day 2020 for Louisiana bowhunters isn’t that far away, even though the weather doesn’t necessarily feel like deer season. Here’s the breakdown of this year’s archery season in Louisiana’s 10 hunting areas. It’s either sex hunting unless otherwise noted.

  • Area 1: Oct. 1-Jan. 31
  • Area 2: Oct.1-Jan. 31
  • Area 3: Sept. 19-Jan. 15
  • Area 4: Oct. 1-Jan. 31
  • Area 5: Oct. 16-Feb. 15 (Bucks only, Oct. 1-15)
  • Area 6: Oct. 16-Feb. 15 (Bucks only, Oct. 1-15)
  • Area 7: Sept. 19-Jan. 15
  • Area 8: Sept. 19-Jan. 15
  • Area 9: Oct. 16-Feb. 15 (Bucks only, Oct. 1-15)
  • Area 10: Sept 19-Jan. 15

Check the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ hunting regulations closely to make sure of season opening dates in the exact area that you will be hunting. Remember, it’s your personal responsibility to make sure you know and follow all hunting laws, regulations and requirements as well as season dates for areas that you are hunting.

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Kinny Haddox
About Kinny Haddox 350 Articles
Kinny Haddox has been writing magazine and newspaper articles about the outdoors in Louisiana for 45 years. He publishes a daily website, lakedarbonnelife.com and is a member of the Louisiana Chapter of the Outdoor Legends Hall of Fame. He and his wife, DiAnne, live in West Monroe.

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