Trail cameras makes public-land deer hunting more effective

The Atchafalaya Delta holds plenty of redfish.

Setting out trail cameras has become one of my favorite parts of my hunting experience, adding a fun tactical advantage in planning hunts and scouting.

However, finding the most used trails to put a camera on is very challenging on public land. Without being able to feed, the deer don’t stop for pictures and are rarely concentrated in one area.

Without careful planning you’ll miss getting deer on the camera, thinking a productive spot is a bust, or you may leave too much human scent – making the deer walk a new trail away from the picture zone.

All of these challenges sometimes makes catching a big buck on camera just as tough as shooting him.

An approach I use is setting two to three cameras in one area if I haven’t hunted that spot before. You’ll be surprised when one of the cameras has way more action than others.

Then you can figure out the best trees to hunt in that spot. Those deer are tricky and rarely walk their easy-to-follow paths during daylight, but when found it’s a bowhunter’s bonus!

Once I have a productive location, I don’t like putting too much scent at my hunting spots, so I’ll look for nearby trails and terrain bottlenecks to set cameras to see what deer are in the area. During the season you may see what bucks made it through a gun-hunting weekend, which can give confidence if chasing after a few specific bucks.

During the summer months, I set cameras on the edges of fields and main trails that the deer walk more often due to less pressure.

Right now, I’ll be looking for persimmons trees to place a camera by.

Also, broken spider webs are a key indicator of commonly used trails. In the dry late-summer and early fall months I’ll also set cameras near water sources looking for fresh tracks.

Choose wisely
When picking your game camera, there are many different features to look for that  depend on your needs.

Each camera has its own set of features, so you should research price, camera security, camera speed, ease of use, picture quality, picture range, battery life, durability, camera size, etc.

For my needs, I was looking for security, speed and price above all. After much research, I came across the Primos Truth Cams and never looked back. Everyone I spoke with who has used them gave me positive reviews.

First, the price was the biggest hurdle for me. I hunt several public lands and many locations on each. I wanted more cameras verses a couple of expensive ones. This way, if something happens to one it isn’t a big deal.

I got the Primos 35 on Sportsmans Guide for $71, and even saved more with coupons.

Unfortunately, many cameras do get stolen and tampered with when used on public land. So I wanted a camera that could lock easily. I own over a dozen cameras, so getting lockboxes for every one of them was out of the question.

Primos was the only one I found with a cable hole through the entire camera case so I could put a cheap $4 cable lock to secure the unit. Also, I purchased a case of 30 small padlocks for $20 on eBay to lock the memory card portion of the camera because I’ve had memory cards stolen before.

Another big issue was the camera speed. I researched all the cameras.

Of course all the expensive ones have quick speeds, but in the $100 range many of the cameras took 2 to 4 seconds to take the picture. This will leave you with an empty picture when triggered unless you set up your camera on an angle to a particular trail – but that limits the number of trails and area you can film.

The Primos works in under 1 1/2 seconds every time, so I rarely miss anything crossing the camera.

Don’t be a fool and buy a camera because the box says it has a fast trigger speed. They all say that: Research for the exact time for the trigger speed.

With a fast trigger, I’ll set the camera on an intersecting trail, pointing the camera straight down one trail while looking perpendicular to the other trail about 20 feet away. Any animal walking either of these two game trails will be photographed.

I also like the good battery life on the Primos, which lasts a few months. I’ve used some cheaper Wildview Ez Cams that I got for $35 each, but the C-cell batteries rarely last a month.

And forget spending $1.50 on a good battery at the store: You can buy the same ones on the Internet at bulk pricing. I get cases of 72 Duracell Procell D-cell batteries on eBay from wholesale battery dealers with free shipping for around 90 cents a battery.

Rechargeable batteries can save you money, too, but not every camera works with them. The Primos works with 1.5-volt batteries, but you can trick it by adding two rechargeable batteries with two alkaline batteries. I use rechargeable batteries in my Wildview Ez cams, but make sure you get the highest level of mAh in your rechargeable batteries.

I have not had a problem with durability with my Truth Cams. My friends have had issues with other brands dying on them.

As for picture range, many of the cheaper cameras only get triggered at a maximum of 30 feet. However, the Primos sensor works out to 60 feet, although the nighttime views will only work to 40 feet unless you get a better model with more IR lights.

If you brighten night photos on your computer, you can see many deer which you may miss at first. I really like the IR and it doesn’t seem to spook the deer, but I’ve set up regular flash cameras before and the deer kept coming, so I don’t think that’s a huge issue.

Transition periods can be a huge factor in a camera. The Primos is very good at switching over from color to black and white, so getting a whiteout picture is extremely rare. Other cameras have too many whiteout photos, which usually happens at dusk and dawn – the prime hours most deer walk around.

A common mistake is pointing a camera to the east or west. The sun will sometimes trick a camera into taking false pictures. If this is a problem, change the sensitivity of the camera. I’ll also change the sensitivity lower if set looking into a thicket where many small branches might move with the wind.

Keep your camera tightly strapped to the tree. Birds and other animals can climb on or nibble at the camera, knocking it off position. With the Primos this isn’t as much of a problem because it comes with one easy-to-use strap and has a rounded backside with four sets of grippers on it, so it sets up well on just about any tree. Many other cameras come with small bungee cords to strap to the tree and have a flat smooth backside, making it tougher to set up on a tree.

The only negative thing about my Truth cams is actually a positive: They make a low “clunk” sound when the IR feature moves from the lens to take the picture. Very few deer spook from this noise; actually most deer stay and look at the camera wondering what the clunk was, and that gives you a perfect view of the horns and multiple sets of pictures. Good news.

However, the 2011 models released this year are completely noise free.

Another issue is simplicity. The Primos turns on by flipping a switch, saving time and confusion in the woods and keeping you from getting bit by skeeters while trying to turn on a complex camera.

Memory cards also can be an issue.

I use micro Sandisk cards in a normal-sized Sandisk adapter. This allows me view and send pictures on my 4g smart phone when in the woods instantly.

Checking pictures in the woods can give you quicker information so you can decide if you want to move your camera to a new location.

I buy the micro Sandisk cards on eBay for around $1.50 a piece. However, be careful of the type of memory cards. Certain Moultrie cameras do not work with these micro Sandisk cards, and other cameras won’t accept certain brands of memory cards. My Primos cameras have worked with every type I used so far.

Very important: Be sure to check your memory care when turning off your camera to ensure it isn’t in the process of taking or saving a picture because this can ruin a memory card and you may lose all your photos.

One of my favorite aspects of having cameras is that the hunt never ends. Just make sure to research trail cameras for the features you are looking for.

About Josh Chauvin 117 Articles
Joshua Chauvin is a health-focused ultra-marathon runner who goes on solo manual-powered public land adventures focusing on hunting big game and large fish by using challenging methods and weapons. He enjoys self-filming and sharing the tactics and details from his expeditions to help others learn from his unique techniques.