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Optimize your scouting camera strategy for your best season ever

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It can easily be argued that scouting cameras have become one of the most significant changes to how we approach hunting in the last two decades. In essence, they act as our eyes and ears in the places we can’t be, or don’t want to be, for fear of leaving too big a human footprint. This power is proven by recent motions to limit or eliminate their use in several western states, with other potential changes looming on the horizon.

Although the models, modes of field use, and overall technology have changed significantly over the years, the root objective remains the same: To get more information about what animals are doing and when they are on the properties you hunt. The challenge is, with a limited field of view and trigger mechanisms that are only so fast, there’s only so much data we can actually secure from our scouting cameras each season. Fortunately, there are several ways in which you can optimize your camera’s already innate ability to take great photos, videos, and store data — all of which can help you be more successful this fall.

Don’t look at your camera as a single tool, but rather part of a complete scouting system designed to make the most of each and every place you choose to set one. Optimization is the name of the game.  

The Versatility Of Mounts

Finding the perfect tree or other vertical object on which to mount your camera can often be more challenging than finding the right tree for your stand. With the relatively limited detection/flash range of most cameras, getting your camera on the “X” is paramount to consistently collecting great data. If you’ve ever shoved three sticks behind the back of your camera to get the “right angle” or wrapped the camera’s mounting strap around a tree to prevent the strap’s tag end from blowing in the breeze and triggering your camera, then this tip is for you.

Mounts resolve multiple scouting-camera challenges — starting with location. Perhaps there’s a tree that’s too large to wrap a strap around or saplings that are too small. Worst-case scenario: No trees at all. The use of different styles of camera mounts gives you the ability to put your camera exactly where you want it to be, regardless of the available options Mother Nature has provided you with. Whether it’s a screw-in mount that bores into a tree or fencepost, or a stake-in version on its own post, there are options to help you make the most of any and all locations. Just make sure that whatever option you choose allows you to manipulate projection, angle, and rotation of the mount until you find the “sweet spot” of where the camera faces.   

Use Complementary Cards

One of the least-known challenges camera users face is the use of unoptimized cards, or those that are actually too fast. Oftentimes, when a user experiences difficulties with the camera or blank images, they blame it on the camera itself. But there’s a good chance the lack of performance could be the result of using a mismatched card.

Conventional thinking for most electronic devices is that if it says it’s “ultra” or “extreme,” it must be the best, right? Not exactly in this instance. For example, some high-performance SD cards are actually too fast for certain camera models, which could hinder the camera from achieving its optimal performance. This has proven especially true with some cellular models. A simple solution is to use cards recommended by the manufacturer of your camera of choice. Trust me when I say that doing so will only maximize the performance of your camera.  

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Save On Batteries With Rechargeable Options And Solar Panels

Hunters were the first conservationists. But as our use of scouting cameras grows, so does our consumption of batteries, with each unit using between four and twelve batteries. Multiply that by a replacement or two per season or multiple cameras, and each hunter can potentially use a hundred or more batteries per year.

The last time I checked, batteries aren’t cheap. For this reason, you need to start thinking about other options like rechargeable batteries and solar panels. While the initial cost of both might be more than what you’re currently spending to power your cameras, I guarantee you’ll save money in the long run by making the switch — not to mention having a positive impact on the environment.  

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Minerals And Attractants

Where legal, seasonal use of minerals and attractants will most definitely increase the amount of game activity in front of your cameras. In the spring and summer months, deer crave — and need — certain nutrients provided by minerals to help them improve their overall body health and antler growth. Providing your local herd with these key ingredients will help them, while also helping you and your cameras take inventory of what’s living on the properties you hunt.

As time moves closer to the fall hunting seasons, legal attractants are a great way to draw deer to a specific location (and keep them coming back), while also enhancing activity in front of your scouting cameras. Blends that include a mix of grains, aromatic sweeteners, and key nutrients will do much more for all parties involved than just dumping a pile of corn in front of your cameras.

Over time, and so long as they are comfortable with their surroundings, deer will become habitual visitors to these sites, providing you with a great way to create and maintain a database on your overall deer herd, sex ratios, and rut trends. Just please keep in mind that in some states, there are limits to the use of minerals, supplements, and attractants, so know the laws regarding said products before employing them.

As we move beyond the grip of Old Man Winter and transition into spring, get your scouting cameras back into the field. With many bucks having cast their antlers and does being well on their way to dropping their fawns, it’s a great opportunity to start learning more about your local herd. Taking the time now to better understand their actions and behaviors will only better your chances of filling your tags this fall!

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