Thursday, February 14, 2013

Western Trail Cam Use

Using trail cams in western big-game country is catching on, but with so much public-land real estate involved, knowing where to set up can be tricky. Here’s how to do it right.

BAH-1212-CAM-PIX-01: Big mulie bucks are often nomadic and difficult to pattern. Trail cams help immensely with locating bucks and determining which areas hold the most deer.

I was speaking recently with one of my hunting buddies from Wisconsin. When I told him I was just out checking my trail cameras, he immediately stopped the conversation. “Wait a second,” he said. “You actually put trail cams up out there? I figured that was mostly an eastern thing.” I think he may have even thrown a “don’tcha know” in there for emphasis too.

I could only shake my head. That statement exemplifies one of the bigger misconceptions in hunting today. While they may have originated as a tool primarily used by whitetail deer hunters east of the Rockies, trail cameras have now worked their way into the western hunting scene in a big way. Our eastern hunting brethren may not fully realize it, but trail cameras most certainly have a place in the western hunter’s tool chest.

Scouting cameras out west are invaluable tools when used properly. After putting cameras to work in my local hunting areas over the last few years, I look back and almost chuckle at how I used to walk the woods rather aimlessly, without much of a strategy. Trail cams changed all that for me, and since their employment, I’ve enjoyed far greater hunting success.

The key to an effective trail camera strategy can be summarized with the old adage often referred to when discussing real estate… location, location, location. This is no different.  Your camera must be placed on good real estate to be effective.

When one thinks of hunting in the West, the mind may conjure up images of big country–wide-open vistas, perhaps expansive sage flats, aspen or evergreen pockets, alpine mountains, or maybe even an open desert environment. It could be intimidating to look out at such an expanse of country and attempt to determine proper camera placement. We must break each setting down to determine optimal locations.

Focus on the Basics
Regardless of the type of habitat, there are three components that all good hunting country will have: food, water and cover. We must learn how to use these elements to our advantage when seeking good camera locations.

When considering food, the obvious place to set a camera is over a bait or mineral station. That, however, is illegal in many western states. Agriculture may be the next best thing. Alfalfa abounds in the West and attracts deer and elk like a magnet. A camera placed on a well used trail entering a field can be an excellent resource to find out what kind of animals are using the area. Better yet, multiple cameras placed on several trails surrounding a field can help to pinpoint exactly which trails are most commonly used and when.

In the absence of bait or agriculture, effectively placing a camera on a food source may be difficult. In a natural environment, food sources can be of multiple varieties and spread out over a large range. It could be nearly impossible to narrow the feeding locations down to a very specific small area in which to hang a camera. Under these circumstances, you may be better off keying in on the remaining two elements, water and cover, when deciding where to place your camera.

Story and photos by Nate Treadwell

Posted by Bow & Arrow Hunting

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