The use of game trial cameras has grown significantly. From patterning and scoring bucks to watching food plots and seeing if that buck survived the season, you can’t go wrong using a trail camera. To be honest, our trail cameras are like smart phones – I don’t know how we ever got along without them.
A couple of years ago, instead of pulling our cameras after the deer season we decided to leave them out. It not only gave us something to do all winter by checking thousands of images but it was really pretty insightful. What we learned is that we had a lot more predators and scavengers than we realized.
Although we have yet to capture a bobcat on camera we did start seeing a lot of coyotes. We also captured many images of opossums and raccoons, which can find and destroy an entire nest of turkey eggs in one night. Our trail cameras also helped us to catch a trespassing rabbit hunter red handed – although he denied it until we showed him the pictures. Can you say busted!
Lure Them In
To get started with this unique trail camera setup you first have to put out some bait. We like using dead deer that we find on the property or alongside the road. Just check with your local DNR first before picking up dead deer that aren’t on your property. We’ve also been known to keep late season gut piles and carcasses safe in the walk-in freezer until it was time to use as bait.
Choose Your Weapon
The one downside to using trail cameras in the winter is battery life. We’ve heard a lot of claims that the bigger the battery size the better but in our experience, we have had descent luck using a Reconyx camera with 12 NiMH rechargeable AA batteries. You’ll just have to experiment to see what works best for you.
Unlike using cameras during deer season, you can check them more often during winter. We normally check ours a couple times per week. We jump on the UTV with freshly charged batteries, a stack of clean memory cards and fresh bait if needed.
Setting the Stage
We have learned a few trail camera tips for predators. First, choose a spot where predators will feel comfortable. Although most of your pictures will occur at night, we have had some good daytime images by placing the bait in a more secluded area.
We secure the bait so larger predators don’t drag it out of camera view. We use large ground stakes and some rope to keep bait in place. A 12″ pieces of rebar heated with a torch on one end so you can bend it into a hook makes a nice ground stake. You can also secure the bait to a tree, fence post, or stump.
If using a carcass as bait, position it with its back towards the camera. Predators will begin eating the stomach first which puts them facing the camera for the money shot – say cheese!
Some predators can be camera shy especially with noisy or flashing cameras. Place the game camera back far enough or higher up and pointing down so animals aren’t as skittish. We like the Reconyx cameras because they use infrared flash and make almost no noise when snapping images.
Trail cameras can certainly be used for more than just deer and turkey. They help you keep an eye on your property and can give you a pretty good indication of the predators in your area. Not to mention you will also get some pretty neat images to share with others.