Deer are creatures of habit, so putting your trail camera in just one specific place will likely not yield much success. Your deer will likely move along the same path every time you return to the area so if you choose to stick with your original location, it's important that you are able to find the camera again. We've prepared this guide to give you the best chance at getting deer on your trail cameras.
How to attract deer to trail camera
The first step is finding a good location for your camera. Deer are most likely to appear in areas with plenty of food, water, and cover. Thickets are generally off-limits, as are places where there's limited coverage from predators like coyotes or stray humans. A prime spot would be near a watering hole or someplace where they can find high-calorie vegetation like corn or soybeans.
You have to avoid spots that are too close to human activity and you need to remain cognizant of your scent and how far it can travel. We'll talk more about that in our section on scent control.
No matter what type of camera you're using, it's important to consider the angle at which you place your camera, especially if you're using a game camera with a PIR (passive infrared) sensor. Heat signatures from the warm bodies of deer will come at the camera from below, so you'll need to place your camera higher than you would if you were trying to take pictures of birds overhead.
We'll let you in on a little secret: humans have been using this strategy for decades. Most deer feeders are placed high on a tree or on a stand, and they're almost always placed facing slightly downward rather than straight ahead. This is to make it easier for deer to see and smell the food at ground level.
For trail cameras, you can place them facing downward or straight ahead; and you need to make sure the camera is mounted high enough to be able to see and hear your presence.
That's something you can look for when exploring potential locations for your trail camera. If the area seems like it would be hard to patrol, or if it would be overrun by deer in less than a week, then you'd do well to explain this information before lighting that campfire.
2. Decide on a deer-deterrent strategy to make the area less attractive.
So now that you've found a spot, you'll need to decide how you're going to make it unattractive to deer. Some ideas:
Create an area where they can see and hear your presence instead of your trail camera
Paint a water or honey hole red or leave areas that have been damaged by lightning white, so that they seem fresh and full of life.
Install a motion-activated sprinkler system, or leave a pile of branches, twigs, and leaves out in the middle of the field.
Set a fire in a patch of grass, but make sure it's well away from your location
Keep an area free from flowers, vegetation or debris too close to your location. Deer will consider this area as an attractive place to eat and drink. For example if you have a deer feeder you can always cover it up during the winter months when less food is available. It's not enough to just do this for the winter months because deer will come back in the spring. You should also avoid placing your feeder in natural food sources like wooded areas or wet areas. Remember, don't keep them out and make them look at your feeder as an obstacle instead of a source of food.
The most common smelliest areas are brush piles, hay bales and old corn stalks. Mowing down a small brush pile or hay bale makes a huge difference because of the smell they give off. You can always grow some of your own deer food by planting buckthorn, saskatoon berries. These berries will attract deer from a distance and have been known to keep deer away from areas around them all year around.
You may think you are doing your best to make your area less attractive, but the truth is that deer will still come if they are hungry enough. You can do all you want with your scent or country club, but if they're still hungry enough, they will come back regardless of how clean you keep your property.
3. Place your camera strategically and check your location often.
When it comes to trail cameras, you want to place your camera in an area that is least likely to be disturbed by human presence or animal activity. Deer generally avoid areas with a lot of human activity such as barns, houses and fields where farmers plow their fields and walk around them during the day. So when scouting for a spot, avoid areas you would rather not have visible on the trail cam.
You don't want to set up your camera where you're likely to do most of your farming or gardening. It is also a very good idea to put it in an area where deer are less likely to come due the lack of food, water, or shelter.
If you're using a game camera with a PIR infrared sensor, then you'll need to consider how far away from your movement it will detect. If you're planning on hunting from a tree stand or using a deer feeder then you'll need to place it far enough away that the deer doesn't feel threatened by your presence.
You will also want to keep an eye on your location and see if it's being disturbed. So you can leave some bait for the deer and see how quickly they return, and if they do, you should probably reconsider your location. If you're using a trail camera without a PIR then you'll need to pay closer attention to the animals in the area.
You can also put your cameras in areas where they can be disturbed by people. For example many hunters will place their game cameras in shed doors, windows and places where they can easily break or move objects. This makes it hard for the deer to make an escape if they are trying to get away from this person. You'll also want to take safety precautions when setting up your trail camera.
4. Plan and prepare for your hunt.
It's important to know how you'll be hunting in order to make the most of your trip. For instance, if you're hunting from a tree stand then you'll want to be sure that no human or animal foot traffic can access the area where you will be set up. If you're hunting from a ground blind then it is important that you check for any trash holes, wood chips or small openings that could potentially provide the deer with free range access.
You'll also want to make sure you have plenty of food and any other supplies you might need for a long day.
Trail cameras are a great way to learn about the wildlife living on your farm. They can help you understand what they are doing, where they are going, what they are eating and who their family members are.
When choosing an area for your trail camera you'll need to be sure to take all of the factors listed above into account including scent, food availability, security and boredom. Once you've chosen an area that works well for you there is no reason why you can't make some great memories with your trail camera.
Tips: The morning of your hunt is going to be the best time to set up your trail camera and check it. Sometimes the animals are still sleeping when you begin your trip, or they may be with a companion, or maybe there is a family pet that will interrupt a deer's sleep.