Trail cameras are one of the most important tools in my whitetail arsenal. They hunt when I can’t. They’re quieter, less intrusive, and never need to eat, sleep, or mow the lawn.

But cams do have their limitations. A camera can capture an image that tells you exactly where a deer was standing at one precise moment in time. It can’t tell you where that deer came from, where it went, or when it might return. But a series of cameras arranged in the right way can help fill in those gaps.

When I find a buck that I want to learn more about, I rely heavily on trail cameras to provide me the information. In my part of Michigan, I hunt deer that are hunted hard. Day in and day out, they face serious pressure. Stomp around looking for sign, scouting, or overhunting an area, and you will kill nothing but your hopes.


Study His Moves

Once I’ve found a buck in an area, I start placing cameras in a manner that will capture directions of movement. For example, if a buck is visiting a camera location over a scrape, I’ll place additional cameras about 150 yards from that scrape on a trail or trails I believe the buck is using. If I capture that buck’s photo on one (or both) of those trails, I’ve just moved one big step closer to understanding how he’s moving.

Prior to the opening day, I place cellular-equipped cameras near bedding areas. Cellular cams allow me to determine if a buck is bedding in a certain location without having to physically enter that area. Those bedding area images, coupled with images along trails or funnels, help paint a picture of a buck’s movement pattern.


Survey the groceries

If I have food plots or other food sources nearby, I’ll also place a camera on those. Now I have images of the buck at a scrape, on a trail, near a bedding area, and possibly at a food source. That’s about as complete a picture as you can get, and I got it without leaving a lot of scent or causing much of a disturbance in the area.

What happens if you only get photos of a buck at one or two of your camera sites and the others show nothing? Don’t get frustrated — that lack of intel is valuable, as well. You now know, with reasonable certainty, that the buck is not using the areas where those cameras were located. You’ve eliminated some spots and, because of it, narrowed the area you should focus on.

About the Author: Tony Hansen manages for and hunts mature whitetails in his home state of Michigan, where sweating the details is the only way to succeed. When not hunting his own properties, he can be found pursuing deer on public land throughout the whitetail’s range. Tony’s writings have appeared in Outdoor Life, Traditional Bowhunter, North American Whitetail, and Bowhunter.