Before trail cameras, Dr. Grant Woods (Growing Deer TV) conducted wildlife research by sitting in a tree and taking notes. As a young researcher, he worked to monitor the behavior of white deer around the scrapes, but by hanging around the area he was of course scaring deer. Eventually, Woods started using first-generation trail cameras, which worked on film, and he went on to write one of the most interesting studies of white-tail scrapes at the time (among other things, he found that scrapes are just as likely to use as males are, and that yearling males are the most frequent visitors to scrapes).
All that to say, Woods has extensive experience using trail cameras to understand deer behavior. The best cellular trail cameras, which take photos or video in the field and send them to an app, everyday hunters can collect data that would have made wildlife researchers jealous just decades ago . But any hunter who’s scrolled through thousands of photos of turkeys and squirrels can tell you that all that surveillance camera footage is only useful if you can filter and sort it.
In the latest advances in Trail Cam technology, apps are now using artificial intelligence to help solve this problem. Here’s how to execute the same cellular trail camera strategy that Woods had developed after many years of experimentation
Using AI to “hunt like a Bobcat”
Trail Cam apps that can identify species and differentiate between males and females are a game-changer. With multiple cameras on a property, an app like Moultrie Mobile Edge will collect data from various locations simultaneously. You can then filter this data and see only Buck photos, for example. The app will show you buck activity graphs correlated with time of day, temperature, and moon phase.
“I use the Moultrie Mobile Edge app daily,” says Woods. “I’ll watch an hour-by-hour breakdown and I can track every dollar individually. The app has really good artificial intelligence, so I can whittle my photos down to just the money.
“There are many applications for [deer behavior] predictive software that tells you when the deer are going to move, and I’m not saying they’re good or they’re bad or otherwise,” Wood says. “But what I have personally found to be the most accurate [predictor of deer movement] do I take my camera data on an app and just look at the last two days. If the weather is consistent, I will do three days. The deer change quickly depending on the conditions.
However, it is not a silver bullet to mark your target. Think of it more as directional data that tells you what the best activity is and when the hottest times will be.
“It’s not about exactly where to kill a dollar, I won’t say [the app] that’s good, but it’s about gaining knowledge about general deer behavior.
Woods says if he sees on his camera data that the dollars only move during the last few minutes of legal light, he won’t sit in his booth at 3 p.m. This would only give its scent more time to spread and potentially scare away deer. .
“I call it chasing like a bobcat,” Woods says. “If you think about how bobcats hunt, they’re constantly moving and they sort of hunt in a cloverleaf pattern – we know that from GPS data. They’ll hunt here one day, then maybe here one day They give the prey time to rest a bit and not be too on guard, so I’m going to do it with deer, if I know the deer are only moving for the last 15 minutes, I’ll get there. with 30 minutes [until end of legal light]. I don’t want my scent to have time to disperse more than that. And if they barely move, I know I have to clutter that sleeping area or not hunt.
“What these cellular trail cameras allow us to do is be better students of deer behavior and refine our hunting skills so we can have more fun or get more venison or whatever. it would be. I’m not convinced they tell us exactly where to go to kill the big bucks. They just allow us to spot a little smarter.
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How many trail cameras do you need?
The number of trail cameras you decide to use will, of course, at least partly depend on your budget. In contrast, good cellular surveillance cameras cost about the same as quality surveillance cameras without transmission, and you won’t burn gas to go check them out. Woods says that on a typical 200-acre deer hunting property in the Midwest or South, he would want at least four cameras.
“I would put one in the back of the bean field or whatever big agricultural spring there is,” Woods says. “I would put one in a travel hallway, and if it’s the time of year when the acorns start to fall, I’d put one on the acorns… Which I’m trying to get a general idea is where and when do the deer use these different resources, and if they don’t come to the bean field because there are so many acorns on the ground, then I’ll take that camera down pretty quickly.
Even with cellular trail cameras, Woods does not charge into the heart of a central area for fear of spooking deer.
“It’s easier to hunt deer that aren’t alert, that’s just a baseline,” says Woods. “Even with trail cameras, I want to limit disturbances in the area. If I think there’s a big old scratch right in the middle of that field of white oaks, I’m not just intervening. I want to catch a scratch that gets to this point, so I’m not risking that. I just want to get to the edge. I want to know what time of day the deer feed on these white oaks and what direction they are coming from.
“Surprisingly, it’s very rare that my tree stand or awning is where my trail camera is. I use trail cameras to spot an area and then I move in. I use the information from the trail camera to say, “They’re here in the dark, that means I have to go back 10 minutes to catch them in daylight. ‘ Well, I’m not going to stick a trail camera in there, it’s just more disruption. I just want to make sure they’re on that trail when it gets dark, and I know I have to come back 10 or 15 minutes the other way.
Deer movement predictors, articles on the best times to hunt deer, and simple gut instinct are all good at predicting deer movement. But they all fall short of trail camera data, because trail camera data comes in real time, exactly where you are hunting from.
“That data from the last two or three days, on the property where you’re hunting, is so valuable,” Woods says. “You’ll see, ‘well it’s colder, they’re moving a little earlier.’ Or maybe it’s sunny and you can’t see anything. Did the neighbour’s dogs cross the property or what caused this? You know there’s something going on there.
Keep collecting trail camera data on your property after the season is over and you’ll soon have a powerful resource to help you understand deer behavior over the long term. You will be able to check your intuitions (and those of your friends) against concrete data.
Moultrie Mobile Edge Camera
Woods uses the Moultrie Mobile Edge, which is a functional and capable camera and costs just $100, which is impressive. But what’s truly remarkable about this cellular trail camera is all the functionality it brings to the table through its Moultrie Mobile app. The camera automatically connects to the strongest network in the region (without you having to change your SIM card) and quickly sends photos. Here’s the cool part: the Moultrie Mobile app is built with image recognition, so it identifies deer (including bucks vs. does), turkeys, vehicles, and humans in photos. From here, you can sort your photos by species. Say, for example, you set the camera up in the summer and in November you have a few thousand pictures, including bucks, deer, squirrels, coyotes. The app allows you to filter images so that you only see pictures of money. Plus, it gives you activity data, showing when dollars pass the camera most often. With a few cameras operating on a hunting property over multiple seasons, you would have a powerful dataset showing when bucks move based on time of season, time of day, temperature, and of the phase of the moon. This camera will do more than just model a specific buck, it will help you model deer activity in your area for a lifetime of good hunting.