A Winter Trail Camera Survey? Absolutely!
Updated: Jan 22
With the 2020/21 whitetail deer season winding down, trail camera scouting, and population study work is coming to a close for many hunter-managers. However, running a trail camera survey In January and February before bucks drop their antlers can provide new insights and valuable information for the upcoming 2021 season.
Winter surveys should be conducted using the same methods as traditional, early fall surveys. HuntPro’s Trail Camera Survey Field Procedures and Best Practices for Whitetail Deer provides in-depth information and best practices to help you work smarter, not harder. It’s very important to make sure camera traps are set up properly, so deer can be clearly seen to deliver best results.
There are several advantages for running a winter trail camera survey:
Bucks are hungry post rut, as most natural food sources are limited during the winter. So, they’ll be more easily drawn to bait or attractants at camera traps in winter than early fall.
It’s very likely that some bucks are missed in early fall surveys. So conducting a winter survey will catalog a “true herd”, as bucks (or does) harvested during hunting season or who did not survive during the year are omitted. This more accurate model will pay dividends when you conduct another fall survey, providing comparison data.
Fawns are more likely to show up on camera accompanying the maternal doe in winter than in the early fall. Mid to late summer-born fawns are still very young in the early fall and tend to remain hiding in cover nearby while the maternal doe visits a bait site. Many fawns may also still be nursing as much or more so than consuming hard foods. Being older and more independent in the winter, also consuming only hard foods at this time, fawns will more likely accompany the maternal doe into the bait site and be captured on camera. This can increase the accuracy of fawn count which determines the Recruitment Rate.
With that said, there are a few things to be aware of:
Post rut bucks, particularly the mid-mature and mature bucks are more likely to have broken antlers from fighting. Entering the early antler drop period, some bucks, particularly larger antlered bucks, may have prematurely dropped one side or both. This means those bucks may be more difficult to match up with photos from the fall or the following season.
Fawns will have lost their spots by winter and have increased in body size. This makes it tougher to identify them or mistake them for yearling does and vice versa.
While traditional survey work – manually reviewing images, sorting animals into folders, keeping score in spreadsheets – is certainly possible for a winter survey, HuntPro is the way to go. Our patented and revolutionary wildlife management platform provides powerful tools to help you compile robust population studies quickly and easily.
· Automatically analyze and categorize tens of thousands of images in minutes, not days using Artificial Intelligence.
· Filter images by species, gender, point class and date at the click of a mouse.
· Tag specific deer and add observation data and notes.
· Compile management lists of tagged deer.
· Understand herd statistics using HuntPro’s built-in population study tool.
· Log harvest data.
And because HuntPro is cloud-based, all your images, data, lists and logs are accessible via any web browser or mobile device.
Contact us to learn more.
Rans Thomas is a Wildlife Biologist and Consultant with over 25 years of experience developing and managing private hunting properties across the U.S. His lifelong passion for the outdoors and cutting-edge strategies in wildlife management has led him to become an expert in wildlife population modeling and an innovator in trail camera data analysis technology. He is recognized within the industry as an authority in game management and is a prominent industry advisor, speaker and TV personality.
As Consulting Partner and Strategic Advisor to HuntPro, Rans provides real-world insight and expertise to product development. He is also the founder of Creative Land And Wildlife Solutions (CLAWS), a wildlife consulting business helping clients optimize field sports return from their hunting property.
Rans is a proud graduate of The University of Georgia’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources and received the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) Professional Deer Manager of the Year Award in 2009.