The day you head to the woods to check your trail cameras is always like Christmas morning. With every click of the keyboard, you hope to see your next “hit list” buck that you can target while deer hunting. As you scroll through the pictures from your trail camera, you notice deer running away, acting tense, or sometimes they instantly vanish. The question is, “Why?”.
Erich Long, TMA Prostaff member and owner of Drumming Log Wildlife Management, has been putting different trail camera theories to the test. He is seeking the reason why deer react negatively to trail cameras. The common thoughts are the deer see the camera’s flash/glow, smell it, or hear the shutter. Through his research, he has noticed deer reacting through the visual sense, but not in the way some think. Instead of deer seeing the flash or infrared glow, it’s the camera itself that the deer see and react to. His findings have come from placing non-working cameras in prime areas such as scrapes, bedding areas, food plots, or transition areas. The trail cameras were placed at the typical waist height and sprayed down with scent killer. A second working camera was placed head high in a nearby tree and aimed at the non-working camera. What the trail camera captured is something not many suspected to be the issue with why trail cameras spook deer. Some deer would still react negatively to the non-working camera. Their reactions would include walking toward it to investigate and smell, stomping, blowing, or turning inside out and running away. One could expect this reaction due to scent after just placing the camera, but the same reactions were noted weeks and even months after placing the camera. Since the camera was not operating, there was no flash, glow, or click to spook the deer. They were reacting to the trail camera box that protrudes from the trunk of the tree.
To combat the issue, Erich has been regularly placing cameras at head height and above since his initial findings. He has noted fewer negative reactions to cameras placed at this level compared to normal levels. Every deer herd is different and that’s not to say your deer will react the same way. Take his findings and see how your deer react to altering the placement of your trail cameras. Will they still react in the same manner as trail cameras placed waist high? Are there other ways to cut down on negative reactions? We want to know what you think and what tactics you use to capture pictures/video of deer without them knowing.