Trail cameras have gotten more and more popular in recent years. As technology has improved and the cameras themselves have gotten more compact, their uses are almost limitless. Once used primarily as a scouting tool for whitetail hunting, today’s cameras can be a beneficial asset in the covert scouting of all wildlife.
Since we’re in the heart of turkey season over most of North America, let’s take a look at how the proper utilization of trail cameras can help you keep abreast of what the local turkey population is currently doing in your neck of the woods.
Locating areas and setting up trail cameras for turkeys isn’t much different than doing so for whitetails. Turkeys, like whitetails, are very pattern-able. They roost in the same general areas and follow the ever changing food supplies.
If you’re hunting a new property, the key is to put your boots on the ground to get a general idea of how the turkeys are utilizing that property. If it’s an area that you’re already familiar with, you probably have a working knowledge of how they’re traversing the landscape.
Recommended placement for trail cameras include roosting areas where turkeys fly up and down from roost trees, strut zones which are typically flat and open areas with good visibility, travel corridors such as logging roads and ridge lines as well as shading and dusting sights which are typically along field edges. After you find out where these hot spots are located, your trail cameras will pin point the exact location and time you need to be set up at any given area.
Once you have an idea of where to place your cameras, cover as many of the areas with cameras as possible. This will give you a better idea of which areas are currently being utilized and at what time of the day. The advantage of finding “hot” turkey sign is that you know it was made during the daylight hours. Turkeys are not nocturnal in any form.
The best time to hang and check your cameras is mid-afternoon when the turkeys aren’t as active. However, be sure to spend as little time as possible in the immediate area. The object is to be able to set up within crossbow range of a wary gobbler in one of these pre-selected areas so the less pressure you put on the turkeys the better.
When hanging cameras in the woods, I prefer to hang them a bit lower than I do for whitetails. Generally the rule of thumb is waist high for whitetails and thigh high for turkeys. Due to their smaller size, a turkey can often times get past a camera without triggering it. Ideally we want to capture as much of the flock as possible to determine if there’s a gobbler with it and what direction they’re traveling.
The opposite is true when placing a camera on a field edge to cover a dusting or shading site. In this scenario I prefer to hang my cameras head high for two reasons. First, spring time growing rates of weeds and grasses can be a problem for the field of view of the camera. Second, you will have a wider field of view of the image itself. It’s not uncommon to have a turkey trip the camera up close which will reveal several other birds further out in the field.
Once you have all of your cameras properly hung in the best locations it’s only a matter of time until you start to see time and location patterns develop. At that point all you need to do is slip into the area with your crossbow, set up accordingly, and put an arrow into Mr. Tom.