One of my favorite things to do after the white-tailed deer hunting season is to perform a post-season deer survey using game cameras. I call this after season ritual a roll call, a hunt for the bucks that survived the season. Not only does this tell me who is still around, it let’s me know who may be my target during the next hunting season. It’s actually quite amazing to see all the deer that do “run the gauntlet” so to speak.
There are no set procedures for conducting these game camera surveys for deer after the season is over, but I like to use at least one motion-triggered game camera for every 100 acres. This is a good rule of thumb and actually a camera density to similar to what you will find in many graduate research projects that involve using game cameras to estimate deer population numbers.
Cameras can be placed just about anywhere you think can photo-capture some deer. One of my primary reasons for conducting these surveys for deer after the season is over is to catalog the bucks remaining in the area where we hunt. In order to catch bucks on camera, we set cameras up at feed stations where the big boys will be fueling up after a long breeding season. Bucks will hit feeders hard, especially since winter is just setting in. Often times there will be new bucks that show up because the cold weather is forcing them to look for additional groceries.
Another good reason to estimate deer numbers after the hunting season is to double-check the pre-season population estimates. Game cameras can collect a lot of valuable information that can be used to estimate the buck to doe ratio. This post-season survey data will not change much heading into the next hunting season so it gives you a great idea of population parameters, minus the fawn crop that will occur during the summer. For collection buck to doe ratio photos, proper game camera placement is important. Set cameras on deer trails and at watering locations or the estimates will be way off. Bucks will dominate feeders and skew the numbers.
The best time to put up cameras for surveying deer after the season is right after the season is over. Do not wait until spring green-up or your deer photos will be few and far between if you plan on using feed stations, such as timed or protein feeders, to attract animals. Once things start growing the deer will spread out and be much more difficult to catch on camera. Put cameras out after deer season and let them run until things green up. You can also use the photos to document shed antlers.
In short, deer surveys after the whitetail hunting season are a great way to get more information about the deer you are hunting. It can help collect information of the age structure of surviving bucks as well as buck to doe ratios. After all, there is no reason for those cameras to collect dust until next summer. Deer hunting and management take place 365 days a year in my mind and I bet our cameras are out there in the woods working about 75% of the time.
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