Game Cameras, Tools in Wildlife Management
A good hunter or outdoors person can usually do some pre-season scouting and get a pretty good idea of the number of deer using an area or feeder. As you scout you are looking for signs that may tell you where a big buck might be hanging out. You see the large tracks, rubs on trees, the scrapes and worn trails, all telling you a story of what is happening and when. But, now hunters are using a new tool to help them do their scouting.
Trail cameras also known as game cameras are weatherproof outdoor cameras equipped with infrared motion sensors that trigger the camera to take pictures any time an animal crosses the sensor's beam. The use of game cams by deer hunters has grown during the last few years. Game cameras are no longer reserved for very wealthy or large hunting operations. The use of game cameras has become almost the norm rather than the exception. Game cameras are a fun way to monitor your deer herd.
Game cameras are very useful when used as a tool to estimate buck age, Boone and Crocket scores, and legality of bucks. With the current antler restrictions throughout the Oak Prairie District, you can possibly get pictures of most of the bucks coming through an area. By carefully examining each buck photo, you can educate yourself and other hunters to determine if a deer meets the restrictions. Also, deer normally have a defined home range (except for during rut) and often times you can get pictures year after year and watch individual bucks get older and better.
For population management, there is a technique in which you can estimate densities and ratios of deer if you have cameras at the right densities (normally 1 camera per 80-160 acres). If you want specifics, you should contact your local biologist for the details. At the simplest though, you can determine buck:doe ratios and fawning recruitment by examining each photo and recording all bucks, does, and fawns. You will double count many deer but for ratios it does not matter. After you have the totals, divide number of does by number of bucks and this will give you how many does per
buck. Also fawn recruitment is number of fawns divided by number of does. For example, if 50 pictures recorded
150 doe, 50
bucks, and 75 fawns you would have 3 does per buck and 50% fawn recruitment. For this type of survey, August - September is ideal. You have to be able to identify fawns and bucks.
If you are considering purchasing a trail camera, the choices available are numerous so you need to narrow down your options. Your first decision is to choose between film and digital cameras. Go digital. You will save money on film processing and get your images much faster. If you have a laptop computer, you can download the images instantly in the field and place the blank data storage card right back in the camera. Also, for those pictures that need "tweaking" to see deer in the background, digital images and computers allow you to enhance photos easily.
Game cameras are a unique and fun way to monitor animals on your property. Once you setup your camera there is a thrill in looking at the pictures. Game cameras can be used in many ways to enjoy wildlife on your property.
If you would like to contact your local biologist, see our website at; http:// www.tpwd.state.tx.us/wildlifebiologist.