Winter Trail Camera Tips
Winter, snow, and the end of hunting season don't mean you need to pull your trail cameras from the woods. With a few changes in strategy, the winter can reveal a lot about the woods and property.
Change the Batteries
Batteries are an important part of your trail camera success and choosing the right set can make all the difference in camera performance and how often you need to change them. As a general rule, lithium batteries typically provide the best performance in cold temperatures; they are rated for performance down to -40 degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, lithium batteries run at full 1.7V output until they are used up, whereas alkaline batteries will quit working even if they have 20-30% of their power left.
For my Browning trail cameras, I only use Browning branded batteries since they are designed specifically for the cameras and can meet the demands of cold weather. I usually leave at least two cameras in the mountains in Idaho during the winter and temperatures can reach far below zero. When I have gone back in spring (May/June), the batteries are still going strong after taking hundreds of pictures throughout the winter.
Pick a new Location
As the weather and food sources change, animal behavior changes too. Deer don't want to move a lot in the cold weather since they need to reserve their nutrients. Moving trail cameras to new locations during the winter months can result in more pictures.
Look for bedding areas near water and food sources. Moving water, such as creeks or streams, is a good place to start since water is always necessary and it may not freeze as quickly as a pond. Food sources such as standing corn or unpicked soybeans, winter food plots, or natural browse such as honeysuckle pods, leaves and greenery, and leftover acorns will also get traffic.
After a snowfall, take a walk around the property and look for fresh tracks. This can help you identify new and different areas of travel where you can put a camera. Don't just focus on the deer, either. You can also get a better idea of what type of animals are passing through, such as coyotes and turkeys. Find downed logs over creeks, fox dens, and other creative spots to get different types of pictures. If you plan to do any trapping, put cameras around your traps too.
Inventory the Herd
Once hunting season is over, use your cameras to take inventory to see which bucks made it. Since bucks can begin dropping their antlers as early as January, this is important to do as soon as possible! Your trail camera placement can help with this intel. If you know areas where these bucks frequented during hunting season but didn't want to disturb them, now is a good time to get closer with less risk of spooking them off.
It's not just a good idea to look for bucks, but you can get a better idea of your doe inventory and overall deer population and health. If you see deer that look skinny, have visible ribs, or have visible shedding during cold weather, this can be a sign of poor health. Check to see if supplemental feeding is allowed where you are and offer high-protein mineral licks, turnips, or carrots, and consider adding a winter food plot to the property.
With your trail cameras out in the winter, you can see when bucks start losing their antlers. Getting regular pictures of the same bucks with, then without antlers can help you narrow down general areas to start shed hunting in the spring. Bedding and feeding areas, as well as fence crossings, are great spots for sheds, so placing cameras there can provide valuable information.
Clean and Store
For cameras that you're taking down for the season, make sure to keep them in top shape for next season with these tips:
Remove batteries and SD cards
Save any photos you want and clear SD cards
Remove any debris, dirt, or mud
Store in a cool, dry place; I use the Alps Outdoorz Motive Camera Pack
Trail cameras are a great addition to your hunting area no matter what time of year. Just make a few modifications to your normal strategy to keep the pictures rolling in!
Sarah Honadel is an avid outdoorswoman from Kentucky, now living in Idaho, who enjoys hunting elk, deer, turkey, pronghorn, and waterfowl. She is a team member at Huntress View, Pro Staff for Browning Trail Cameras, and Brand Ambassador for the BaseMap app. Follow her on Instagram @waddysarah and @arrowridgecreations.