Wildlife Biologist and Land Manager Mark Thomas Uses Motion-Sensor Cameras to Improve Lands
Day 1: How to Set Up Motion-Sensor Cameras to Do a Deer Survey with Mark Thomas
Editor’s Note: Mark Thomas (forestrywildlifeintegration.com/) is both a registered forester and a registered wildlife biologist and an active member of the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) and the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF). Thomas consults for the timber and the wildlife industries and constantly evaluates and improves properties for hunting. One of the key tools he uses in his daily work is motion-sensor cameras, often having as many as 50 cameras on one piece of property doing various surveys. This week we’ve talked with Thomas about what he’s doing with his motion-sensor cameras, and how cameras can help you improve you land.
Question: How do you set up your motion-sensor cameras to get the best information when you’re surveying a deer population?
Thomas: I set up the areas that I’ll be censusing into equal 100-acre parcels. Then I select a site in the middle of each 100-acre parcel for my camera site and bait station. I go in 5 days before I’ll actually start photographing and pre-bait the area – usually with whole kernel corn – around the camera. I want to get the deer coming to that place, so that I can photograph them. I wear rubber boots to leave as little human odor as possible. I’ll also put a mineral lick out in the same region where I’ve placed the bait. Sometimes the deer will come to a mineral lick for the minerals more frequently than they’ll come to corn, at certain times of the year. I’ve got some photos that show the deer consuming the mineral lick and never feeding on the corn.
After I have my bait station set up, I set my cameras to take one photograph every 10 minutes for 10 days. I’ll set the cameras for 24-hour continuous flash usage. With a 5-day pre-bait period and a 10-day camera census, I estimate that you generally can photograph 95% of the deer on the land. I’ll set my cameras 4- to 5-feet high and aim them at the bait station. By restricting the range of your cameras to just the area of the bait station, you generally can get really-high quality pictures of the bucks that come in to feed on the bait. However, the older-age-class bucks, particularly those 6-1/2- to 8-1/2-years old, may quickly get leery of the sound and flash of the camera. So, you may want to consider choosing a newer camera that doesn’t use sound and flash. But usually you won’t have many of those deer on your property. I’ve designed another way to photograph older-age-class bucks.
You can learn more about hunting deer in John E. Phillips’ Kindle eBooks by clicking on these: “How to Hunt Deer Like a Pro,” "How to Hunt Deer Up Close: With Bows, Rifles, Muzzleloaders and Crossbows,” and “PhD Whitetails: How to Hunt and Take the Smartest Deer on Any Property.”
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About the Author
John Phillips, winner of the 2012 Homer Circle Fishing Award for outstanding fishing writer by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the 2008 Crossbow Communicator of the year and the 2007 Legendary Communicator chosen for induction into the National Fresh Water Hall of Fame, is a freelance writer (over 6,000 magazine articles for about 100 magazines and several thousand newspaper columns published), magazine editor, photographer for print media as well as industry catalogues (over 25,000 photos published), lecturer, outdoor consultant, marketing consultant, book author and daily internet content provider with an overview of the outdoors. Click here for more information and a list of all the books available from John E. Phillips.