Pre Season Scouting: Trail Cams

As part of our #guidelife Series, we here at XFO want to create content pertaining to that exact hashtag, the Guide Life. We are creating a small series of videos on our Youtube Channel and following up with blog posts that help explain the videos in summarized versions.

We know that most hunters have their own ways of scouting and hunting, but we hope that for those people who may just be starting out or even guy that do know what they are doing, that we may have some tips of our own that can help you out on your next adventure!

So why are Trail Cams vital in our pre season scounting?


Well for starters, it helps us locate animals that our potential clients might want to hunt when they come out. It also helps us keep track of animal movements, herd sizes and even predator numbers in the area. We have also had instances where we saw a sick animal on our cameras and were able to keep an eye on it while it healed. It was quite interesting to see what the animals body went through while it was sick and then watch it make a full recovery.


Trail Cameras also help show you what times of the days animals in the area are moving, that way you can try and pattern their movements for the upcoming hunts. Often times, A lot of the bigger animals will move at night and early morning before hunting light, so it's nice to be able to check your cameras if you are hunting in that area to see which animals have been moving around.


Trail cams also help you as the hunter watch the growth of animals bodies and antlers. Keeping track of antler growth not only gives you an idea of genetics in the area, but also gets your blood pumping by watching how big some of the Elk, Moose and Deer grow through the pre season. There is no better trail cam image than one of an absolute stud that you had no idea was in the area. As Professional Guides and Outfitters, the trail camera pics also help us in marketing our hunts and being able to show potential clients what animals we have found and patterned. This plays a huge role in booking hunts and keeping our clients engaged throughout the entire pre season. We do the scouting for them, but they get to see what we see as if they are the ones who are scouting.


Placement of your trail camera is one of the most important things to remember when setting your own cams. We always try and set our cameras facing either North or South, because if you face them East or West, you may get images like the one above. This cam was facing directly east so when the sun was rising, it over exposed the image and it is extremely hard to see that there is Mule Deer Doe standing at the bottom left of the image. ( Only reason we know this is because after a few more over exposed shots, we finally saw the Doe in one of the pics.) But, placement is key when setting your cameras to ensure you get the best quality footage you can!


Location is just as important as placement and both key functions are one in the same. Placement covers direction of camera, location covers placement on tree. We have seen some guys place their cams way to high and way to low, especially on slopes or hill sides. Angle of your trail cam is also very important. When we set cams, we look for a solid tree, and place the camera between waist and chest height. If you are on a downhill slope, you want to place the camera pretty low to the ground with a stick set behind the upper back of your cam to help angle it down, and on uphill slopes you would place the camera higher and place a stick on the bottom back of the cam to angle the cam upwards. We like to set our cams roughly 15' - 20' from our salt blocks as we have found this to be a great area of coverage to maximize our photo and video opportunities.


As you see in the pic above, Team Guide Steven has his camera set lower on a pine, but resting on a fallen tree. Not only does this give his camera added stability, but it helps with the concealment of his camera. Some people aren't too worried about concealing their cameras, but in high traffic areas it's something you should consider. In this particular spot, if anyone were to walk up on this camera they would most likely do so from behind, so having the pine tree behind the camera in the direction someone might hike in from helps with the concealment. Also, there are trees surrounding the area that make locating this camera a little more difficult. After strapping the Trail Cam to the tree, we often use lock boxes or steel cables to secure them to the tree, along with some kind of padlock to prevent people and animals from opening the boxes.

Picking a location for a trail cam needs to have 4 important keys.

1. Game Trails

2. Water nearby

3. Food Supply

4. Cover

When we set cameras, we often look for heavily used game trails, and especially areas where multiple game trails intersect. Although we dont place the cams directly on the intersections, we do place them in a covert spot aiming towards the trails. We also try and find the trails that are close to a water source or we will even place our cams directly on the water source. Having multiple cameras in one area helps with covering each vital key as you can have one cam on the water source and one back near the trails. This helps with patterning the animals alot! Food Supply is just as important because if there is no food source nearby, the animals will only pass through and won't hang around. Most the time if you find a viable water source, chances are, a food source is nearby. Cover is the last key thing we look for as most Big Game Animals rely on cover to not only protect them from the elements, but to protect from predators and danger. They will often bed down in thicker cover to keep them protected and so we try and find areas they use for cover that have the other 3 keys nearby when we set cameras. The above Picture is an example of a good set up for a trail cam. This is a random spot picked out on OnX Maps just to use as a reference.

There are many other factors in regards to setting up a trail camera and different states have different laws on the use of game cameras so be sure to check your states regulations and any states you plan to hunt. Here in Utah we are allowed to use trail cameras and salt licks/attractants, we just arent supposed to hunt over bait piles.

If you have any questions or comments or if we left something out please let us know in the comments. If you have other tips or tricks we would love to hear from you as well. As a follow up of this blog, we also just added our first #guidelife series episode 1 on YouTube, that correlates with this post so be sure to check it out at the below link!

12 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All