ANALYZING TRAIL CAMERA AND OBSERVATION DATA: OFF-SEASON MOUNTAIN BUCKS
Article by: Beau Martonik
With the new year rolling in and whitetail season in the rearview mirror (for the most part), I am looking forward to picking some sheds and scouting in the spring. I try to give myself some “time off” this time of year from going in the woods, or at least decrease the amount of time I spend in the woods doing something whitetail related. That’s easier said than done, but that doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about whitetails and the upcoming year. I run my trail cameras almost year round, besides the spring and early summer. During the winter months, I like to dump any SD cards that I have up to this point onto my computer and get them organized.
I organize all my trail cameras in my photo library on my Macbook pro, but this can be organized in folders on a PC, as well. I organize them in the following way.
Specific Location/Type of location
I have trail camera photos organized like this back to 2011, and is a great tool for reviewing the photos to create next year’s plan. When I “dump” the photos onto my computer in this fashion, I then pay attention to all photos of mature bucks during/just prior to hunting season and log that data into Google sheets, which is just an online version of Microsoft Excel essentially. In addition to the trail camera data, I will also log real sightings from in the stand in here. Within this sheet, I have the following columns that I populate with information.
Buck ID - sometimes I will name the bucks to keep track of them rather than just have 10 bucks named “Big 8”
Weather - I use historical data from Weather Underground
Notes - I will add anything that is relevant as to what may of caused the buck to be there
Once I have all of the data populated into the sheet, I can dive into a hunt and scouting plan for the following year. I look for trends in daylight activity, which can be noting that certain dates or weather patterns produce movement in specific areas year after year. In addition, if I am only getting nighttime photos, I can look at the time to try to figure out where he might be bedding or spending time in the daylight. This is where looking at onX (save 20% off of the onX Hunt app by using the code EMW) and getting boots on the ground in the springtime comes into play. Your trail cameras are a great tool to use as long as you use the data that they are telling you! It’s easy to get lazy with this, as I catch myself doing, but it’s very important. My cameras are more so for helping me plan for next season, rather than that season. So even though I’m not spending as much time in the woods right now, there’s still a lot that can be done with some effort from your home to get ready for the upcoming year.