Proper Camera Setup for Summertime Water Sources
By: Heath Wood
After a hunter finds a new property for deer hunting, they tend to spend the first couple of years simply learning the land and gathering data on what animals reside there and where the best locations on the property are located.
Sometimes, learning the prime locations of a hunting property can happen almost immediately. Other times it can be two or three years, and one may seem to stumble upon these locations without really looking, or at least that is what happened to me.
In the summer of 2020, I began the third year of hunting a particular piece of property in southern Missouri. During the middle of the summer, we had reached the point where the temperatures stayed in the mid ninety’s daily, and we experienced minimal rain for several weeks in a row. Like most hunters would do, I found a small pond that I assumed would be an excellent location to hang a camera and observe what was coming to the water to hydrate during the summer heat. After three weeks of the camera hanging near the pond banks, I was surprised to find an astonishing amount of wildlife using the small farm pond daily. Over those three weeks, I captured several hen turkeys with their young poults—a group of longbeards who regularly visited, an array of small creatures such as raccoon and opossums. And of course, several deer, including does with their fawns and the best part, several mature bucks who regularly visited the pond.
During the summer months of the year, an adult whitetail deer requires at least three to four quarts of water daily to survive. In reviewing the photos, it seemed that many animals like to wade out into the water to cool their body temperatures down. However, that is not what piqued my interest and curiosity. Animals must stay cool and hydrated during warm weather; that is a gimme. Yet, I found myself wondering, with several other ponds that the landowners’ cattle regularly used and a nearby river that flows through the property, why was this small body of water a big hit to the deer, especially the more mature bucks?
Location, Location, Location
Last year, I began viewing my camera hanging near the small farm pond during the latter part of August. Upon inspecting the photos, I realized that the time captured on the bottom of the photos was when I was pulling the memory card from another camera that was a couple of hundred yards up the hill from where the pond sits. When I got to the end of the photos, I noticed a mature buck in a few of them. The buck was standing at the pond the entire time as I put out a few minerals and rotated cards in the other camera nearby. It was then I realized that it was all about the location of the pond. The small body of water sits down at a bottom with four steep hills on each side. Two of the four sides are within a few yards of the edge of the timber, resulting in the deer feeling safe and secluded.
When placing cameras near a water source, it is vital to ensure that the deer are using the area regularly. When deer have nearby cover and do not feel as if they are in the wide-open while getting a drink of water, they will visit more often. When hanging the camera itself, find an area where you think the deer will often approach the water. Usually, this area will be where the cover is closest to the water. An easy way to find the best location is by observing the tracks in the mud on the water source banks. Wherever there is the most concentrated number of tracks is where the camera should be facing. If there is no nearby tree or fence post to hang the camera, one can use a stand, such as the Hawk Camera Stakeout System. This type of stand allows you to put a camera in any location. I prefer using a stake at the edge of the cover, approximately ten yards from the edge of the water. A camera placed a few yards away prevents spooking deer by having the camera in an unfamiliar location. Plus, it also prevents any risk of the camera being harmed by wildlife knocking it over into the water.
Artificial Water Source
Another source of water that I have found effective in capturing an abundance of photos is having or placing an artificial water source. Many of the areas I have deer hunted are also home to livestock such as cattle. Often, farmers will place a tank of some type in an easy access area for the cattle. The same concept can be done for deer. If there are not many water sources in an area or if the hunter wants to put water in a strategic position, using a tank filled with water can be the perfect setup for a summer game camera.
I have used small tanks that are easy to access by vehicle for refilling near my mineral sites. For example, I like to put my minerals for deer in the corner of a food plot or other food source. As with water, when mineral areas are secluded or in an area where deer feel safe, they are more likely to be used. When a deer has consumed a significant amount of minerals or has fed in areas where food has been poured out for them, the next thing they want is a drink of water. By placing an artificial water source near these areas, you create the perfect zone for more photo opportunities.
Ideal For Cellular Cameras
Since arriving on the hunting scene, the use of cellular game cameras has increased yearly. The number one reason for their popularity comes from the hunter not having to travel to an area each time they check their cameras. Getting instant notifications when a deer is in front of the camera no longer disturbs their natural habitat to gather data. With less frequent visits by humans, deer feel less pressured and safe.
A well-located water source is an ideal location for a cellular camera. I recently placed my Stealth Cam Fusion X Cellular Trail Camera on a pond with the right amount of cover nearby to be a well-used water source for deer. The reason for using my Fusion X instead of my regular Stealth Cam’s is that of having a more suitable data plan.
I often hear people who don’t want to use a cellular camera in specific locations because they get too many pictures, risking going over their data plan, which could cost them more money than they want to spend. By placing the Fusion X on a well-used water source, I will get a good number of photos, yet not thousands of photos as when a deer is camped out in the food or minerals. Another reason for hanging a camera nearby secluded water sources is because deer feel less pressure when using that area. When a camera is located on food or minerals, there is a need to revisit the area to replenish them. A water source such as a pond is a natural area that doesn’t need any attention for deer to visit. By having a cellular camera, the task to revisit is minimal.
There is no better place to find deer during the hot summer temperatures than at a nearby water source. One will find where deer feel comfortable and are minimally pressured, whether natural or man-made; the increased chance of capturing deer on camera to use for scouting is a definite incentive to place cameras near a water source.