This article, Digiscoping Beats Trail Cameras, was written by our friends at 1st Light Hunting Journal.
5 Ways Digiscoping Beats Trail Cameras for Whitetail Scouting
For decades now, trail cameras have been one of the most useful innovations for deer hunters. And they continue to get better – with the latest feature being wireless cameras allowing you to be alerted of deer movement over your phone. Trail camera whitetail surveillance is a huge part of my scouting regimen. I’m a deer nerd and tireless strategist, always organizing and analyzing game camera images and data. I don’t see that changing anytime soon. After all, it’s not only an effective tool but fun to use. A guilty pleasure.
Let’s face it, game cameras provide many benefits. For one, if you manage your scent, it’s a fairly low-impact means of gathering information on an area deer herd. They’re an invaluable tool for serious deer hunters and game managers, revealing much regarding proof of life and whitetail patterns. This comes in handy particularly for cagy old bucks that rarely show themselves. From this, hunting strategies can be formed. And don’t forget about how enjoyable it is to gawk at images of them in texts from friends and social media.
However, trail cameras have their downsides as well. While it doesn’t cast as wide of a net, in-person scouting can be even more effective than solely depending on trail camera images. If a hunter uses sound logic regarding set up location, wind direction, and entry and exit routes, glassing for deer is a better alternative.
In this way, valuable photos can be captured from a greater distance via digiscoping. Pairing optics with your smartphone, Phone Skope digiscoping kits allow you to see deer patterns from a safe distance. And like with game cameras, the images can be recorded – and ultimately analyzed.
Here are 5 ways digiscoping beats trail cameras for whitetail hunting and scouting.
We’ve all had it happen. You excitedly make the commute to your hunting grounds only to find that your camera has either run out of batteries or you forgot to turn it on. Other pitfalls include livestock jarring the cameras or having them stolen. Not cool. At this point, you not only have little or no images but have spread your scent in sacred areas – for nothing. If you drove a couple of hours to get there, this is a real nightmare.
Of course, the worst case is when your trail camera breaks for good. In all of these cases, time and money have been lost.
Digiscoping allows you to go in when you want and gather vital intel in-person. The Phone Skope digiscoping kit, costing less than $80, requires no batteries. You must make sure your phone is charged but that’s a good idea anyway. The sturdy phone case and adapter aren’t at the mercy of the elements, battery life, and damage.
Any serious deer hunter will tell you scent and wind are everything in the whitetail woods. Deer have an unyielding sense of smell and being upwind of them will end a hunt and ruin a set up quickly. This is specifically true with mature whitetail bucks. That said, checking trail cameras can be downright detrimental. Placing your scent directly in your honey holes can spoil the whole deal.
Digiscoping however means that you can pick your spot before setting up. You can set up farther away from your hot spots and maintain a downwind position from likely deer movement. What if the wind shifts on you? No problem. You’ve hopefully set up in a location far enough away to at least minimize your scent. Undetected, you can get photos and videos of their movement, then leave without a trace.
Trail cameras come in a wide array of price points. These days, you can pick one up at Walmart for less than $30 or spend hundreds. The sweet spot for many deer hunters seems to be in the $100-$200 price range. Whatever the case, the spending doesn’t stop there. For one, several SD camera cards have to be purchased (and kept working). It’s pretty hard to find a single card for less than $10. And this cost is exponential based on the number of cameras you run and how well the cards hold up.
Your cameras have to be fed batteries as well. With most cameras requiring 8 AA batteries, this adds up quickly. There are also accessories that are often needed for effective trail camera use. For example, I depend on tree screw mounts for most of mine.
The only real way to combat trail camera costs is to run fewer cameras. Of course, this may entail missing the best shooter bucks on your hunting grounds.
As mentioned above, digiscoping kits represent a one-time cost. For example, my digiscoping kit for my iPhone 7-Plus comes costs about $80. I pair it with the binoculars I already own and I’m in business. Always in my hunting pack, it’s ready for scouting across multiple hunting properties.
I can’t tell you how many images of shooter bucks I get on camera every year. Though it’s good information, it usually lacks one very important element.
Where the heck did they come from?
Night pictures are the worst. Even with cellular cameras, you’re often left bewildered. Sure, you get instant notifications, but still have little idea where the buck’s original bedding or staging area was. Game cameras simply don’t offer ample field of view.
By digiscoping from the stand or other observation point, you can see what direction a deer approaches from. Even if you think you already know, the verification is priceless. This is particularly true for archery hunters that depend on creating ambush setups providing a shot close enough for success. Watch mature buck movement in the moment and you’ve increased your chances several times over.
Admit it, you just can’t help it. During the preseason or directly following a hunt, you want to grab that coveted card out from the camera. Hunters will often drive varying distances for these magical cards – even when it’s not an optimal time to enter these prized areas. The next time you’re tempted beyond control, remember that you can fill in your intel between card pulls by digiscoping from a distance. In this way, you can save money and frustration and keep that mature buck feeling safe and secure in his inner-core area.
Digiscoping beats trail cameras on a variety of fronts, but will I stop utilizing trail cameras? Not by a long shot. To abandon such a revolutionary tool would be akin to bow hunting with field points. Disadvantage me. Still, there are different ways to skin a cat. Digiscoping can be a more effective, affordable, and satisfying way to scout for whitetails, especially the smart and wary mature ones.
Remember, it doesn’t have to replace your trail camera regimen, it supplements it. The best part is it takes mere minutes to purchase a kit custom made for your optics and device. Visit PhoneSkope.com and embark on a new type of whitetail scouting.