QUESTION: Hello Bob. I enjoy you articles and have had a number of questions answered by them. One question I hope you will answer for me has to do with trail cameras and how deer react to them.
Does the flash from a trail camera really bother deer that much; and are IR (Infrared) cameras the way to go?
I've heard the flash will spook mature deer more than young deer and will cause older deer to change travel paths to avoid the flash.
What is the truth of the battle between flash and IR? Thanks for your time and help, and keep the great articles coming. -- Ron C. of Little Rock, AR
ANSWER: I don't know if there has been any real scientific research on this subject, so I can't tell you definitively. However, I can share what I, and others I know have observed.
Intuitively, you would expect that any time a deer has a negative encounter with something, it could affect their behavior in the future, and this effect would likely be more pronounced in older deer.
Using flash cameras in burst mode (shooting several frames) I have observed negative reactions - deer fleeing after the flash. I also have a number of pictures of deer staring alertly at the camera.
As they were already alerted to something before the camera flash went off, I presume this is a reaction to the small red light on some cameras that is activated when the camera is triggered by motion.
Since I made the switch to IR cameras, I've noticed I'm getting more pictures, and more pictures of the same deer. They seem to remain longer and return more frequently.
I have also observed a distinct difference between randomly placed cameras and those set on feeders. I rarely got multiple pictures of the same buck with randomly placed flash cameras. However, I did observe repeat visits to feeders with flash cameras. This suggests the camera effect is ameliorated by the presence of food.
Based on that and what I've heard from others, I believe flash cameras can have a negative effect on deer movement in some situations - particularly in burst mode - and IR cameras are a better alternative.