buck in velvet staring at trail camera

Trail Camera Tips | How To Set Up Trail Cams For Big Buck Intel

If you want to find an early chink in the armor of a buck cast a wide net. Trail cameras are a great way to do just that.

When it comes to trail cameras, there are definitely many options these days. But even after you pick one, there can be lots of questions…

  • How do you use trail cameras to their potential so that you can get pictures bucks frequenting your hunting property?
  • What is the best time of year to start mounting trail cameras?
  • Are there some strategies that work best for locating target bucks?
  • What is the best way to mount a trail camera?

If you are looking for some answers to these questions, read on, we have some great trail camera tips for you!

man mounting a trail camera to a tree

Buying a trail camera is only the first step to capturing buck activity on camera. Below, learn some tips on how to set them up!



You have a trail camera… now what?

When it comes to putting out trail cameras, I always start a little earlier than most people. But, it’s understandable that not all hunters want to waste batteries and time going to check them.

So, if you are already very familiar with the property you intend to hunt and have an idea of the summer patterns of the bucks on that property, you could wait until late July or early August.  

Trail Camera mounting tip #1 Hot zones are Bedding and Feeding Areas

As I have learned more and more about deer hunting – and more specifically, buck behavior – it has become clear that it’s imperative to determine where bucks are bedding and feeding.

So, how can you set up the trail camera to get daylight pictures of those bucks?

Well, once you have an idea of where they are bedding and feeding, set up your trail cameras on routes that deer take to and from these areas until you begin to get daylight pictures of bucks.  

Getting these pictures may be easier if you hunt near agriculture such as corn, soybeans, sorghum, etc. than if you are hunting large stands of timber or hardwoods.

trail camera picture of big buck in velvet

Locating bedding and feeding areas are the first step to identifying the travel routes that bucks are using to move between the two.

If you only hunt large forested areas, then you might want to focus on open areas in the timber that have a lot of previous deer sign.

Another thing to focus on in these types of forested areas is browse pressure on native vegetation. For example, if you look closely, you may be able to see the tops of some of the plants and vegetation that have been nipped off.  If there is too much browse pressure, then you might need to use a supplemental food source or deer mineral until deer season (if it is legal in your area).




Set up cameras near scrapes

Another way to get great early season bucks on camera is to get trailcam pictures near mock scrapes or active scrapes from last season.  I look for open areas or trails that might have a brushy limb or vine hanging over bare ground or low vegetation. 

I’ve got some great video of a target buck tending a scrape and chasing another 3-year-old buck away from it.  These are the types of areas I will key in on and look for locations to put deer stands in hopes of taking a successful shot on a mature whitetail.

Then, I might set up a scrape dripper in hopes of increasing the buck activity in that location. If the bucks and does are already using a scrape now they will more than likely continue to use it during the season. 

I have seen as many as 20 open scrapes on a 300 yd trail that led from bedding to food.  Some bucks will travel up to three square miles for a safe food source.  The bucks on that particular scrape line were bedding 1,000 yards away and traveling almost every night to and from that food source to bed. 



Put in the extra effort

If you want to your trailcam strategy to yield the best intel possible, you need to be willing to get out of your comfort zone and do some scouting off the road. Some of the best sign and bedding areas are off the road a good bit, but may be closer than you think. 

I have cut through 10 yards of thick brush and vegetation off a main trail and all of the sudden, booma big buck travel corridor!  If you find water or a swamp, even better.  Now you have a funnel, bedding, and a water source.

Deer are edge creatures, so if you find where the terrain transitions from hard woods or pines to swamp or thickets, then you should find good sign, or at least some type of deer trail.

When I’m scouting, I look for droppings, deer tracks and old rubs. Once you practice looking for these long enough, you will begin to get an eye for a good place to hunt or hang a trail camera.

buck rub on a tree

Rubs and other buck sign are good locations to consider mounting a trail camera.

Swampy areas…

If you hunt swamps like I do in the South, then you might feel overwhelmed by the amount of water. But, deer like to bed in swampy areas because it is cooler, and they can detect predators farther away.   

A lot of times, aerial pictures taken when there is still foliage on the trees makes it impossible to see these deer trails coming in and out of a swampy area. So, because pines and hardwoods hold their foliage longer, pictures taken during Winter or before Spring green-up will show transition areas better. 



If you can only find does, keep looking, because the bucks will be nearby within a couple hundred yards. 

Water, funnels and fences

Another way to use aerial maps to hang trail cameras is to look for tree lines and natural funnels. 

Agriculture, fence lines, and water all make great natural funnels for deer to travel.  Deer do not feel as comfortable going across an open field, through water, or over a tall fence.

While deer can jump over or go under just about anything, they will default to openings in fence lines.

When it comes to water, I have seen deer chase through two feet of swamp water, but they would much rather go around it if they can.  

deer trail around edge of swamp

The “diamond in the rough” in swampy areas are trails in the mud coming in and out of the swamp as deer will often skirt around the edges of water.

Field Edges and corners

Field edges and corners are also great places to hang trail cameras. 

Deer will come out of just about anywhere if you have a good stand of bedding area along a field, but for some reason, they seem to prefer coming out of the corners.

On one of my hunting properties, there is a corner of a field that also has a water source that deer will skirt around.  This area makes for an awesome trail camera spot. In one pre-season, I have gotten pictures of 10 different bucks coming back to bed. 



If you are having trouble getting daylight pictures of bucks, try glassing the field and see where they are coming out at in the afternoon. 

I have also seen bucks come out of the middle of a strip of trees off a field.  It all just depends on where they are bedding, and you will not know that unless you watch where they come out at in the afternoon or go back to in the morning. 



Cellular trail cams… a game changer

If baiting is not legal in your area, cellular cameras are a great option if you do not want to intrude on the area once it is set up. There are certainly huge advantages to not disturbing or leaving unnecessary scent in the area you are hoping to hunt.

Cell cameras allow you to wait until you see the buck you want using the area before going in for the kill.

There are new guidelines out now for the Boone and Crockett club that you cannot use a cell camera to help you kill a buck that meets their scoring requirements if you want it entered in the record books.  The Pope & Young Club has also updated its guidelines regarding the use of cellular trail cameras as it pertains to fair chase.

If you are like most people, you probably do not have booners running around and may not necessarily care about making the record books. 



I typically run three cell cameras and eight regular cameras.  I use my cell cameras mainly to tell me when it is time to go refill the feed.  In my opinion, you can pattern deer just as well with standard trail cameras. 

You should, however, be more careful when you check the regular trails cameras.  Typically, I like to wait until around noon to check my trail cams, or I check them late at night after I know deer are already in the field feeding. 

I shot my biggest buck in 2019 after using a regular trail camera.  I noticed he was coming in the second day after I put out corn and deer lure, and I was able to take him just as planned. 



How to set up the trail camera | Best practices

When I set up a new trail camera, I mount it to a sturdy tree, at a height of about 3 feet off the ground. Or, I will set it up at a height where it can cover the most field of view. 

I make sure to clear vegetation and try and get a northern camera direction unless it has a lot of overhanging foliage or forest canopy to shield the sun.  Facing the trailcam East or West can cause the sunlight to interfere with the pictures as well as producing false triggers that result in unwanted pictures.

Mounting Tip: you can use is using your smart phone camera and flipping it to selfie mode.  Put the back of your phone on the trail camera, and you can get a good idea of what your camera will be seeing.

I also hang cameras parallel to the trail to catch the movement as well. 

You do not want to face the camera directly across the trail or you will end up getting pictures of just tails or brow tines. 

As deer season gets closer, you can also use video determine the direction the bucks are traveling to the bait sites or how they are using travel corridors.  (when using still shots only, it can be hard to tell which directing deer are moving). 

If you are trying to save your trail camera’s battery, I would set it to a three-picture burst and then switch to video when the season starts.



Trail Camera Tips Conclusion

As you can tell, an effective trailcam strategy involves planning and attention to detail. Hopefully, you have learned some tips that will help you become a more successful hunter. Not only that, but you never know what unexpected pictures of rare things you might get on your trailcam.

Here’s to great trail camera pics and even better pics of you sitting behind a trophy buck!


If you have any more questions or would like to follow along this deer season, I am active on social media:

I use the HuntWise App and my username is jrwilliamsjr. 

On Instagram, you can find me under aon_whitetail

My email address is johnrwilliams@valdosta.edu if you would like to contact me there.  I am currently in school to become a wildlife biologist.


picture of john williams with a big buck
John Williams
valkyrie jag and jagger

Valkyrie Broadheads Review | The Inside Information

Many people have asked me to do a review of the Valkyrie broadheads, and I finally got to do it.

Many people have asked me to test this broadhead. If you have read any of my other reviews, you know that I test a lot of high quality broadheads. The Valkyrie definitely fits the bill.

valkyrie broadheads side by side
Here you can see the Valkyrie close up. And man, upon close inspection, you don’t wonder where the money went in what you just purchased. These are some really high quality, well-constructed heads that just look wicked cool. I love the way the Valkyrie heads look as well as the overall design.

Valkyrie broadheads | An overview

The Valkyrie heads are machined out of a single chunk of S7 tool steel. that is brought to a Rockwell hardness of 58 to 60 which is really hard.

Now, it’s important that you don’t compare that to 58 to 60 in a stainless steel, because with an S7 tool steel like this, the impact resistance is many times greater than that of stainless steel.

So, you are getting the benefit of a really hard edge and really hard blade combined with really tough impact resistance as well.

The Valkyrie is a 3-blade design. The cutting diameter is relatively low at 1 inch. But, with 3 blades, you are getting an inch-and-a-half of total cut which is a lot more than most 2-blade heads.

The heads range from 160 grains to over 300 grains (for those needing a higher forward-of-center %).

The overall purpose of the Valkyrie design is to maximize penetration. And that’s why this “swept” design in the short Jag head, and in the regular-sized Jagger.

The blades of the Valkyrie heads are also completely coated with a Cerakote ceramic finish. This aids in resistance to the elements, which a tool steel typically does not have. It also provides a less of a glare and it aids in penetration, to give it a bit more smoothness through bone, tissue and hide.

valkyrie broadheads
Pictured is the 180-grain model and the 200-grain model. They go from 160 grains and some of them are vented like that all the way up to over 300 grains, for setups requiring higher FOC. So some are vented and some are not vented based on the size and based on the design. But the overall purpose is to get one tough head that penetrates extremely well.
valkyrie broadheads double beveled edges
The blades are .054 inch thick, yet they are much thicker at the front, due to being tapered from the front back and because of the chiseled tip. As you go away from the axis, they get a little bit thinner and are brought to a double bevel edge.


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The Setup

For this test, I’m used my Bowtech SR6 set at 72 pounds and I’m using the whole Valkyrie system pictured below. It comes with VAP arrows 0.166 diameter and with their titanium centerpin and the broadhead. The arrows even have their own fletching.

valkyrie arrow set
The Valkyrie Arrow System

Valkyrie testing

I was very eager to test these heads. They looked like they would penetrate well. They also spun very true and looked and felt very sharp. I also wanted to test for long-range flight, edge retention, penetration and durability. So let’s get to the results…


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Sharpness test

To test the sharpness of the Valkyrie Jagger, I examined its ability to cut paper not only out of the box, but also after up to five strokes of the arrow shaft against the blade edge.

valkyrie broadheads arrow stroke sharpness test
This head cut paper even after five strokes of the arrow shaft.
valkyrie broadheads paper cut test
Still cutting paper after 5 strokes of the arrow!

You can learn more about the Valkyrie arrow system by visiting their website, valkyriearchery.com.

Long Range Flight | Balloon test

valkyrie broadheads long range flight test
Both the short Jag and the Jagger flew true enough to pop balloons from 70 yards.


Penetration testing

In the ballistic gel test, the short Jag penetrated 8 inches.

valkyrie ballistic gel penetration test
The short jag head penetrated 8 inches through the MDF, rubber mat and ballistic gel.

In the steel plate penetration test below, notice the holes that the Valkyrie heads make. They are not just slits, they really put those nice triangular holes in the steel plate.

And, I will note too that it’s fairly easy to sharpen. When I’m sharpening it, I use a paper wheel. You can use whatever you want or you can just mail it back in. They actually sharpen them or will even repair them if they need repair… all for free. ($10 shipping and handling to send the head in).

valkyrie steel plate penetration test
Here’s the Valkyrie after going through the 22-gauge steel plate 5 times. And as you can see, it’s in pristine condition. It looks brand new! The only signs of wear are a little bit of the Ceracoat finish got stripped off of the edges. That’s it. Nothing on the blades… no nicks, not even scratches. This is amongst the very best in terms of durability through the steel plate that I’ve seen so far. Very impressive.



Final Thoughts

So what do you think of the Valkyrie? I’ve got to tell you, I was impressed. I was expecting quite a bit from these broadheads and I have to say, they exceeded even my high expectations.

This is one very well-designed, very well-constructed broadhead.

If you are looking for something that’s high quality that’s going to last you forever and that you can use on anything in the world, this is a head worth checking out.

Overall, the Valkyrie is just an incredible head, well-worth checking out especially if you are going after a really big-bodied animal. This is something that is really worth investigating.

Great job, Valkyrie.

Best of luck on your next bow hunt!

(Be sure to visit our deer hunting tips page to get ready for the upcoming season!)

John Lusk archery goat
John Lusk of Lusk Archery Adventures
toxic broadhead test

Toxic Broadheads Review | The Inside Information

In this review, I test a broadhead unlike any I’ve ever seen… the Toxic Broadhead from Flying Arrow Archery.

I love innovations and this broadhead definitely fits the bill.

Toxic Broadheads At First Glance

The Toxic broadhead has is six curved blades, each of which come together to form three different circles, and they call this the “meat worm technology.”

That’s a nasty-sounding name, but it describes how the head literally cuts three cores of tissue out of animals, leaving a devastating wound channel.

closeup of toxic broadhead

The Toxic broadhead has a chiseled tip and six single-bevel blades.

Head Structure

Each of the six blades on the Toxic come together at the top of the head, but there is a little space between them. Like some of the 2-blade broadheads that I have tested, they are single bevel blades, which is supposed to allow them to be able to flare out a little bit and go around bones, leaving a devastating wound channel. (I’ve seen them take down a moose, and it is definitely devastating).

The Toxic has a chiseled tip, which adds to its penetrating ability and toughness upon hard impacts. It also spins very true.

I wasn’t able to find any of the specs on the broadhead itself, the type of steel, and the thickness of the blades, and so forth. Usually, on most broadheads, I can find that information and supply that.

However, in this case I just had to gather information based on the test results themselves to test penetration, durability and penetration, durability, draining ability and flight.



Even though I had heard reports of the Toxic broadhead flying well, I had a hard time believing it. I was eager to find out for myself…



Penetration Testing

To test the overall penetration and durability, I started by shooting the Toxic into my medium which consisted of the following: a half-inch layer of MDF, surrounded by a third-of-an-inch of rubber foam matting, followed by clear ballistic gel.

I then shot it into a 22-gauge steel plate, with the intention of shooting it up to five times, as the blade will allow before they get seriously damaged. In this test, once serious damage occurs, I stop.

For each shot where they don’t get damaged, I give them 2 points for a maximum of 5 shots; a maximum of 10 points.

As in all my tests, I am shooting the Bowtech SR6, set at 72 pounds and 27-inch draw. I’m using a Bishop Archery FOC King Arrow, 460 grains and FOBs and a nockturnal nock.


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Into MDF / Foam Rubber / Ballistic Gel Medium

In the penetration testing, the Toxic went a total of 6-3/4 inches into this medium. It was really cool to see the hole created by the “worm technology.” The wound channel created was incredible.

toxic ballistic gel test
In the initial few inches, there was a lot of “craziness” in the gel. After that initial couple of craziness, it just seemed to normalize. I’m not sure what happened, but it looks like a normal wound channel after that.
toxic meat worms
When I pulled the arrow out, it literally created these “meat worms,” hence the name “meat worm technology” that is used by Flying Arrow Archery’s Toxic broadhead. I can imagine this would do some serious damage on an animal.



Into Steel Plate

As for the edge retention, which was what I was testing it for, the Toxic really could only handle one shot. After the shot, the tip of this head looked pristine. I imagine it could have gone through steel a hundred times. It would probably stick in concrete as well.

The blades however, got pretty bent and the edges pretty mangled. I’ve had other heads do much better. I had to call the test complete after just one shot through the steel. So, I’ll give that 2 points.

So, the tip held up great. The edge retention? Not so good.

toxic steel plate test
Here is the hole made by the Toxic in the steel plate. I’ve never seen a broadhead make this size of a hole in the plate.


Water drain test

In the water bag drainage test, I was curious to see how quickly the Toxic would drain the water bag. I used this as a test to get an idea of what the wound channel would be like.

toxic broadhead water drain test

The Toxic drained the water bag in just 1.4 seconds, which is astounding. This is a result of the incredible amount of cut that this head provides.

Shooting at distance

You might think, “Wow, the Toxic has over 4 inches of cut. That’s impressive!”

However, you might also assume that with 4 inches of cut, “there’s no way that’s going to fly well.”

But, it actually flew relatively well. I could readily pop balloons at 70 yards.

Some fixed-blade heads have flown better, that’s for sure. But, some have flown worse. So overall, a good flying head.

The Toxic flew surprisingly well. I was able to pop a balloon at 70 yards.

Toxic Broadhead Recap

So, what do you think of the Toxic broadhead?

I have to be honest. When the Toxic first came out and I read about it, I thought this head was 100% gimmick. I didn’t see how it could fly well. I didn’t see how it could hold up or penetrate well.

However, after reading some of the reports and seeing some of the damage on animals, I finally got around to testing it. And I have to say, I was impressed.

The primary reason that I think it has done so well is the total cut size that you have as well as the total amount of tissue being cut (over 4 inches) as it passes through something.

The reason for this is the circumference of each of the blades that sort of curl into a circle if you will, is about 1.3 inches total. So, multiply that x3 and you’ve got over 4 inches of tissue being cut.

toxic blade damage

Now, the big drawback with the Toxic is durability. The chiseled tip is extremely strong. However, the blades themselves are relatively thin and then they come to a pretty thin point as they wrap around into the circle. They are sharpened at a single bevel.

Compare that cut to some other heads:

  • The QAD Exodus broadheads: 1.875 total inches of cut
  • Rage: 2 inches of cut
  • Slick Trick: 1-inch diameter, and 2 inches of cut
  • GrizzTrick broadhead, 1.25 inches of diameter and 2.5 inches of cut

In terms of penetration, you would think, “Man, with 4 inches of cut, there’s no way that’s going to penetrate well through MDF and rubber foam mat and ballistic gel.”

But, it actually did. It didn’t penetrate as well as some other broadheads, but for 4 inches of cut, it penetrated pretty well.

But the durability… not so good.

So, all of that means is that the blades are not super durable, and you saw that in the steel plate test, as they got pretty dinged-up and bent just in the 22-gauge steel plate.

And, while I have certainly had broadheads do much better, I have not seen another broadhead do this poorly in a 22-gauge steel plate.




Final Thoughts

The Toxic may be a “one-and-done” broadhead. However, the amount of damage that you are going to get from that one shot could be really significant.

So, how would I feel hunting with this head? I would be a little cautious because I worry about the durability if I’m hitting a hard bone, especially if I hit a bone at an angle.

However, with the amount of cut that you get, the good flight and the way it has performed well even through a hard layer like MDF, I would definitely give it a whirl. If it can cut through that much tissue while it penetrates that much and flies that well, it’s definitely worth a look.

So this is certainly not a gimmick. Give the Toxic broadhead from Flying Arrow Archery a second look.