Skip to main content

Using Trail Cameras for Ducks and Geese

Trail Cameras Aren't Just for Big Game, They Can Be Used To Help You Kill More Waterfowl Too!

Using Trail Cams for Ducks and Geese

Using trail cameras can help do the scouting for you (Photo courtesy of Scott Haugen)

One thing I love about waterfowl hunting–even after 48 years of doing it–is that the learning never stops. Three years ago, I got serious about running trail cameras with the hopes of increasing my duck and goose hunting opportunities. The things I learned this past season reached a whole new level.

Running trail cameras for waterfowl hunting involves six variables: The cameras, water levels, food sources, sunlight, wind, and migrations. Some factors are interdependent.

I started running non-cellular trail cameras for wood ducks in creeks. The challenge was traveling several miles to check them every few days. My buddies and I killed ducks, but the timing wasn’t always great. Plus, I lost a few cameras in high water.

Last season I started using cellular trail cameras. Right away I liked them for the simple reason I knew when water levels were rising so I could save them.

I tested several cellular models and went with Moultrie Mobile Edge Pros. I started with one, now I have more than 50 that I run for big game and predators, as well as waterfowl. The software updates are automatic on the Moultrie Mobile Pros and there are no cards to pull. I run all of them on high-definition video mode. When thumbnails start rolling in of birds hitting an area, I download a selection and crank the volume. Often, what I hear happening off-camera is as valuable as the visual footage. We shot a lot of ducks last season because of what I heard, not just saw.

a trail camera picture of a hunter picking up decoys
This trail camera picture shows the writer picking up decoys after a successful hunt (Photo courtesy of Scott Haugen)

Cellular trail cameras provide instant information. Sometimes the hunting window is brief, based on water levels, time of day, and food availability. I had multiple successful duck and goose hunts last season that wouldn’t have happened were it not for these cellular trail cameras.

Be it rivers, creeks, ponds, or fields, I closely monitor water levels. Once water starts rising or dropping, that’s when I set trail cameras in strategic spots. If water starts rising in a creek, I’ll put trail cameras up in the brush with the hopes of catching wood ducks moving in. I’ll also put them high on the banks overlooking flats, hoping to catch mallards as they move in to both feed and roost in the water as it covers the flats.

On rivers, I’ll put trail cameras on the edge of sloughs, knowing that as the river rises ducks will come into roost and access newly exposed feed. This led to some good goose hunts last season, too.

When the first heavy rains hit, I’ll set trail cameras on ponds as they’re rising. I’m targeting weeds and grasses that are going underwater for the first time. Rising water not only allows birds to reach seeds for the first time, but it will also knock off seeds which ducks then gather.

I hunt in a valley that produces a lot of grass seed, in fact, it’s called the Grass Seed Capitol of the World. When we get a few warm, sunny days, rye grass flourishes. Wigeon, even pintails and mallards will graze on the fresh sprouting grass. Last season we had warm days in November, December and January and the direct sunlight, though brief, was enough to spur grass growth like I’ve never seen. As a result, ducks were grazing in a lot of fields and on dike systems. Often they’d eat an area down to the dirt, but with the rain and sunshine, grass would once again reach grazing height 10 to 14 days later. I set trail cameras in many places and the instant ducks were back, I was hunting it the next morning or that very afternoon. Putting trail cameras in these areas yielded some epic wigeon hunts. The key is not to wait, rather hunt it right away.

duck hunter blowing a call
Using a trail cam can help you get into the right spot, when others are playing the guessing game of where to go. (Photo courtesy of Scott Haugen)

When a storm approaches, that’s prime time to get trail cameras set out. The more rain that’s falling and the windier it is, the better. Rain and rising water knock grass and weed seeds off the stock and winds push it. If winds are coming from the south, I’ll set cameras on the north end of ponds where the blowing seeds gather. Once ducks and geese discover it, I’ll hunt it.

Late in the season ducks start feeding on tiny snails that flourish in shallow ponds and soggy fields. One day in late January, extreme winds blew snails and the aquatic vegetation they clung to, against a dike separating two ponds I like to hunt. I moved a trail camera there and two days later thousands of ducks arrived. We shot three limits off it. The snails were nearly three inches deep along much of the dike.

Recommended


Trail cameras also reveal when northern birds arrive. An influx of ducks and geese often appears as storms move through the area, but that’s not the only time. Sometimes it’s storms in Canada or along the coast hundreds of miles away that force ducks and geese into our area. Sometimes it’s hard freezes that lock up roosting ponds, streams and creeks, and push birds our way. Other times it’s simply birds moving around the valley looking for new food or hitting different roosts for whatever reason.

I set all my camera’s close to the ground. This allows me to capture ducks when they’re on the targeted food source, shoreline, or water. I want the ducks close to the camera, within 10 yards if possible, so I can see and hear what’s happening—not only with them, but with birds in the background or out of frame.

Moultrie’s Universal Game Camera Stakes are something I use a lot when setting trail cameras for waterfowl. They’re low profile and easy to adjust. I move trail cameras around a lot, depending on sun, wind, rain and water levels and these stands are mobile and simple to re-set.

If setting trail cameras in shallow ponds with a muddy bottom, high winds might push the camera over on the Moultrie stands, so I make my own bases. I picked up a few 4x4 fence post bases with spikes at a local hardware store. Then I cut a foot-long section of an old 4x4 post, screwed a Moultrie Edge Series Flex Mount to it and was ready to go. The spikes on my post holders are 30” long, perfect for making trail camera sets in mud. They’re sturdy, won’t budge in the stiffest of winds and are easy to adjust and move, as needed. If your 4x4 is thin you might need a shim to secure the post in place.

Two things I love about the Moultrie Mobile Edge Pro cameras relate to the setup. Once in position, turn on your smartphone and pair it with the trail camera through the Mount/Aim setting. Once connected you’ll see what the cameras is seeing, on your phone, through the Live Aim option. Because these cameras are low to the ground, a half-inch one way or another can affect the shot. Once I get the camera in perfect position, I make sure the stand is secure.

Moving water will set off the camera, and that’s fine as long as it’s in the target zone. Once home, or over the next day or so depending on the conditions where the cameras are set, I’ll go back into the Moultrie Mobile app and reset the Smart Zones for each camera that needs it. If tall grass, brush or trees moving in the wind set off the camera, block out those zones. Every time the camera is moved, re-set the Smart Zones. It’s fast and simple to do from home, or anywhere, and it’ll allow you to focus on capturing the intended birds.

a pile of dead wigeon
Once you've used your trail cam to get you in the right spot, all you have to do is wait for the ducks to pile in. (Photo courtesy of Scott Haugen)

While physically scouting for ducks and geese has taught me a lot over the decades, cellular trail cameras have taken my education to the upper echelon. I even run in them in the post-season, until birds head north, with the hopes of discovering new places to hunt next season. Trail cameras are addicting but they’re a blast to run and they’ve provided me with more quality duck and goose hunts than I ever thought possible.
 
Note:
Scott Haugen is a full-time freelance writer and photographer. Check out his many trail camera videos on Instagram and Facebook.




GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

Adding honker floaters in your duck decoy spread can greatly add to your success.
Gear

Fiocchi's New Duck Busters

Adding honker floaters in your duck decoy spread can greatly add to your success.
Gear

Migration Strike

Adding honker floaters in your duck decoy spread can greatly add to your success.
Gear

Enhancing the Hunt: Skip Knowles and Tetra Hearing's Game-Changing Products

Adding honker floaters in your duck decoy spread can greatly add to your success.
Gear

The Goose Factory

Adding honker floaters in your duck decoy spread can greatly add to your success.
Gear

Heyday Outdoor - HydroFoam Diver Duck Decoys Review & Field Test

Adding honker floaters in your duck decoy spread can greatly add to your success.
Learn

Why You Suck at Shooting….and How to Fix Your Faults

Adding honker floaters in your duck decoy spread can greatly add to your success.
Gear

Remington Gun Club Cure Shotshells

Adding honker floaters in your duck decoy spread can greatly add to your success.
Gear

B&P Ammunition

Adding honker floaters in your duck decoy spread can greatly add to your success.
Gear

Browning Maxus 2 Wicked Wing

Adding honker floaters in your duck decoy spread can greatly add to your success.
Gear

Why You Should Be Using Confidence Decoys for Duck Hunting

Adding honker floaters in your duck decoy spread can greatly add to your success.
Learn

Exercise-Induced Heat-Related Illness

Adding honker floaters in your duck decoy spread can greatly add to your success.
Learn

Using Goose Floaters for Duck Hunting

Wildfowl Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Wildfowl App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Wildfowl stories delivered right to your inbox.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Wildfowl subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now