Deer on trail cams: Will changing trigger speed alter productivity?

It’s safe to say that trail cameras have revolutionized hunting and wildlife management. They allow us a noninvasive look into deer behavior we might otherwise not be privy to, unless you’re a researcher in a facility. But even then, more than likely, some form of trail camera surveillance would be implemented.
The technology in trail cameras has certainly come a long way, especially in models that boast infrared-triggered technology. From picture quality to capability and functionality, they’re far more user-friendly than they were just a few short years ago. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t come without their own drawbacks. 
In a 2013 thesis by Peter Kendrick Acker, who at the time was a graduate student at Auburn University, Acker details the results of a lengthy study he conducted at the Auburn University Deer Lab as a portion of the requirements for his degree of Master of Science. 
Acker’s abstract suggests that while today’s technology has increased camera and photo quality, those with infrared-trigger functions have also resulted in a dramatic rise in the number of man hours necessary to review countless photos. His objective was to examine techniques that would help reduce processing time when using trail cameras to survey and estimate population parameters of white-tailed deer. Acker’s research compared the efficiency between trail cameras, placed side by side with one set on a five-minute delay and the other on a 10-minute delay. The results were a little surprising.
During September and October 2010, Acker’s thesis states that he and his team, “completed 2, 7-day camera surveys after a 5-day bait period. At 7 of 8 sights over the 2 surveys, the 10-minute delay captured as many or more individuals than the 5-minute camera, yet took only 52% the number of pictures.” 
Acker’s research went on to study the effectiveness of pre-baiting prior to the camera efficiency surveys as well as examining any changes made in sex ratios and/or age class of deer identifications and captures over varied time periods. Since this was done in a fenced research facility, the deer used were tagged and easily identifiable. It’s worth noting that baiting deer in any form is illegal in Illinois. 
So for those, myself included, who take to the deer woods to check trail cameras only to have to sift through who knows how many subject-less pictures, simply because we’ve set our cameras at 5 minutes or less, hoping to get as many deer pictures as we possibly can, take heed. Why drain our camera batteries, max out memory cards, and waste time deleting pointless pictures if all that’s needed is to flip that trigger-delay-switch over to 10-minutes? Hey, if I can eliminate wasted time, yet get as many or more productive pics, then I’m game.

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