John's Journal...

Wildlife Biologist and Land Manager Mark Thomas Uses Motion-Sensor Cameras to Improve Lands

Day 5: Tips for Photographing Predators with Your Camera with Mark Thomas

Editor’s Note: Mark Thomas ( is both a registered forester and a registered wildlife biologist and an active member of the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) and the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF). Thomas consults for the timber and the wildlife industries and constantly evaluates and improves properties for hunting. One of the key tools he uses in his daily work is motion-sensor cameras, often having as many as 50 cameras on one piece of property doing various surveys. This week we’ve talked with Thomas about what he’s doing with his motion-sensor cameras, and how cameras can help you improve you land.

Click for Larger ViewClick for Larger ViewQuestion: Mark, yesterday you told us about using a motion-sensor camera to determine predator populations, and you explained how a bobcat population was detrimentally impacting the turkeys on one property you managed. What other predators can you find by using cameras?

Thomas: In some areas, we’ve discovered feral dogs by using cameras. Feral dogs will often pack-up on a property, and when they pack-up, they’ll revert back to their more-primitive instincts and have a more coyote or a wolf mentality. Once I saw a pack of five feral dogs on some land I was surveying. These packs of wild dog will kill fawns, adult deer, rabbits and any other type of critter they can catch. Many times they won’t even consume the animals they kill. So, you don’t want packs of wild dogs on your lands. With a camera census, you can determine not only your predator population numbers but also the kinds of predators on your property.

Question: How do you set-up your camera to photograph predators?

Thomas: I like to set my camera high and aim it down toward the bait station. This way you get a better view of the overall size and condition of the animal. By photographing down on the animal, you get a more three-dimensional photograph of the subject. Photographing on the same level as the subject produces a more two-dimensional photograph. I also set my cameras high for deer, so when the camera takes a picture, I can better see the deer’s rack, and I can better determine the number of points in the antler mass. Another advantage of setting the camera high is that the scent of the camera is above the nose of the predators and the deer. Always when you’re photographing predators and deer, wear rubber boots to and from the camera location.

Question: What type of bait are you using for predators?

Thomas: I use scents more than lures when I’m surveying predators.

Click for Larger ViewClick for Larger ViewQuestion: Predators aren’t just bound to the ground, they also strike from the air. Avian predators like hawks and owls can cause many problems with turkey and quail populations. What are you doing to keep the avians away from game species on the lands you manage?

Thomas: You can use your cameras and bait stations to photograph avians. However, hawks and owls migrate rather than stay on one piece of property. To solve an avian problem, I suggest you develop canopy plants on your land. The canopy plants need to be from 3- to 5-feet tall to shield quail and turkey poults from avian attacks. Use poke, ragweed, milkweed and plants with a broad shape and form where turkey poults and quail can hide.

You can learn more about hunting deer in John E. Phillips’ Kindle eBooks by clicking on these: “How to Hunt Deer Like a Pro,” "How to Hunt Deer Up Close: With Bows, Rifles, Muzzleloaders and Crossbows,” and “PhD Whitetails: How to Hunt and Take the Smartest Deer on Any Property.

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About the Author

John Phillips, winner of the 2012 Homer Circle Fishing Award for outstanding fishing writer by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the 2008 Crossbow Communicator of the year and the 2007 Legendary Communicator chosen for induction into the National Fresh Water Hall of Fame, is a freelance writer (over 6,000 magazine articles for about 100 magazines and several thousand newspaper columns published), magazine editor, photographer for print media as well as industry catalogues (over 25,000 photos published), lecturer, outdoor consultant, marketing consultant, book author and daily internet content provider with an overview of the outdoors. Click here for more information and a list of all the books available from John E. Phillips.

Check back each day this week for more about Wildlife Biologist and Land Manager Mark Thomas Uses Motion-Sensor Cameras to Improve Lands"

Day 1: How to Set Up Motion-Sensor Cameras to Do a Deer Survey with Mark Thomas
Day 2: How to Set-Up Motion-Sensor Cameras to Photograph Older-Age-Class Bucks with Mark Thomas
Day 3: How Mark Thomas Also Uses His Motion-Sensor Cameras for Property Surveillance
Day 4: What You Can Learn About Your Land’s Predators by Using Trail Cameras with Mark Thomas
Day 5: Tips for Photographing Predators with Your Camera with Mark Thomas

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Entry 770, Day 5