A great way to locate deer and other creatures is by using a game trail camera or scouting camera. These truth telling devices really give meaning to the saying a picture is worth a thousand words. Trail cameras have hit the hunting industry full force. There are more brands to choose from than ever before and prices vary greatly. Some even take video and have trigger speeds so fast that it looks like a video as you scroll through the images.
I won’t get into a trail camera review here, that is for a later post but I will say with trail cameras you get what you pay for. With that said, I want to cover a few tips for using a game trail camera. It isn’t rocket science but there are some simple steps to follow in order to have great success. You’ll find that capturing a huge buck on one of your game cameras is almost as cool as seeing him in person. We call it trail camera hunting and it can be addicting. Overall though, it is just another tool to use on your quest to be a trophy hunter.
1. Don’t Be a Cheap Ass
Do your research and buy the best camera you can afford. It really depends on how you are going to use the camera but you need to decide between incandescent or infrared game cameras. Other factors are the trigger speed, recovery time, detection zone, detection width, battery life, flash range, memory card size, and so on. I highly recommend going to TrailCamPro and using their trail camera selection guide to find out which camera is right for you.
2. Lock it up
If you live in an area that sees things grow legs and walk away like tree stands and ground blinds then I recommend buying a lock for your trail camera. We use the vinyl coated cut-resistant cable type. The cable slides through the locking mechanism so you can adjust it to fit snug around the camera and tree. It isn’t full proof but it will certainly help.
3. The More Gigs the Better
Be sure the camera comes with a memory card that will hold a lot of images. Otherwise, I recommend buying a bigger SD card especially if you have a camera with fast trigger and recovery speeds as they will take a lot more pictures than slower cameras. I also buy a second card so when I check the camera I can simply take out the card and insert the new one.
4. Buy Stock in Batteries
Regardless of which camera you choose, you’ll go through batteries. The battery life will normally be less than what they list it as so be sure you check the battery’s status before leaving the camera. The flash, amount of pictures, and weather all contribute to killing the batteries. Spend the money and buy enough of the rechargeable type so you can always have a set charged to replace the one’s in the camera when you check it. Throw the old ones on the charger so they’ll be ready to go the next time. We’ve had great luck with the NiMH rechargable batteries.
5. Camera Settings
You should play around with the trail camera’s settings before you set it up somewhere. Some cameras have a lot of features that can be changed to fit your needs. Also be sure you set the correct time and date as this will be displayed on each image that is taken. If you do capture a trophy animal it would be nice to know what time and day it was.
6. Location, Location, Location
Deciding where to set your camera should be something you think out. Are you just wanting to find out the quality of bucks in an area prior to season? Then putting the camera on a feeder might do well. If you are trying to pattern a particular buck to better determine your tree stand location then use the same scouting skills you would to hunt him. You better also be careful with your scent so you don’t mess up the area trying to photograph him.
7. Find a Good Tree
Once you find a good area, choosing the right tree can make all the difference. If you are putting it on a game trail be sure to set it back about 10 feet or more so once it is triggered the animal is still in the shot when the camera goes off. Be sure there is nothing blocking the view like tall weeds or plants or low hanging branches. Choose a nice straight tree so the scouting camera isn’t crooked or angled up or down too much. If no good trees are available a fence post or other object might work just as well. There are also arm brackets, angle mounts, and camera stand accessories you can purchase.
8. Highs and Lows
Determine the height of the camera depending on what you are intending on capturing, try setting the camera at mid body level of the animal. For a deer anywhere between 40-50 inches should be fine if it’s on flat ground. As long as the camera is back a little you should capture the deer. Trail cameras with a wide view will not give you a problem. I had a picture of a nice 10 point that seemed intrigued with the infrared light, can you say closeup? It still captured his rack set at 46 inches high. On that same memory card later that night it captured a small opossum on the ground less than 10 feet away, that’s the beauty of a wide camera view.
9. Testing Testing
Once I get my game scouting camera into position I walk back and forth to better see the detection zone. Most cameras will flash or have an indicator light when a picture is taken. From there I can walk where I expect the deer to be and make any necessary adjustments.
10. Hit the Save Button
I suggest saving all your trail cam pictures that you collect, especially the bucks or whatever you are hunting. Create a folder on your computer and store them all in one place. I will create several folders and name them according to where that camera was located. Looking back at your pictures will tell a story. It’s also neat to have pictures of younger bucks as they grow older and it helps you to determine their age. We use the trail camera pictures to come up with a hit list of mature bucks we would like to harvest. We give them nicknames and become familiar with them. Recognizing a buck while you are hunting can make the decision whether or not to harvest him a lot easier.
There is nothing more frustrating than capturing the leg of a deer or leaving the camera out for a month and not having one image. Get familiar with your camera and its settings. Have good batteries, a large memory card, find a good location, test it, lock it up, and save the images you get. One last thing to mention, you’ll be tempted to check your camera often but remember every time you enter the woods you are pressuring the vary thing you are trying to capture. Use common sense and check your scouting cameras as little as possible. Follow these trail camera tips and you’ll be well on your way to capturing some great images.
Thanks for reading and happy trail camera hunting!