It’s vital that you know how to use your trail cameras properly. First, choose the right locations for them. Start by looking at the local game trails; you won’t see much if you set them up randomly in the woods. Once you’ve located the trails find spots where the ground sign suggests animals feed, or look for water sources. Any points on the trail that give good visibility from a hide location are good, too.
When you’re picking spots for your cameras try to find ones you can approach from behind; that will let you swap out batteries or memory cards without disturbing the trail. Make sure the camera has a clear line of sight. It’s easy to miss twigs or foliage that get in the way of the lens. Try not to aim your cameras directly across the trail. Even a digital camera delays a fraction of a second between being triggered and actually taking the shot, so you can find yourself with a lot of photos of deer butts. Angle them at about 45 degrees, in the direction you expect the animals to come from. That way you should get good snaps of them.
Before deploying your cameras get some experience of how they work. Set them up in your yard and walk around in front of them, then check how the photos turned out. That will tell you the best angles to set them up at to ensure good shots, as well as what height they work best at. A common error is to mount trail cameras too high – usually they work best at around waist height.
Cameras are small and usually well enough camouflaged that most animals won’t notice them, but humans might. If the area is popular with other hunters there’s a good chance they could find your cameras, and sadly that brings a risk of theft – not all hunters respect others’ gear. If you use bungee cords or quick release straps to mount your cameras they can be easily stolen. If a lot of people use the land you hunt on, consider using cable locks instead. It’s not likely that anyone who finds the camera will have bolt cutters handy, so they won’t be able to take the camera without damaging it. Cable locks start at under $10, which is a small price to pay for protecting an expensive camera. Concealing the camera will also help – just be careful not to obscure the lens and flash.
Some hunters recommend testing the camera by walking the trail after it’s set up, then checking the photos. That’s always an option, but it does disturb the trail and might spook some game. It’s better to test it under similar conditions somewhere else, then leave as little sign as possible at the actual site.
Deerlab.com also does a great job of outlining 8 camera trips for better results which we think is a must read for anyone getting into the trail camera game. The Deerlab app is also a new innovation in technology and we’d recommend testing out the free trial they currently offer.
So that’s an introduction to the basics of using a trail camera. Your own experience and knowledge of the ground should give you the rest of what you need to know.
While the video below is not ours, it does give a great walk through of how to properly set up a game camera. We’d recommend you take a look at it just to recap what we’ve already covered. The next thing is choosing the trail cameras that are right for you.