Last year, I shared a “Tips for trail cameras” column here at The WON. Next, I’m going to take a step back and give you some tips on choosing a trail camera; and then, I’ll step forward to discuss what to do with the information you’re receiving from your trail camera photos.
When you walk into your local sporting goods dealer, odds are there will be dozens of trail cameras to choose from, falling into a broad range of prices. How do you know which camera is the one for you?
Trail cameras have come a long way since the first models that used 35mm film and ate batteries like the Cookie Monster eats cookies. With any electronics, as the circuitry and technology gets better, the prices on these components often descends.
Probably the first thing you need to decide is your trail camera budget. Yes, theoretically they all do the same thing, but, typically, the more you pay the better quality of product you will get.
Here are the main features that you need to consider when shopping for your trail camera.
Detection is paramount
The detection zone is the area in front of the camera that senses motion and heat; this uses both detection width and range. The better the detection circuit, the more photos you will get. Slower detection circuits will miss opportunities to photograph if the animal is moving quickly.
Trigger speed is another important component of a good trail camera. Trigger speed is the time it takes for the camera to snap a photo once it has detected movement or heat. A quick trigger speed usually relates to a higher quality trail camera.
The third part of the detection circuit is the recovery time. This is the time it takes for the camera to store the first picture and get ready to take the next picture. The faster the recovery, the higher quality and price the camera.
This is determined by 2 main factors: the megapixel value and the lens quality. Some cameras offer a higher megapixel rating, but use a low quality lens, which still means poor quality photos. The best way to determine if a certain camera will produce the quality of photos you require is to look at reviews and sample photos from these cameras. Another factor to look for regarding good photo quality is whether the camera uses incandescent (white) flash or infrared flash. People often ask me if a white flash will spook deer. My answer? “White flash doesn’t spook every deer, but it may spook some.” Therefore, I’ve switched all my cameras to infrared.
The days of switching out 6 or 8 C- or D-cell batteries every week are long gone, thankfully. The battery circuitry has improved drastically in the last 10 years for trail cameras. For instance the Moultrie mini trail cameras I used last year run on 8 AA batteries. I put my cameras out with fresh batteries in July, and run them through January. They are shooting at least 300 photos weekly and usually last for the entire season. So, I might put 2 sets of batteries in each camera during the fall/winter season.
What do I do with the information I have gathered from my trail camera photos?
When I pull my camera cards,I look at each one on my computer. I make a note of which photos I want to save; let’s be realistic, you don’t want to save every picture. I set up a file for each camera location and save the photos from that camera to the file. I can sort the photos in that file by date. I can then look through each photo chronologically from a particular camera sight and see how the deer movement is changing throughout the season. I keep a database of what my deer are doing, where they are doing it and when. If I have a particular buck that I am trying to pattern, I make a file for that individual deer so I can determine when and where would be the best place to hunt him.
There are database programs out there that you can purchase online to do this, and more, for you. This is just the system I use and what works for me.
I know this is a lot of information to absorb. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask me in the comments section. I’ll be happy to share what I know and have learned from using trail cameras for several years.