7 Tips to Get the Best Out of Your Trail Camera

Have you ever wondered what’s going on in the woods when you’re not around? Do the deer come out to play when you’re away? With a trail camera, there’s no need to wonder as the secrets of the forest are revealed in stunning HD photography and video. However, a trail camera only works if you know how to use it properly, otherwise it’s a useless piece of technological junk.

How is a Trail Camera Used

Trail or game cameras let you see what’s going on when there are no humans around. By combining a motion sensor with a high definition camera, a trail camera takes a photo of every animal that moves through a particular area. You can use these photos to create a count of each species of animal that walks through and get an idea of how big they are. This information can be especially useful once hunting season rolls around and you need to strategize. The tips below will help you to make better use of your trail camera, and hopefully, have a more successful hunt.

7 Tips to Get the Best Out of Your Trail Cam

Buy High Quality Batteries

You’ll be leaving this camera out in the wilderness for weeks, or maybe even months at a time. If you use low quality batteries, you’re liable to find out that the camera missed some critical shots. The best choice for trail cams are brand name, rechargeable, lithium ion batteries. They keep a strong and consistent voltage throughout their charge cycle, which means a powerful flash and good clarity. They are also less affected by temperature changes, so you won’t need to worry as much about the camera baking in the sun or freezing up.

Avoid Overexposure

Deer are most active around sunrise and sunset, which presents a problem that all photographers are familiar with: shooting into the sun (which results in overexposure). A good trail camera can adjust the shutter speed to compensate for this problem, but it can only do so much. Place your camera at a 90-degree angle to the sunrise of sunset, pointing north or south, to give yourself a  higher-definition photo. Another option is to mount the camera higher up a tree, with the lens pointing downward to avoid direct exposure to the sun.

Know How to Position It

To get an accurate count of the animals in your area, you’ll need to position the camera in a high traffic area. If you mount it next to a big game trail, be sure to set the motion detector to a sensitive setting, as the animals probably won’t stick around long enough to get a clear shot otherwise. A simpler solution is to set up a mineral lick or deer feeder (check your local regulations first though). Animals will flock to the area and you can start to get a count as you track the animals over a few weeks. Be sure to mount the camera high enough to get a clear view of the antlers too.

Keep Everything Labeled

This one is critical if you’re using multiple trail cameras: label all of your equipment. Label your cameras, label your memory cards, and draw a map indicating where each camera was placed. You’ll be thanking yourself when it’s time to retrieve the images and you have a few thousand to go through. Without this organizational step, you’ll be drowning in data but have no idea where each animal was photographed.

Clear the Obstructions

It’s a rookie mistake, but many hunters forget to clear the line of sight in front of the camera. You have two options for doing this. The first is to stand where you intend to place the camera and check for obstructions. The second is to mount the camera in the desired position and then have it take a few photos of you. Then check the photos and see that they came out nice and clear. Nothings worse than trying to count the points on a rack with a branch in the way.

Experiment with Your Settings

Like any good photographer, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with some of the settings on your trail camera. Most models let you customize which shots are taken after the motion sensor is tripped. Some hunters like two photos and then a video, which gives you a clear picture of the animal and a sense of how it behaves. Other like a time-lapse shot to give a sense of what’s sort of activity is happening over a span of many days.

Lock it Up

It’s an unfortunate fact, there are thieves in the woods. Even on private land, you never know when a trespasser might come by and snatch your camera to make a quick buck. It’s why most trail cameras come with holes to mount a cable lock. These locks can be dispatched  with a pair of bolt cutters, but the point is prevent your camera from becoming a target of opportunity.

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