Understanding Game Cameras

Posted by  Wednesday, May 15 2013 4:00 pm


UnderstandingGameCameras Bushnell
Newer game cameras, such as the Bushnell Trophy Cam, have an infrared flash and captures video and audio.

Today's cameras feature innovative technologies, featuring full HD video capabilities, no-flash infrared sensors, high megapixel images and extremely long battery life. At first, purchasing a game camera may seem overwhelming. Which camera should you go with? There are so many options — which are necessary and which are not? This guide will run through the various types of game cameras, key points to consider and will conclude with tips for using your new camera.  

The first thing you will notice when shopping for game cameras (also called trail cameras) is the wide range in prices. There are cameras available for those on a tight budget, as well as more expensive cameras. Does the old saying "you get what you pay for" remain true for game cameras? Essentially, it comes down to your needs. Without a doubt, there will be a camera that is right for you.  

Flash Type  

While a regular flash isn't common on most trail cameras, it is still available. Some of the more economically priced cameras such as the Wildview EZ-cam take photos utilizing normal flash. This camera is extremely affordable yet is a touch old school when it comes to game cameras, plus the flash is known for spooking deer.  

The most common flash type found in today's cameras is infrared. Infrared is much different than the common "flash" we think of from a camera — it isn't a burst of visible light but rather a wavelength outside the visible parameters. An infrared flash prevents game from seeing the flash, making it less likely the camera will spook the animal. In addition, it is less likely that unwanted guests will see the camera, minimizing the risk that it is stolen. Most cameras today featuring infrared, such as the Moultrie Gamespy or the Bushnell Trophy Cam HD 8 megapixel camera, can take high-resolution photographs along with HD video with audio!  

Battery Life  

One very important feature is battery life. Of course it will get expensive to continuously buy batteries for your camera. Plus, you don't want to scent up your favorite hunting spot every week to make sure the batteries are good. It is best to find a camera with extremely long battery life so that you can place it in the woods and confidently leave it there for an extended period of time. The Moultrie D-55 IR has exceptional battery life, drawing in minimal juice both day and night yet producing high quality photos.  

Trigger Time  

Once you have a camera up, you better make sure it is ready because you don't want to miss anything! Believe it or not, there is a difference in trigger speeds between cameras. The trigger time is the time that it takes from the camera sensing movement to when it actually takes a photograph. The RECONYX HyperFire has a very fast 1/5 of a second trigger speed. At that speed, even deer bolting by your camera should be captured in the photograph. Cuddeback cameras historically have great trigger speeds as well. In both cases, the old phrase "you get what you pay for" is very true. These cameras are on the upper end in price, but you will avoid frustration when that monster buck's rack is just out of view.

Security Options  

UnderstandingGameCamera Securitybox
This Bushnell Scouting Camera Security Box is one of many options to protect your investments from theft.

Some cameras are not cheap, but any camera for that matter should be protected. The fact of the matter is, criminals roam the woods. To protect your camera, get a security box fit for your camera, similar to the Bushnell Scouting Camera Security Box. There are multiple options available, all of which protect your camera and make it harder for thieves to grab your camera.  


Does the camera have a built in memory? What about a memory card (SD card)? The type of memory can be selling point. An SD card is a memory card that allows you to store photos shot on the camera and then remove it to upload onto a computer. A removable memory card may be the best option for those cameras that do not have an onboard viewer. However, some cameras feature an onboard viewer that makes looking at pictures easy in the field. Either way, make sure your camera has a reliable memory system so that your pictures aren't easily lost.

Tips and Tactics  

Now that you purchased a trail camera, how do you best use it? Well, it depends on the game you are scouting. Trail cameras can be used year around to keep a watchful eye on that buck of a lifetime. First and foremost, be discrete. Don't overuse the game camera, there is no need to check it every other day. Daily intrusion into your hunting spot can only do one thing: scare game away. The whole point of a trail camera is so that you don't have to enter the woods often to scout the area, just leave it be.  

Scent Control — Practicing scent control can only be beneficial to your camera set up. Even though you will only visit the woods every once in a while to check your cameras, it's smart to minimize the amount of scent left behind. Wear scent control clothing, rubber gloves, and then bring some scent control spray to spray down the camera once you have it set up. Some think this method is overkill, but in a study done at DePauw University, it was proven that more pictures of bucks were taken when scent control was practiced.

UnderstandingGameCamera sd
Consider adding an SD/memory card to store more pictures.

Pinch Points — Strategically placing cameras will likely give you more photographs and therefore more insight as to what your game is up to. Try focusing on feeding or bedding areas or spots where multiple game trails converge to one point. By gathering as much data as possible, you will learn more about the patterns of your game. But remember, be careful about getting right up in game hotspots. Practice proper scent control and try to limit your visits to the area.  

Stay back! — When considering hot rubs and scrapes, don't walk right up and place a camera on the tree. Use some common sense and stay back, but remain in the effective range of your camera to monitor those hot rubs and scrapes.  

Set your camera higher —  Although infrared has a lower chance of spooking game, there is still a chance. You can limit that chance by placing the camera higher in a tree, above your games sight plane. Again, this isn't a crucial step but is one that many seasoned hunters use to minimize the chances of spooking game. Of course, the camera must be set to the appropriate angle so that you still get pictures.  

If used properly, game cameras can be extremely effective tools for scouting. They allow you to have eyes in the woods at all times. Not only do most cameras take pictures, but also video, adding to the overall experience. Hopefully this guide helped you not only with some features to look for, but even a few tips for when you put your new camera in the woods. Best of luck in your scouting endeavors.


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Mitch Strobl

Mitch Strobl is Chairman of the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA) — under 25 and enjoys writing, photographing and video taping his hunting and outdoor lifestyle. His true passion is archery hunting, but he also enjoys shooting trap and fly fishing. To reach Mitch, please send him an email at mitch.strobl@yahoo.com

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