Guide to Buying and Using a Trail Camera for the First Time – Foundry Outdoors
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Guide to Buying and Using a Trail Camera for the First Time

If you are thinking a using a trail camera for the first time, this guide should help you conquer the learning curve. 

As a fairly primitive fellow, I am a little bit stubborn when it comes to change. I often find that past ways or viewpoints are effective and cause less stress. Take camping for example. When I hear the word camping I think of backpacks, tents, and tiny campfires far away from the nearest roads. Primitive. A glance at your normal campground will reveal most folks choose a more modern approach. It’s genuinely hard for me to embrace that modernity at times. Even with that being the case, there is one piece of modern gear that is hard not to appreciate. Trail cameras have revolutionized the way hunters scout and the success they have. You certainly won’t hurt yourself by incorporating one into your hunting equipment.

Trail cameras are great for all sorts of reasons. Not only are they on the clock 24-7, but they drastically decrease the human disturbance of an area. Folks generally seem to be using a trail camera to scout species like deer, elk, and black bear. All of these critters have well-deserved reputations for possessing great noses. The less you are in their area, the better. Trail cams also allow hunters more versatility in their scouting. No longer do you have to choose one property to scout each night. Rather, you can scout multiple locations at once and still get boots on the ground if you want. Finally, trail cams not only scout animals you’ll be hunting, but also can teach you a great deal about animal behavior in general.

If you are new to trail cams, you may appreciate this brief guide to choosing and using a trail camera.

Choosing a Trail Camera

For any beginner, the first step is choosing the camera that best suits your situation. This guide will cover the 3 main types of trail cameras on the market.

Motion Activated

Primos Trail CamThe motion activated trail camera seems to be the most popular style right now. As the name indicates, these cameras are triggered by the motion of objects. They are great because the camera sits idle until motion is detected. This feature saves battery life, and battery life is a major issue with trail cameras. Cameras like the Primos 12 MP Proof Cam boast the ability to last for 9 months on 8 AA batteries. Granted, those results are under ideal conditions, but the endurance of this camera make it a good option.

One thing to wrap your head around when choosing a trail camera is the added vocabulary you will come across. You’ll need to understand how the camera flash operates. They come in No-Glow, Low-Glow, and White Flash. No-glow cameras use black LED lights that are invisible to the animals you’ll be scouting. Low-glow cameras have a slight flash, generally not much more than a soft red light. White flash cameras function just about how you think they would. Most hunters believe the white flash cameras scare animals and choose to go with either No-glow or low-glow options.

Cellular Trail Cameras

Cellular Trail CamThese days some companies are making trail cameras that can instantly send images to your phone or computer. If you are the type that likes to stay on top of things, these models might be a good choice. They also have the benefit of even less human scent in the area. Also, although these are the most complicated in terms of setup, if you are tech-savvy you shouldn’t have too many problems.

There would be two disadvantages worth discussing on the cell trail cameras. First off, in terms of battery life they don’t perform very well. All the electronics operating use energy, and that energy comes from a handful of AA batteries. They can only do so much. Cell cameras also need cell service. Oftentimes these come compatible with a wireless company, such as the Covert Blackhawk Verizon trail cam. That means that you’ll also need coverage from the company that is providing service. Due to the large wireless network these days, that may or may not be a problem.

Time-Lapse Cameras

Plotwatcher ProThe final type of trail cam is the time-lapse camera. Unlike the motion activated and cellular trail cameras, these cameras don’t work on command. They take a still frame shot at regular intervals. Some cameras shoot at 2 seconds, 5 seconds, 10 seconds, or whatever else you can set it for. No matter the interval, they will take a picture no matter what has happened in front of the camera. This is ideal if you are looking for a bulletproof method of getting trail cam pictures. You won’t have to worry about sensitivity or the camera lagging after taking a shot. They are very dependable.

On the downside, these cameras also use a good deal of battery life. Also, you may have guessed that you’ll end up with a tremendous amount of pictures. Most companies realize this dilemma and have developed ways to circumvent the problem. The Day 6 PlotWatcher Pro for example can take 1 million pictures. To help you browse the pictures though, the PlotWatcher Pro has the ability to bypass pictures where no motion was detected. This can really help speed up the process.

Once you’ve decided upon what camera you want to use, the next step is start using it.

Using a Trail Camera

When you are setting up your trail camera you’ll want to take a few things into consideration. First off, you’ll likely want to consider if there are any permanent stands or blinds on the property you are hunting. If so, you’re best off to locate your cameras there. If not, it’s a good idea to look for clearings, game trails, and natural funneling areas that will attract the animals you are hunting. Make sure to stay out of bedding areas. If you get too close to those areas you may likely bump the animals when you go to check your camera.

You will also want to consider how easy the location is to access. The last thing you want is a trail cam too far off to go check. This is of course you settled on a wireless camera. When it comes to how often to check your cameras it is sort of a personal matter. Odds are you will not want to check them too often, but often enough to scratch your itch, check your batteries, and make sure everything is functioning correctly. Some people prefer to drop by their cameras every few days, and others prefer to wait weeks at a time. Whatever you decide, remember that deer do respond to your presence. The longer you can hold off, the smaller the chance you’ll impact the movement of the animals you are hunting.

Using trail cameras can really make you a better hunter. They give you the ability to scout without having your boots on the ground, scout 24-7, and allow you to cover lots of ground. With any luck this brief guide to choosing and using a trail camera will help beginners understand a few of the basics when it comes to trail cams. Even primitive fellows have a hard time finding fault with these modern contraptions.  


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