Picture perfect with the trail cam

This is the time of year many of us hang trail cameras to get an idea of the number and size of bucks in the areas we hunt. I have to admit after hanging the camera for a week or so, and then changing out the camera card, I can’t wait to see what the camera captured in my absence. I’ve found my camera images not only give me an insight into the deer in my hunting area, they give me great confidence in my hunting location even if I don’t see deer during the daylight hours. The camera doesn’t lie and if I know several good bucks live there I’m not likely to abandon the spot because I know, given enough time, one of the bucks captured by my camera is likely to show up. The type and quality of photos you get on your trail camera depend on a number of things. Through trial and error these are a few of the things I’ve learned about setting out my trail cameras. 

When monitoring a deer trail, hang the camera so that it angles the trail. Camera trigger speeds are much faster than they were even a few years ago, but if you're covering a trail where the animals might pass through relatively quickly it's best to angle the camera about 45 degrees to the trail rather than placing it perpendicular to the trail. If the camera is placed at a right-angle to the trail and the animal passes through the sensor area, you may only have an image of a the back end or, in many cases, no animal at all.

Pay attention to the rising and setting sun because they can prevent you from getting photos during the best part of the day. Place the camera either north or south of your target area and remove all debris. It's really the sunrise and sunset you should try to avoid. By facing the camera in a northerly direction your daytime photos should have the best lighting.

Make sure to remove all obstructions that may be in front of the camera. I had a friend who got about 500 pictures of a corn field because each time the wind blew the moving corn stalks triggered his camera and took a photo. After placing my camera, I take the time to cut small branches, weeds and twigs out of the way and I try to make sure I have a clear path to my target area. If this step isn’t taken, the LEDs on the camera will light up the brush in front of the lens, leaving the target underexposed. It can also cause false triggering. If a large, sun-saturated branch is passing in front of the camera's sensors you'll have an SD card full of useless images.

One of the features I have on my trail cameras is the ability to take time lapse photos. I can set the camera to trigger at predetermined time intervals rather than depending on movement through the sensor area to set it off. The time lapse is a great feature for covering food plots, agricultural fields or any large open area. If you can't figure out which trails the deer are most often using to access a food source, time lapse can be of great help. 

Finally, most cameras claim they are good to a certain range, but in reality most fall short of the maximum limit advertised. Set them close enough to your target to get good nighttime illumination on the subject from your infrared flash.

After purchasing my first trail camera I found I needed more than one. I now own five cameras and leave them in place all season. After hunting a stand and before leaving for the evening I trade out the current camera card for a fresh one. That way I get an up-to-date report on what’s happening around my stand when I’m not there. About a month before the season I had already put four cameras in place and I can’t wait to see the results.

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