Avoiding poor trail cam photos
There’s little doubt trail cameras are being used by more hunters to keep tabs on the size and number of deer in their hunting area. The fun continues when other wildlife photos are captured by these devices as well. Over the years, in addition to many deer, I’ve gotten photos of tom turkeys, red and grey foxes, fishers, raccoons, and even a bear.
As good as these cameras are at capturing game in their natural environment they don’t always produce the results hunters expect. Too often when hunters are disappointed by the photos taken by their camera it isn’t the fault of the camera mainly because it wasn’t positioned in a way to ensure a good photo.
Most of us have experienced a washed-out or over-exposed early morning or late evening photo when the sun is low on the horizon. We can usually see a deer in the picture but the intense sunlight shining directly into the camera lens results in an obscured or unusable photo. I’ve learned to position my cameras facing north or south, this way my cameras can capture whatever moves in front of them regardless of the time of day.
Big deer usually move at night and sometimes they may be at the limit of the camera’s range. I like using cameras with at least a ten-megapixel resolution or higher because I can enlarge these marginal photos enough on my computer to see animals that aren’t readily seen in a smaller photo.
Trail cameras hibernate between photos and “wake up” when an animal walks by. If this wake-up time is too fast the camera may not have enough time to calculate the proper shutter speed and aperture to take the optimum photo. The result may be a big blur in the frame when you check the photo. To minimize the number of blurry photos, I like to hang a second camera nearby and hope one of the two cameras captures an image that is clear enough to see well.
A common mistake made by many hunters is to hang a camera where moving tree limbs or vegetation of some sort sway in a breeze causing the camera to trigger dozens and sometimes hundreds of images without any wildlife in the photo. I had a friend who once hung his camera at the edge of a cornfield. It was clear from the damaged corn the deer on the property were feeding on the growing corn and he wanted to know if any bucks were showing up for the nightly feed. The problem was when the wind blew the corn moved and all he got was about 200 photos of waving corn stalks. The camera can’t decern between the buck of a lifetime and a moving stalk of corn or ragweed so, before hanging a camera I cut any weeds, branches, or twigs in front of the camera that might move when the wind blows causing an unwanted photo.
When hanging a camera on a deer trail make sure it is positioned to take a photo looking up or down the trail. If you position the camera at a right angle to the trail you run the risk of getting only part of a picture of a moving deer or another animal. For best results, I hang my cameras belt high and I’ve found that gives me the best photos of any wildlife that may be feeding or moving through my hunting area.
I love my trail cameras and I have a half dozen of them that I carefully place around my hunting sites. I not only see the size and number of different bucks that call the area home they tell me the time of day they are showing up and this often makes a difference.