Trail cameras also referred to as game, wildlife, scouting, surveillance, motion sensitive, or remote cameras have revolutionized the scouting and game hunting experience by providing wildlife watchers and hunters with precise information about various kind of animals that frequent a certain area.
A few decades ago, the trail cameras used 35mm films which had to be checked and replaced regularly and because an active day or night could use up the entire roll of film. Thus, the film replacement cost was one of major maintenance cost trail cameras owners faced. Currently, most trail camera models are digital, which has opened up lots of new possibilities to hunters.
This Trail cameras buyers guide is meant to not only help you to know what to look for in a trail camera but also to give you information why you need a trail camera in the first place.
Why Use a Trail Camera?
A trail camera of good quality will not only take pictures and record videos of animals that happen to wander by an area under surveillance, but also show you the number, size, gender, and trophy quality of the game, be it for recreational photography or for hunting purposes. More sophisticated models will even display the date, time, location, humidity, temperature, moon phase and barometric pressure at the moment a picture was taken.
Trail cameras are excellent for scouting, and can be as well used to locate and recover displaced wild and domestic animals such as cats and dogs.
This is because the camera can show evidence of the specific location where the lost pet was lastly spotted and whether this animal is likely enter a humane trap in case you have one set up. They also serve a horde of other purposes such as entertainment, camp security, and home security and also have a reputation of capturing nature at its funniest.
You can rest in the comfort of your cabin or lodge as you take pictures, record and watch intently the as the game closes in without alerting it. Trail cameras allow you to scout specific areas 24/7 without physically being there.
This is beneficial to you because it saves your time and energy and records pertinent information which you could have not gotten if you were physically on the ground. Having established the animal’s relative age, sex, the time it frequents a certain area and other important information, will increase your chances for hunting success.
If just a single camera can provide you will this plenty useful information, then having several cameras strategically placed throughout the hunting ground or a surveillance area will give you excellent results.
The biggest benefit of using a trail camera is that it leaves the game less disturbed. It serves the purpose of your surrogate eyes in the woods and it does that with much less obtrusion to the animals than if you were physically there.
How to Select an Appropriate Game Camera
In the current market, there are a variety of junk cameras available for sale including trail cameras. Thus you are strongly advised; besides reading Trail cameras buyers guide, you can as well do your own detailed research, consult hunters who have experience with these devices, and also visit as a reputable seller, where you can an practically feel and see the devices and get demo lessons.
Here are Important Features to Consider when selecting a trail camera.
Most of the current cameras have removable memory cards for photo, videos and other information storage. You can store dozens, even hundreds of video records and pictures taken over a long period time depending on the programmed activation times and the capacity of the memory card. The larger the memory on the Compact Flash or SD cards on your camera, the less often you will need to change them.
This is desirable because the more you minimize human activity in the areas under surveillance the better. Cameras with video capability need cards that have large memory capacity to allow storage of several video clips. Thus it is recommended to purchase cameras that can accommodate larger-capacity cards of up 32 GB card as opposed to ones that can support a capacity of up to 8 GB.
Infrared vs Flash
Infrared has the advantage over flash because it will not reveal the location of the camera and is less disturbing to the animals. Infrared is not on a visible light spectrum thus it can be hardly seen by the humans and animals. This decreased the chances of spooking the animals.
The downside of using infrared is that the image may lose some resolution and quality where you may get monochrome and blurry pictures. On the other hand, the flash produces a glaring light that may scare the animals away. The other downside of the flash is that it consumes much battery power than the Infrared. The advantage of using the flash is that it takes photos of better quality. Thus what is suitable for a particular user depends on his/her beliefs and personal preferences.
Read the labeling carefully when buying the camera or the battery. Moreover, consider purchasing rechargeable batteries because they will help you cut costs. Some cheap trail cameras can consume the battery power within a few weeks while other can go for months without requiring replacements or without need to be recharged.
Still and Video
There are Trail cameras that can only take photographs. Currently, most of the cameras have the capability of taking photographs and recording videos.
Most buyers are fooled by high megapixel counts. There cameras with a high megapixel, but use a low quality lens which in turn reduces the quality of the picture despite having a high megapixel. The best way to determine the picture quality from a particular game camera is to look at the sample photos from various trail camera reviews.
In these reviews, the day pictures are judged by their clarity, contrast, color and resolution. It is a bit tricky to judge the night pictures from the red glow infrared, no glow infrared, white LED flash and incandescent flash but basically, flash cameras produce color night pictures while infrared produce black and white pictures.
The detection circuit is what detects the game or any other creatures in a trail camera. These cameras trigger off or rather record or take snap shots based a combination of motion and heat sensors. Detection circuits trail cameras consist of:
• Trigger Time
• Detection Zone
• Recovery Time
• Detection Width
• Detection Distance
Detection Zone: This is the area covered by a particular camera. Two factors that determine the extent of the detection zone are Detection distance or range and Detection Width.
Detection Distance: Refers to the distance at which a game camera can detect an object or game, thus prompting it to take a snap shot or start recording. Cameras with a great detection distance, can take pictures of animals at a greater distance meaning that they can cover a greater area.
Detection Width: A camera with a narrow range or detection width can detect the game only when it comes at the centre of the camera focus to trigger the camera to take a photo. Other cameras have a wider detection width which means that they can cover greater areas.
Trigger & Recovery Time: Refers to the time taken by a camera to take a picture of an object once it has entered the detection zone. Recovery time refers to how fast a camera can save the first snap shop and get to a ready state to take another picture. The trigger & recovery time are also referred to as the trigger Response Time.
A fast trigger response time can mean the difference between missing a shot and making a perfect snapshot of the game. Good quality trail cameras have a trigger response time of a fraction of a second, while this time can extend up to 6 seconds in other cameras.
Unfortunately, trail cameras are prone to theft or getting damaged by animals. For this reason, you need a camera that has incorporated numerous security features to protect it against theft and damage from animal. These features include camouflage finish, password protection, padlock tabs, security boxes, cable locks, locking bars/brackets, security boxes, etc..
Ease of Viewing
High quality game cameras allow you to view the photos and the recorded videos at the site. The action is replayed on your TV set, on your home computer, or other remote viewing screens.
This eliminates the need to travel to the vicinity of the camera thus reducing human scent and activity at the camera location. Moreover most digital game models come with a USB connectors. This allows you to connect the camera to your personal computer to edit sort, and analyze the pictures in great detail.
Other great features you may want to consider before purchasing a game camera include:
External LCD: Some game camera designs come with an LCD display that allow users to check the number of many pictures that have been taken, and other statistics without necessarily having to trigger the camera or open the enclosure.
Others have in built viewers that allow users to preview photos taken or available. These help users in the aiming of the camera so that they don’t miss a shot. Most of game camera units have a laser aiming device or a test mode or to ensure the snap shop is taken properly.
Event Counter: Some Game have this feature that notifies you that an animal has entered or crossed the detection zone, even between photos. This way you can get an accurate count of the number of times there was game activity in a particular area and range of time was the activity centered.
TV Cables and Jack Cables: These will enable you to connect the camera to the tv or to the personal computer to view your photos or recorded videos.
Video Capability: Just as earlier mentioned, most of the digital cameras have the capability to capture or record video with or without audio besides taking photographs. Some of these cameras record only videos of a fixed length, while others allow programmable video length.
Zoom Feature: Various types of cameras have different zoom capabilities with some providing up to 16X or greater magnification for close up shots of game.
Burst Mode or Multiple Shot: Cameras with this feature can shoot multiple images within a particular period of time allowing you to capture action that you could have missed with single repetitive shots.
Time lapse Mode: This mode allows the user to set the camera to take photos or record videos at predetermined intervals over a particular period of time, besides the photos taken as as result of trigger by the game.
Wireless Capability: You can purchase a camera with a wireless capability if you can afford or don’t mind the extra. Cameras with a wireless capability can automatically transmit images and videos to your personal computer or upload it in the Internet for off-site viewing. This reduces or eliminates the need to travel to the area under surveillance retrieve the images.
External Battery Jack: Most of trail cameras typically are powered by rechargeable or standard AA, 9-volt, C or D batteries. To reduce making numerous visits to the surveillance areas to change or recharge the battery, you can purchase a camera that comes with an external battery jack that can be connected to 12-volt batteries to ensure that they do not lose battery power. You can as well add a solar charger which will ensure that the cameras will run indefinitely.
Unique Features: As the technology changes or improves, game cameras features evolve, with more unique features currently available such as the in-built programmable game calls (turkey, deer, elk, moose and predators) that attract the game. You should be ready to see more electrifying innovations in game cameras in the near future.
The bottom line is; do your homework or rather do enough research before spending a dime. You can purchase a game camera at your local stores but shopping online will get you a better deal. This is because you can easily compare prices from various online outlets to see which one, who has the best price.