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Trail Cameras 101- A Beginners Guide To Deer Cameras


Thomas McHoleran


Trail cameras or deer cameras as many people refer to them continue to gain popularity every year. It was not long ago the newest piece of gear on the market was a game timer which allowed you to know exactly what time of day an animal was using the trail you planned on hunting. The problem with the timers was you never knew what it was setting the timer off, just that something was using the trail at that time.

Soon the first deer camera hit the market and it's been full speed ahead ever since. Trail cameras allow you to scout all year long without taking needed days away from the job or family. Many hunters fall in love with the use of deer cameras and soon start referring to the use of them as their hobby. They no doubt are addictive especially this time of year when there's an entirely new crop of bucks out there bigger and badder than the last year. One of the most thrilling moments I've experienced with a trail camera is when I discovered there was a trophy class buck cutting through my property on a fairly consistent basis that I had no idea existed the year before. After carefully comparing his picture with other bucks in the photo album of pictures I've taken with the deer cam I was able to determine this was a young buck we assumed hadn't made it though hunting season two years back. Obviously everyone's assumption was wrong.

The evolution of the trail camera gives you the ability to monitor not one, but several trails at a time. I have four myself that I rotate throughout my 90 acres of property in Northwestern, Pennsylvania. The cameras make the job of patterning the deer movement in your neck of the woods much easier. Yes having four is expensive, however this is one of my vices and I do consider it a hobby.


How Trail Cameras Work

Trail Cameras work off an infrared beam that when broken triggers the camera to take the picture. Itís truly that simple.


Buying A Trail Camera

The first decision you will need to make is to purchase either a digital trail camera or a traditional film type camera. Both have pros and cons. The digital will be more expensive at first because of the technology you're buying. The photo trail cameras are less expensive, however they do require film that will need to be purchased and developed to get your pictures. A big selling point of the digital cameras is they use your personal computer and manufacturer supplied software to produce the images for you. Both styles of trail cameras have an appetite for batteries especially during the coldest months of the year when the cold deteriorates the batteries.

The good news is trail cameras continue to come down in price in fact some are being advertised at less than $90 this year. The most expensive of the digitals deer cameras are $500 and above. The better Deer Camera models come with all of the bells and whistles offering such things as shutter speed as well as how many pictures can be taken during one occurrence.


How To Use A Trail Camera

I have two digitals trail cameras and two of the photo type. The digitals I tend to move around more as I can easily delete images on the spot. The photo type of mine produce a clearer image than the digitals I own although I understand the gap is being bridged more and more each year. Because the pictures are clearer I tend to place the photo cameras in areas I hope to get a nice shot of bucks I already know are in the area. Conversely the digitals are moved around more often as I try to narrow the bucks behavior and travel patterns. I've found this method to work quite well for me and keep battery and film cost to a minimum, which believe me adds up in a hurry.

This time of year I like to place the cameras on major trails, or sub-trails which run just to the left or right of major trails and are often used by bucks. When the rut begins I place the cameras on trails leading to scrapes and rubs to identify exactly which of the local herd is creating and using them. Always remember to where scent proof boots and clothing to avoid the deer detecting you being there.


Trail Camera Prices

As for how much you should spend well that's up to you. I've had people swear by some of the cheapest on the market, while others swear at them. One item to keep in mind is if you are going to spend a lot on a piece of gear such as this remember you're going to have to leave it by itself hanging to a tree and then walk away from it. Trail camera theft is being heard of more and more and there's little you can do to prevent it. I've heard of many people who have chained their deer cam to the tree only to find the chain and all gone when they returned. One gentleman I know has 200 acres of posted and patrolled land and feels the reason his was stolen is it went off when someone was trespassing on his land and the person probably knew their picture was going to give them away. Remember few locks will deter the determined thief. Your best bet is to mark the case as much as possible to positively identify it as yours.

Trail cameras are as much fun as they are a serious tool for the Outdoorsman. They help those of us who have limited time to spend out in the woods doing countless hours of scouting. Try one yourself and Iím sure youíll soon call it a hobby just as I do.


Thomas McHoleran is a guest Writer on Hunting & Fishing Gear Review.

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