Getting the Most from Your Game Camera | Proper Trail Camera Setup

The amount of knowledge a person can obtain from properly setting up trail cameras is almost incalculable. From a land and wildlife management point of view, trail cameras are one of the best tools to utilize. Of course, a trail camera is just like any other tool in the land manager’s arsenal. It is only useful if used properly. Fortunately, one need not be a camera expert to extract valuable information. While there are many ways to set up a trail camera, here are a few tips and techniques to avoid in order to get the most from your cameras.

The most common mistake committed by hunters and land managers is their eagerness to check their cameras. Waiting to pull the memory card on a trail camera unit can rival Christmas morning as a child. The excitement and anticipation can lead one to spending too much time in the woods, doing more harm than good. The frequency in which a memory card should be removed varies, but a rule of thumb is to let the camera sit for at least two weeks and even longer if the camera is set up at a new location. A trail camera can be set up on the best spot on your property but if the wildlife is patterning your movement, instead of vise-versa, then you aren’t going to obtain the desired results from that particular camera.

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It’s happened to most hunters…they get to the camera site only to find the memory card they have is either full or already has numerous photos on it. Not clearing the old photos from a pulled card can lead to confusion and misinterpreted data. You probably save some of the photos you capture, so be sure when you hit the field you have a clear, fresh memory card that can be plugged into your unit. If the card is full, you made a trip to the trail camera location for no reason, causing unneeded disturbances. If the card is partially full, the camera may not accept the card for new photos. This depends on the particular device. If the camera does accept the card you will have photos from various times, and possibly different locations, on one card. This can be confusing when attempting to pattern wildlife, especially one particular animal. A reliable memory card case allows an arranged organization of your memory cards and is a must when setting up trail cameras in the field.

The next mistake very similar to the aforementioned, your batteries need to be fresh and ready for the elements. It’s no surprise that cold weather can work on batteries harder than warmer weather, so keep this in mind. Most pro staffers and biologists will recommend switching out the batteries and memory cards when setting up cameras in new spots for an extended period of time. Using discount batteries and old memory cards have the same results, and neither one benefits you. To avoid this problem, refrain from picking up discount batteries and hoping they will last for as long as you need when setting up trail cameras. In some instances an external battery pack can be used to extend the life of your camera unit in the field. When setting up your trail camera, be sure to use the correct battery pack with the proper camera model.

Lastly, ensure the date, time, moon phase and any other information on the data strip correct. It can be tricky deciphering various photos if the built-in information stamp that appears on the bottom of captured photos is incorrect. This also provides insight if you record the data from your photos so you can easily look back and track the wildlife patterns over time, so accuracy is key. The main benefit of the trail camera data strip is the ability to decipher what wildlife was doing at a particular time. For this reason, make sure the data strip that shows up on captured photos is correct.

The goal of any trail camera setup is to extract information for hunting and management purposes. By properly setting up trail cameras and following these tips, it will be easier to acquire your desired results.