Trail cameras are the perfect way to keep track of your local wildlife, whether you are a researcher, a park ranger or just a wildlife photography enthusiast. These cameras are used a lot to track deer but can be used for any animal and have a range of photography, video and even audio features. Check out these tips to make the most of your trail camera.
Finding a wildlife hotspot can be a trial and error process and different locations can have different amounts of activity around the year. Test your trail camera in a few different spots to figure out where the best areas to keep track of animals are.
Keep in mind things like camera height and the local hazards to your trail camera. Things like strong winds that can lift debris, falling branches or the animals themselves can knock your camera from its frame or damage it. Find a height that gets a good angle over the location you have chosen and secure it firmly.
Consider buying a padlock for the fastener and maybe a strong strap so that it is less likely to be knocked out of place or stolen. The camera itself should be weatherproof and hardy so will not need extra protection from the elements. Read more here for more information about the safety features of a good trail camera.
Depending on the sort of location your camera is pointing towards will affect how fast game moves past the camera. If you are pointing it at a common water drinking source or a mineral hotspot then a slower shutter speed will suffice, but places such as game trails will mean animals pass by faster. For these instances, a shorter shutter speed will ensure the photo is not blurry.
Focal Length and Distance from Animal
There are a few matters to consider when setting up your camera. Most trail cameras recommend being somewhere between 5 to 10 yards away from the animal. Anything further away will be out of focus.
Additionally, try to have your camera facing North so that the camera lens is never pointing directly towards the sun. If there is bright sunlight behind the animal then it will be entirely silhouetted or the sun will oversaturate the image.
Finally, check there are no branches that can cover your camera. Take a branch trimmer to cut away any small branches or long grass that might cover your camera lens. You may need to do this periodically, so remember to bring a pair of shears whenever you check on your camera.
Formatting the Camera
Take a few test shots with your camera before you leave it in the woods for the first time to make sure that everything is working. Additionally, check that the date and time are accurate so that the time stamps on each photo are meaningful. Finally, you may need to format your memory card to the camera.
For taking photos all day and all night find a camera with infrared settings and others that have a strobe flash option. The benefit of a flash is that you get a high-quality photo with no blur but you may frighten the animals away from that spot and it shortens the overall battery life of your camera.
Leave No Trace
Human scents can be off-putting to wildlife and reduce the number of overall encounters to your trail camera spot which is frustrating. You can take measures such as cleaning the camera and surrounding area with a scent free cleaner after you have handled it or use scent-free gloves when handling and setting up.
If you are using the trail camera to find out the best times to view animals to photograph them, wear an orange vest so that hunters do not mistake you for game. Check out these tips on how to take great photos using the right equipment for the best shots. Ensure there is no litter around your camera and leave the environment how you found it.
Finally, for more step by step advice, check out this tutorial on how to use a game camera. Taking great photos and video can be a trial and error process, but with enough patience and time, you will soon be enjoying beautiful pictures of wildlife.