There’s nothing better than scouting while you sleep, so here are seven reminders about your trail cams.
Hanging a trail camera. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Walk into the woods, find a tree, strap your camera to it, and rinse/repeat for the rest of your property.
Contrary to popular belief, however, setting up trail cameras is actually an artfully involved and sometimes complicated process, and it’s one that you should spend a considerable amount of time on.
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Here are seven things to take into account as you are preparing to place your trail cameras this spring.
1. Check for software updates
You know how your smartphone and laptop frequently have notices encouraging you to install a new software update? They’re not the only devices that do that.
Indeed, even if you are buying the newest, most state-of-the-art trail camera on the market, there’s a very good chance that the manufacturers behind it didn’t correct every single issue or bug before sending the thing out to retailers.
Software technology improves, and consumers notice problems that manufacturers and testers didn’t notice. Quite simply, things happen that demand enhancements to your trail camera devices, and rather than recalling the product, manufacturers these days release a software update that you can use to fix things on your own.
As soon as you take your new camera out of the box for the first time – or as soon as you pull it out of storage after a cold winter season – head to the manufacturer’s website and check for an update. This might seem like a hassle, but you’ll be glad you took the time to do it when you don’t have to deal with a malfunctioning camera.
2. Read up on your camera
Chance are that you already did a slew of research on your new trail camera before you bought it in the first place, but there’s always more reading to be done.
Check online reviews or message board discussions, or read the owner’s manual. Learning everything there is to know about your product will give you the information to set it up in the most efficient and effective manner possible and will help you troubleshoot any problems that come your way.
3. Look into security safeguards
It’s an unfortunate fact of life that there a lot of unscrupulous people out there. If you are placing an expensive trail camera in the woods to track deer movements, you are going to have to come to terms with the fact that theft, vandalism, and outright destruction of your cam are very real possibilities.
Luckily, there are measures you can take to protect your security camera. The first of these is a security cable that locks your camera to the tree. Cables like these are basically the hunting world’s version of bike locks: they won’t protect your asset from vandalism, but in most cases, they will deter theft.
Another way to keep your trail camera safe is to simply be covert about where you are placing it. This presents a dilemma, since you want to place your trail camera in a spot where deer traffic is common and where you can get wide, clear shots without obstructions. Often, these open camera spots are obvious, visible and will make your device easy prey to thieves or vandals.
When you scout your property, look for quality spots that aren’t so accessible to thieves, or even consider hanging your camera higher up in the tree where it will be out of reach. Finally, implement the password protection option on your camera (if there is one). Nothing is going to stop a person who is absolutely determined to steal or destroy your camera, but by taking these methods, you can make it much more difficult for that person to achieve their goal.
4. Map out your cameras and number each one
If you are planning on hanging more than one trail camera on your property – which, for best results, is probably a good idea – then you need to draw out a map highlighting the locations of each camera.
You can do this after your spring scouting trip, since by then you’ll have information on deer traffic patterns, bedding habits, and eating and drinking locations as they currently stand. Distribute your cams around the property so you catch entirely different footage from each one, then assign each one a number so you can keep track of which ones you’ve visited most recently and which ones are providing which pictures.
Newer cams – especially those that deliver data right to your computer – will allow you to stamp information onto the photos or footage that provides the number.
5. Point your camera north to avoid glare
Once you’ve decided on where your trail cameras are actually going to be positioned, you can set to work distributing them. When you do install your camera on a tree, however, there are a number of tenets that you should follow, and one of those is the direction your camera is facing when you hang it.
For instance, you should avoid hanging your trail camera in a spot where it would be required to face east or west, as both directions would result in extreme glare and possibly useless photos in the morning and evening. Most trail cam experts say that the best and most consistent footage comes from cams that face north, so grab a camera and point your cam toward Santa Claus.
If the tree you’ve chosen doesn’t allow you to focus on the deer trail AND point your camera north at the same time, then consider choosing a different tree.
6. Angle camera toward the trail
Speaking of focusing your camera at the trail where deer activity will (hopefully) be playing out, there’s a definite art to it.
You don’t want your camera to point directly across the trail in perpendicular fashion. Instead, you want to angle your camera so that you can get as much of the trail as possible in the shot. This way, you can watch deer in a time lapse as they walk past going one way or another.
Getting a properly angled shot while also taking glare into account is the real challenge, of course, but a good hunter and tracker keeps these things front of mind.
7. Remove any sightline obstructions
Finally, once you’ve checked the software, secured the camera, and figured out all the angles, it’s time to put the finishing touches on your trail camera location.
For this step, do what you would do with your tree stand and trim any obstructions that are blocking the camera’s sight lines. Shooting a gun and shooting a camera are, in many respects, very similar. They both rely on as much visibility as possible, and they are both made incalculably more difficult by obstacles and sightline blockers. Take a look at a few sample pictures from your camera to make sure it’s getting the right kind of shot.
Plus, if a pesky beaver knocks a tree down directly in your sight line, you’ll know you need to adjust things before capturing more useful footage.