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The 5 Essential Attributes of Any Game Camera

game camera picture

Here’s what you need from your game camera.

There are certain things every person needs from a game camera, and certain things you can do without. Some cameras have lots of bells, whistles and features that are very good to have, but not necessary. On the other hand, some are so sorely lacking in the fundamentals that they are barely worth the purchase price.

Here are the five key features that a game camera should have. Any camera lacking in these departments… frankly isn’t worth the hassle.

1. Time and Date Stamp

A trail camera has to have a time and date function. Some might argue that this isn’t strictly necessary, but it is vital to helping one not only tease out what animals are in an area, but get a sense of their patterns as well.

Does that 6-by-6 bull show up only at a specific time or during a certain interval? Does that 10-point whitetail buck walk by at nearly the same time every day? Time and date signatures help you figure that out.

Some cameras come with it set up already; others require the owner to activate it. While patterns can easily change (ever see lots of bucks in an area during scouting, only for them to go nocturnal once the season starts?), the time and date function will give you more information.

No endeavor, be it hunting, fishing, business, whatever, is not improved with more data.

2. (Good) Night Vision

Juniper Dunes game camera
BLM Oregon and Washington/CC-BY

When it comes to night vision, game camera models are either good, adequate or worthless. Some may question whether this matters; after all, hunts take place during shooting hours so it isn’t necessarily the most relevant thing to see what walks by the camera (or visits the feed pile) at night.

However, the point of game cameras is to see what animals are endemic to the area. You never know what might walk out in front of you in the daytime that might normally only be out at night, and vice versa.

3. Decent Picture Quality

game camera pigs
It seems obvious, but what good is a game camera with bad picture quality? None is the answer, especially if you plan on hunting a unit with restrictions, such as 3-point minimums, spike only and so on. If the kind of game you can harvest is not present, it’s not a good spot, and discerning that from pictures isn’t made easier with poor image quality.

4. Ease of Camera Mounting

game camera on tree
Ragnar1904/CC-BY-SA 4.0

The easier the camera mounting, the more versatile the tool and thus the more you will get out of your investment. Included straps aren’t necessary (though nice!) but ease of deployment is. The previously mentioned factors will also increase the utility of a game camera and thus net one a better return on investment.

5. Game Camera Price Should be an Amount You Can Lose

The last attribute that’s essential is the price: specifically, it should be a dollar amount that you can afford to throw away.

Let’s face it. Hunting equipment can be expensive, including game cameras. However, unlike many other goods that one buys for hunting, such as firearms, boots, tools, packs and so on, cameras are uniquely susceptible to damage and outright theft. As to the former, trees can be cut down (occasionally a person puts a camera up in timber that’s scheduled to be felled) and animals can displace or destroy a camera.

(Black bears, we’re looking at you… and you will be made into rugs for your insolence!)

Then, you have thieves. Hunters and other outdoorspersons, like most people, insist on their decency and law-abiding habits. It may be true for most, but like any other group there are untermensch in the ranks that make things bad for everyone. They do things like litter, car hunt after clearly seeing someone walking a nearby ridge and so on. They steal cameras.

Some people prevent this from happening by selecting a camera with a theft deterrent, like a GPS beacon. Others buy the cheapest cameras that deliver the picture quality they want so the loss isn’t too aggravating. In any case, don’t spend more than you can stand to lose.

Check out these 5 best bang for your buck game cameras for a smoking deal on great cameras!


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The 5 Essential Attributes of Any Game Camera