Which trail camera is right for you?
Trail cameras are also known as scouting cameras or game cameras are increasing in popularity. They’re used by hunters and wildlife enthusiasts because they enable animals to be observed, often at night, exhibiting natural behaviour and unnoticed by the creatures themselves.
Trail cameras are easy to use and require almost no attention. Simply install one in a location where you think the animals you want to photograph may be found. Good choices of location would be near tracks, a food or water source, or along a trail. The camera has a motion sensor, and possibly a heat sensor, so as soon as any animal comes into the vicinity, it will take a photo.
It’s possible to buy a basic trail camera from around $50 or pick up one second-hand. To help you make the right choice for you, here are some features you should look out for which can make a real difference to the quality of your pictures.
This tells you how near to the camera an animal would have to be to trigger the sensor and be captured in a shot. The detection area is important as it can influence your decision about where to place your trail camera – will you need to wildlife to be up close for it to function? While this may be practical if you’re going to place it in a heavily wooded area. When the terrain is more open, you could lose a lot of opportunities if the detection area is limited.
When your camera is installed in a remote location that you won’t be accessing frequently, consider the advantages of a wireless trail camera. These are becoming ever-more affordable as technology improves. The advantages of having images sent directly to your mobile device, in real-time, are obvious. Just be sure to check the coverage and internet access that would be available.
It’s essential that once motion has been detected, the camera takes the photo quickly, otherwise you risk ending up with a disappointing succession of photos of hindquarters or tails. Again, consider what you want to achieve with the camera, and the location you’ll be placing it. For example, if you want to observe a track or trail, point the camera at an angle, so it observes the animal as it comes progressively nearer. If you point it directly at the track, by the time the sensor has been triggered, your target will most likely have passed by. On the other hand, if it’s going to be placed by a feeding site, the animals will be moving more slowly, giving the camera more time to activate.
Trail cameras will use one of three types of flash: white, low glow, or no-glow. Before selecting which type is right for you, consider what you want the camera to do.
White flash cameras are what we’re used to when taking normal photos in low-light conditions. While they take great shots at night (and capture colors), their obvious downside is that they can disturb and startle the wildlife you’re trying to capture as they demonstrate natural behavior.
Low glow or infra-red flashes are less disruptive than white flashes, and also produce better quality night shots that no-glow flashes. Although it’s generally thought that they don’t disturb wildlife, there have been reports of adverse responses, perhaps when the animal is caught looking directly into the lens.
Cameras with no-glow flashes, as the name suggests, don’t produce any light when triggered. The disadvantage is that, while they’re fine for daytime shots, they don’t work so well at night. On the other hand, night photos, while not being of such great quality, will capture the wildlife totally undisturbed. They are also a great choice if you want to use them as security cameras, as they will capture shots of any intruder without being detected.
Once you’ve installed your trail camera, it will pretty much do its job without needing much attention. However, it will be essential to ensure that the batteries have enough power to enable them to do their job. Although trail camera batteries are claimed, on average, to have a lifespan of 30,000 photos, there are so many factors that can influence this. For example, the proportion of night photos, whether you’re using video mode, the weather, and of course the type of batteries you choose. Check the manufacturer’s guidelines and ensure that the trail camera you choose will have a battery life-span that fits in with how frequently it’s practical for you to check and replace.