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Offline Onin24Eagle

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Trail Cameras
« on: November 07, 2019, 03:25:57 PM »
This may read more like an article than a forum post...or maybe not since I'm not a professional writer. 

I want to share some of my experiences with trail cameras in general for those that are looking at buying more, just getting into it or want to get more out of them. 

Trail cameras are a great tool, but can also be a great (and potentially expensive) hobby.  Personally, I probably should seek professional help because I will admit, I'm addicted to them.  I go out of my way to stop in when I'm driving by a Fleet store, Wal-Mart, any local hardware or sporting goods store just to see what they have for trail cameras and perhaps get lucky and find a couple on the clearance rack.  I don't always buy one but I've probably bought more than I should over the years.  As I sit here writing this I have 22 cameras out on our property and I'm already scheming on which ones I'm going to pull out of the rotation and replace after this season.  I've already pulled and added a few over the past month.  The number fluctuates but generally trends up.

I'll start by going over what you should most likely look for if you are purchasing a new camera.  I'm not going to put to much into price right now.  This part is more about features.  I am also not going to mention brands.  I have tried most of them.  Some are better or worse than others in my experience.  Some are way better or way worse than others.  All I will say is that if you need advice on which brand, do some research and read as many reviews as you can or you can send me a PM if you have a question on a certain brand and I'll give you an honest opinion.  I've tried most of them at some point.

First of all you should consider what exactly it is that you are watching.  I don't mean what kind of animal.  I mean what kind of environment, if that's the right word.  A camera dedicated to watching a salt lick vs a camera dedicated to watching a field would need different features.  How far do you want or need to see?  What kind of picture quality do you want? 

For long range pictures, such as those on a food plot or field, you should be looking for the furthest effective flash range you can find.  Most cameras out there will say right on the box what kind of range they have.  I've seen as low as 30 feet to as much as 120 feet for night images.  I would recommend no less than 80 feet for an open area.  This will whittle down your choices of the type of flash rather quickly as the only type of flash that will reach that far is the standard "red glow" IR flash.

For a salt lick, scrape or carcass camera that will be facing the target at close range, any flash range will do but the cameras with longer ranges will tend to "white out" more on deer pics.  It's better to use lower range cameras in these situations as the flash is not as powerful and you'll get clearer pictures.  Here's an example of what I mean:






What type of flash?

There are three types of night illumination you can choose from.  The first is a normal "flash" camera, which was quite common ten years ago but hard to find these days.  These will generally give you much more detail and great night pictures (in color) with little to no blur.  Most people don't like to use these because they believe the flash will spook the deer.  In my experience though, it's not the flash.  More on that later...  Flash cameras do have the downside that they have a fairly low effective range and are best suited for watching a specific thing, such as a scrape or salt lick.  The second type of flash is your standard "red glow" IR.  The longest range for night pictures will be this type of flash, though there are plenty out on the market with shorter range.  Range is determined by how many LED's are on the camera and how much power is used to illuminate them.  IR cameras in general are much more susceptible to "blur" when a moving target goes through your detection area.  This is one area where certain brands outperform others but regardless of brand or how much you spend, you will always have at least some "blur" on night photos using red glow LEDs.  Here are a few examples of that:




The third type of flash is the "black flash" which basically uses a black or very dark purple LED instead of a red one.  These are often advertised as "no glow" cameras.  My personal opinion is that they are somewhat effective in reducing the occurrence of your quarry noticing the camera and I'm sure are much more effective in that regard if you're using a camera as security surveillance but since I'm using mine strictly for watching wildlife I can't attest to that personally.  For watching deer, I'm actually not very impressed with any of the no-glow black flash cameras that I've tried.  I have several gripes when it comes to these types of cameras.  For starters, they tend to have a very limited effective range which eliminates a lot of situations you might want to use a camera on such as an open area.  The furthest ranges I've seen are maybe 50 to 60 feet for these.  The second big issue I have is that these cameras tend to give you pictures that are a lot more "grainy" at night.  Again, some brands are better than others but I haven't tried any brand where their no flash cameras produce as high a quality picture as their standard red-glow IR versions do.  It's always more "grainy".  In my opinion, no glow or black flash cameras are not worth the extra money...but that's just my opinion.  below are two pictures from the same brand of camera showing the difference.  First is the red glow IR and second is the black flash. I can give more examples but this is going to be long enough as it is...

free pic upload





Hang 'em high!

I mentioned above that it's not the flash that spooks the deer.  I don't actually believe that to be 100% true.  I believe it to be 99% true.  I do know that if you follow my advice I'm about to share, very few, if any, deer will notice your cameras.  When picking a spot to mount a camera you should always mount them as high as you possibly can and face them down toward your target area that you are watching.  The higher the better.  In some cases, such as along a fenceline in an open area with no trees, it isn't possible but for most spots I mount cameras I can get them at least 8 feet off the ground.  Somebody on this forum (I apologize as I don't remember who) posted a YouTube video of why to do this several years ago.  That was an eye opener for me and I have been following the advice ever since.  I can tell you with 100% certainty that it does actually work and it does not matter what kind of flash your camera uses or even if your camera makes any audible "clunk" sounds when the camera is taking pictures.  If you put the camera up high, the deer don't notice it nearly as often as they do when it's at eye level to them.  I have a folder on my computer desktop with 1124 images I've saved of deer from just this year.  You'll have to take my word for it as posting all 1124 of them would take too much time and space but I scrolled through the whole thing just before writing this and I found two pictures where the deer seems to be looking up at the camera when it's mounted high.  Two.  I do have a couple of cameras on the field that I was not able to put very high (have them mounted on top of fenceposts) and I found 13 images where the deer are looking at the camera out of 162 total images from those cameras (I actually stopped typing this for 10 minutes and went into the folder and counted). All of the rest of my cameras are mounted at least 8 feet high.

I found the YouTube video I just referred to.  It's worth a watch.   https://youtu.be/XVQUSR5BdIk




MP are a scam!

The last subject I want to go over is megapixels.  Again this is my opinion, but I can back it up with some basic facts.  Don't fall for it and end up paying $20-$50 more for a camera that doesn't offer any benefit whatsoever.  There is only ONE situation where megapixels make a difference and that is if you actually intend to print and frame a picture.  If you're like me and 99.9% of other outdoorsmen using trail cameras according to a study I made up for this (but it probably not far from the truth) you only look at your trail camera photos on your computer or phone screen.  Sure, you might print out a couple of the "big boy" to put up on the wall of your hunting shack to help get the others in your party excited for the hunt but most if not all of the pictures from your trail cameras are going to be viewed on a computer screen whether you're showing them to family or friends or posting them on a forum.  I've got a secret to share with you.  Actually, it's not a secret but most people are simply unaware.  An HD computer monitor is only capable of showing......wait for it..........2.1 megapixels.  That's it.  2.1.  There's a lot more in the internal guts of a camera that go into picture quality than megapixels.  A good example is posted above with the Red glow vs Black flash camera pics.  Both of those are 16MP cameras.

Here's another example which backs up two of my points above.  First point being that a "white flash" normal flash camera gives superior quality night pictures and the second point being that MP are a sham.  This is a very old camera which unfortunately went to trail camera heaven a few years back and I had to replace it.  This camera produced 1.5 megapixel pictures and to this day had the clearest pictures of any camera I've ever owned.

photoupload

And just for the fun of it...this last one is from a 20MP (yes, TWENTY) red glow IR camera taken this year:




OK, well time for me to get off of my soapbox.  I'm sure I can come up with more but these would be the main points I wanted to share.  For those of you who actually took the time to read the entire post, thanks.  If you're going out in the deer woods this weekend, good luck and most importantly be safe!!
2011 MNO Deer Hunting Challenge Champion

Offline deadeye

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Re: Trail Cameras
« Reply #1 on: November 07, 2019, 04:54:09 PM »
Great post and very good information.  I only have 8 or so cameras.  Some cheap and some not so cheap.  Two things you should add to your information are 1. Trigger time and 2. battery life.  I agree with a lot of what you posted.  One thing, just how tall are you?  Do you carry a ladder with you wherever you go?
Below are a couple examples that demonstrate some of what you said.

Thanks,

Bushnell low glow trophy cam.  No washout or blur.


Same camera with two bucks fighting.  Very good night picture.


Different cheaper camera (Wildview) different location, different day, same distance and different results.
Which picture would you prefer?  No comparison.






Shows washout.
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Offline Smokey Hills Bandit

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Re: Trail Cameras
« Reply #2 on: November 07, 2019, 09:00:26 PM »
Well said and a lot of great detail there Eagle.

This is the only trail camera I will buy. "Campark Trail Game Camera" off of Amazon. $70
I will not even go into the trail camera section of any store.. I have a graveyard of broken trail cameras from these places.

I have yet to have a single failure.
PROS:
Battery Life - I had 2 cameras last 18 months on a single set of batteries (picture mode). Left them out all winter
Well built - no water getting in the camera - tight seal
On/Off/Setup - A single switch to know if your camera is truly on - no more guessing
CONS:
Uses a micro SD - small little chip that is easy to drop when retrieving chips.
Video mode - This seams to really eat battery if you have the same deer hanging out for an hour or two.

These are what work for me, do what works for you.

JL

Offline Onin24Eagle

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Re: Trail Cameras
« Reply #3 on: November 08, 2019, 09:14:23 AM »
Great post and very good information.  I only have 8 or so cameras.  Some cheap and some not so cheap.  Two things you should add to your information are 1. Trigger time and 2. battery life.  I agree with a lot of what you posted.  One thing, just how tall are you?  Do you carry a ladder with you wherever you go?

For the record, I'm 6'3" tall and according to the tailor that fitted me for the last suit I bought, my arms are 3" longer than they should be.  In cases where I want to get a camera higher than I can reach I just back my atv up to the tree and stand on the back rack.  No need for a ladder.

Also, I just purchased my first Bushnell cameras two weeks ago.  Will be doing my first card pull on those today.  Very excited about these as I've been wanting a Bushnell Trophy Cam for a long, long time but always shied away due to the price.  Found two Trophy Cam HD cameras on the clearance rack in the Bemidji Wal-Mart for $89 each.  That was an absolute steal so I just had to get them.

I didn't get into every subject I could have above.  I just covered the main points on my mind when I began writing but yes, battery life and trigger time are both important features to consider. 

When it comes to battery life that brings up one more gripe I have with the "no flash" or "black flash" cameras, at least the ones I've had experience with.  Seems those like to chew up batteries a bit faster than your typical red glow IR cameras do.  I've been in the game so long though that even the worst cameras for battery life today are far better than the best ones were 10 years ago so my standards may be a little low due to my low expectations from the past.  Most of the cameras I have out now will go through an entire season (late May/early June - late Nov/early Dec) with only needing batteries replaced twice at the most.  Seems like the no glow ones need new batteries 3 or 4 times in that same span though.  I've had cameras that although the actual battery life was good, referring strictly to the batteries themselves, the performance would suffer if they got down around 70-80%.  I pulled one like this and sold it to a friend the other week when I put out the new Bushnells I just bought.  Just the other day I had an epiphany and told him he should try lithium batteries in it and that might solve the problem.  I never tried that and wish I had.  I actually really liked everything else about that camera.  I just couldn't stand how much the picture quality would suffer if the batteries dropped just a little bit.  Took great pics when at 90% and above.  Video mode will chew up batteries no matter what kind of camera you have.  Sometimes it's worth it.  Watching a 1 min video of a nice buck working a scrape is just awesome.  I'll post one such video I got down below.

For anyone looking to buy a camera and wonder about battery life, read reviews on it.  Every manufacturer out there will claim their camera has great battery life. 

Trigger speed would depend a lot on where your camera is set up.  On a salt lick where a deer might basically stand in one spot for an hour, a really fast trigger speed isn't necessary at all.  Anywhere you set up where deer would be walking or running by from L to R or R to L, such as a trail or watching a fenceline, the faster the better.  If you do have a camera on a trail and keep getting just the rear end of the deer in your pictures, try finding a tree right on the edge of the trail and point your camera straight down the trail.  You won't get many side profile pictures but you won't miss as much either.

This is the only trail camera I will buy. "Campark Trail Game Camera" off of Amazon. $70

CONS:
Uses a micro SD - small little chip that is easy to drop when retrieving chips.
Video mode - This seams to really eat battery if you have the same deer hanging out for an hour or two.

There was once a camera made by Spypoint that I believe is the best sub-$100 camera ever made and that was the G-4.  They quit producing them in 2012.  I bought 6 of these in 2011/12 and all 6 are still in my lineup and working as strong as ever.  They've survived storms (even a tornado), snow storms, bears, a woodpecker, a beaver that chewed down the tree it was on, sub-0 to 100 and they still keep ticking.  If you wonder what I mean by surviving a woodpecker, I went to check them one day and one had a sensor with a hole in it.  I thought maybe a trespasser had shot it with a BB or pellet gun because the hole was almost perfectly that size.  Once I got the cards home I saw the culprit.  That was 4 or 5 years ago and the camera still works.  Just put a little dab of caulking in the hole to seal it up.  I've had half a dozen or so cameras pulled down by bears.  So far they haven't actually broken any of them.  They just pull them down and I find them lying on the ground.  The threaded insert for my mount usually gets ripped out though. 

I wouldn't put cameras on video in a spot where they might hang out for a while, like a salt lick.  If you stick strictly to something like a scrape you won't get as many videos but they sure are cool.

I do have one camera that takes a micro-SD card.  I totally agree with you on that being a CON.  If you accidentally drop that tiny little black chip when there are oak leaves 6 inches deep on the ground, good luck finding it.  I pull this camera off the mount and change the card on the seat of my ATV, then put the camera back up.  It does take really nice pictures though.  It's a Rexing and if not for the Micro-SD, I might have bought more of them.

Here's a video of a buck working a scrape I got from 5 years ago.  This was taken with the above mentioned Spypoint G4 camera.  My dad ended up shooting that buck the next day.

https://youtu.be/ZxBNOxAYFfA
« Last Edit: November 08, 2019, 09:22:40 AM by Onin24Eagle »
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Offline Outdoors Junkie

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Re: Trail Cameras
« Reply #4 on: November 08, 2019, 10:06:06 AM »
Great post, thank you for sharing your knowledge & experience. We have food plots and I probably have the wrong featured camera in one of those plots. We have mineral licks and I probably have the wrong featured camera in some of those spots. I will definitely try mounting cameras higher and pay more attention to the features of a specific camera, where I am mounting cameras and what I am trying to capture.

I just love how our members of MNO continually teach me to be better. Thanks you Onin24Eagle!
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Offline Boar

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Re: Trail Cameras
« Reply #5 on: November 08, 2019, 10:15:05 AM »
i love trail camers, great thread. ive beenbhaving fun with this onnthis year. first time, i was skeptable but ended up really liking it. the spy point. ya download and app to yur phone, synce the fone to camera and bingo! i get pictures at noon and 12 am. firt monthe is free and its 15 buck im paying right now a mnth til season is over. i love being in the woods but cant always retrieve cards like i want. it was a game change this bear seaon and we took a 500 lber  woth the aid of spy cam.
MY DEER IS BIGGER THAN GLENS!!
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Offline Boar

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Re: Trail Cameras
« Reply #6 on: November 08, 2019, 10:15:58 AM »
 :happy1:
MY DEER IS BIGGER THAN GLENS!!
HD SAYS SO!!! IN YO FACE GLENN!!
GRAND MASTER CHAMPION OF GLENNS SB CONTEST!!!

Offline Boar

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Re: Trail Cameras
« Reply #7 on: November 08, 2019, 10:18:53 AM »
 :rotflmao:
MY DEER IS BIGGER THAN GLENS!!
HD SAYS SO!!! IN YO FACE GLENN!!
GRAND MASTER CHAMPION OF GLENNS SB CONTEST!!!

Offline LPS

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Re: Trail Cameras
« Reply #8 on: November 08, 2019, 11:07:44 AM »
I got my last 2 trail cams from Trailcampro.com  Great company.  Free 2 year warranty on any cam you buy there.  They rate all cams on their website too.  Great info.  Free shipping too.  I don't know them so this is not an ad but sure fun to check them out. 

Offline Jerkbiat

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Re: Trail Cameras
« Reply #9 on: November 08, 2019, 01:10:04 PM »
I have been thinking about getting one of those Boar. Glad to know someone that has one.
Hey look your bobber is up!

Offline Boar

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Re: Trail Cameras
« Reply #10 on: November 08, 2019, 02:09:59 PM »
150 is the base modle. i might go to the 199.99 modle. more programable features.
MY DEER IS BIGGER THAN GLENS!!
HD SAYS SO!!! IN YO FACE GLENN!!
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Offline roony

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Re: Trail Cameras
« Reply #11 on: November 08, 2019, 02:12:19 PM »
Safer than monkeying with furnaces!

Offline Boar

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Re: Trail Cameras
« Reply #12 on: November 08, 2019, 04:06:15 PM »
yes i hope u all know to.call in a professional with any furnace issue.
MY DEER IS BIGGER THAN GLENS!!
HD SAYS SO!!! IN YO FACE GLENN!!
GRAND MASTER CHAMPION OF GLENNS SB CONTEST!!!

Offline LPS

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Re: Trail Cameras
« Reply #13 on: November 08, 2019, 04:56:41 PM »
The two new cameras I got are Brownings.  Like them.

Offline Boar

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Re: Trail Cameras
« Reply #14 on: November 08, 2019, 05:21:48 PM »
ive also 2 brownings. was a moultrei fan, still am but like browning a but more
MY DEER IS BIGGER THAN GLENS!!
HD SAYS SO!!! IN YO FACE GLENN!!
GRAND MASTER CHAMPION OF GLENNS SB CONTEST!!!

Offline LPS

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Re: Trail Cameras
« Reply #15 on: November 08, 2019, 05:31:06 PM »
I am no cam officianado at all.  But my cheap ones eventually didn't take good or any night shots.  That kind of bugged me.  SO we spent a little more and these have a 2 year warranty so if they quit working they hand me new ones.  I also used to use 4 D cell batteries in one of my first cameras and it ate them up like candy.  Expensive.  There new ones with the AA batteries is great!!!

Offline Rebel SS

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Re: Trail Cameras
« Reply #16 on: November 08, 2019, 07:57:17 PM »
How much were yer cams, Barry?

Offline LPS

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Re: Trail Cameras
« Reply #17 on: November 09, 2019, 07:59:52 AM »
They were about $200.  They do have others that are cheaper and they give a good review of all of them.  Some are even on discount as they are discontinued. 

 

Video