Scouting Camera Hints and Tips

Camera placement
  • Always try to place your trail cam looking north or south. If faced into the rising and setting sun the light will wash out any pictures that are taken during that time.
  • When placed in a small cleared out area where there is tall foliage across from the camera, the sun in the morning warming the leaves will sometimes set off the camera.
  • Try to clean the area in front of the camera of any vegetation that can be moved by the wind. Usually 20 to 30 feet is enough unless it is a large weed or brush then a greater distance would be necessary.
  • Be aware of the sensing capability of your camera. Place your camera well with in that range. Too close or too far will result in missed pictures. In most cases 15 to 20 feet to the target area in the summer is about right. During the colder weather some cameras will sense out to 100 feet.  This can be a problem when  cold and darkness allows the camera to trigger outside the range of the flash.
  • When placing your trail camera to watch a rub line or scrape you should elevate the camera well above the eyelevel of the animal and have it looking down on the desired area. A flash coming from above will not bother these wary critters as much as if was at eye level. It is believed that the flash coming from above is similar to lightning and does not scare the bucks. This also applies to the IR flash cameras. This is important in that if you plan to hunt this same area you would not want to have this animal disturbed and possibly abandon the area due to being scared by the flash.
  • When putting your camera to watch scrapes and you are getting a lot of activity, it is felt that this the bucks way of advertising. When this activity at the scrape drops off suddenly that is the time the buck will be out on the chase and is a good indication that the rut is in full swing.
  • The average trigger time (movement to picture taken) with most cameras is 2 to 5 seconds. Aiming the camera directly across a trail in most cases will result in missed pictures or a lot of animal tail ends. We have found that aiming the camera so it is looking at an approaching or exiting animal is most effective for trail watching. When possible have it looking up or down the trail. When viewing a feeder or salt lick, or areas where the animal will have prolonged exposure just get your right sensing distance and observe the north south position.
  • Corn Feeders:  We found that after placing a new corn feeder in a field our deer movement in that area stopped.  Week after week passed before we learned that you should camouflage the feeder.
Camera mounting
  • The advertising for trail cameras always show the camera mounted to a tree. This is acceptable if the tree is in the 8 to 10 inch caliper.
  • Winter mounting on smaller trees will work because after the leaves have fallen the wind will have little effect on the tree movement.
  • During the time of full foliage the wind will move even larger trees to the extent the camera will trigger.
  • The best solution to this is to build a camera stand that is pushed into the ground next to a tree. The camera stands are not affected by the wind and when placed next to a tree provides good concealment and a place to secure your camera from theft.
  • Mounting height can be from 24 to 40 inches. When mounted low, small game like armadillos and squirrels will trigger the camera. These, will in most cases will be missed if the camera is mounted a little higher.
  • With the IR red flash cameras in photo and movie mode, a bright red glow is put off by the camera. This red glow will really spook a deer. To avoid spooking deer with from the IR red flash, place the camera above the animals eye level looking down and they will not spook.
Camera security
  • These small high dollar items are a prime target for would be thieves.
  • We have really worked on this problem. In some cases we have used the camouflage tape used for archery and such to disguise the appearance of the cameras.
  • The most effective method is to use the small bungee cords (I found them in Home Depot) around the camera and just use the vegetation you have cleared away from in front of the camera to disguise it from view. When doing this be careful not to have any of the cords or vegetation covering any of the sensors or lenses.
  • In real problem areas we chose to use a well disguised camera to watch another camera.
  • Good locking devices and camera cages are a must. Most of the manufactures have a security box that can be purchased to fit the camera.
  • In the cases where a locking cage was not available we built our own. We prefer cables over chain because they are a little harder to cut with a bolt cutter.
  • When you unpack your new camera in preparation to take it to the woods, take the time to record the serial numbers and scratch in an identifying name or number so if lost those numbers can be reported to the authorities.
  • Camouflage:  Camouflage your camera with camo tape and twigs and cedar branches. Be careful not to get twigs and material in front of the lens of PIR
Batteries and solar panels
  • Over the years we have tried all brnads of alkaline batteries and have in recent years settled on rayovac brand.
  • This process becomes extremely expensive when several cameras are involved. The use of the NIMH 4500 mAh (as a minimum) rechargeable batteries is a better answer. They are a little less in voltage but all our cams work fine with them.
  • Some of cameras use rechargeable lead acid sealed batteries such as the 6 volt lantern and 12 volt UPS batteries. These are available at Radio Shack and much cheaper Batteries Plus Stores.
  • In most cases the aftermarket chargers like battery tenders that can be found at ATV stores and Battery Plus outlets are best.
  • We have adapted most of our cameras to solar panels. This really extends the battery life and lessens the hassle of battery changing and charging.
  • Caution: It is our practice to carry multiple batteries and memory cards when we make our rounds to check our trail cameras. It has been reported that an individual was transporting the 6 volt battery for his Moultrie trail cam on the way to the field when the battery rolled under the cars seat. The protective caps that came on the battery had been removed and when the battery slid under the car seat it made contact with some metal and resulted in a fire that destroyed the individual’s automobile. Some of the cameras we use have the larger 6 and 12 volt batteries similar to the computer UPS batteries and they also could cause a fire if not properly handled. Care must be taken when handling and transporting and be sure that the protective caps are re installed after charging to prevent the accidental shorting out of the terminals.
Keep Lenses Clean
  • Use Lens Wipes to clean the lenses each time you check your cameras.
  • Build hoods to keep the rain and dew off the lenses.
  • Place desiccants inside camera cavities to absorb moisture.
Scent Control
  • Always try to use some type of cover scent on your boots when making rounds to check cameras.  We have used the earth–pine–squirrel juice–fox–deer cover scents on our boots with good success. Those weeks that we forgot to use the scents the game pictures would drop to near zero. A lot of time is spent in the camera areas changing out cards and batteries also during set up because you must prune out unwanted vegetation and such for the site preparation.  Try to be aware of where you are touching and what you are doing as to minimize your scent trail.
Ants in your camera?
After hearing reports of this problem we decided to test a solution. We have used Ortho home defense insecticide for a number of years in our homes and businesses. One of the choices for using this chemical insecticide concoction was the lack of that terrible insecticide odor and its very good effectiveness. My thoughts were to take a camera and spray the inside and let it dry and install the batteries and put it out for a test to see if the smell bothered the deer. I would assume that it would not, being that it is inside the camera. If this should work it might be an answer to the new development where the ants are setting up house inside some cameras. We found that this spray is very residual and will kill months after application. The plan will be to actually hang the camera near a corn feeder and put another cam to watch the reaction of the animals around the feeder.

The results if this testing show that the deer do not appear to mind the smell.

Phase II of our testing was placing this camera, powered up with batteries and armed resting in an active red ant bed. After 24 hours there were no ants in the cam.

Conclusion: Ortho Home Defense will keep the ants and insects out of your cam, and it appears to not be offensive to deer.

PIR Sensor Damage
Now that everyone is pulling their cameras out of the closet and getting ready to deploy them in the field here is a word of caution. We handle and move around several cameras at a time. This past month we have had a couple of those cameras cease to function up to par. Upon inspection of these units we found that we had managed to damage the sensor lens on each camera. This was done by stacking them together. Some of these cameras have sharp edges that can make a nasty gash in the plastic. Even a small scratch in the sensor lens will reduce its performance. Put some type of padding around your cams when transporting them.
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