Why a Trail Camera Is Important for Hunting
A trail cam is a valuable tool for any hunter. It can be used to identify where the wildlife that you are after is located, it can help you learn how they behave, and it will show you when the best times to hunt them are.
A trail camera is a device that uses a motion sensing detector to capture images, record video and record sound automatically. To use it, you simply set it up and let it go. When you return, you will be able to see all of the images are captured when something moved in its field of view.
There are many ways that a hunting camera can help any hunter. Below, we have listed all of the features hunters use to help them improve their results. As you read through these, think about what the most important and useful features are for the wildlife that you hunt for.
Features to Look For in The Best Trail Cameras
- Photos Settings & Options
Trail cameras are designed to sense when there is movement in the area and take a photo at a set interval of time, usually between 1 to 2 seconds until the motion stops. A long two-second delay helps keep the amount of photos down and the battery life high; however, you may miss out on some valuable evidence of wildlife if they are running straight through the frame.
Other cameras are set to take multiple pictures per second. By doing this, you will have a better chance of capturing the wildlife in the frame; however, it will run through the battery life with more pictures quicker.
Different situations and environments will call for different delay settings. Instead of being stuck with one specific delay, getting a game camera that allows you to adjust these settings will set the delay to what suits the environment best.
Time-lapse mode is another setting to look out for. A time-lapse option will set the cam to take short bursts of pictures. This will allow you to track the movement of the animal in the same way that a video would do come without the hardware demands that a video trail camera demand.
Some cameras will allow you to schedule photos at specific times during the day. You can use these to get an idea of what is going on in the area throughout the day and night.
In general, the more megapixels a camera has, the greater the photo resolution will be. This is usually one of the most important factors when selecting a camera, but for hunting purposes, it is not as critical.
In most cases, you will only be using your cam to determine if there is wildlife in the area or not. You won’t need high-resolution images to do this. A grainy picture will usually do just fine to accomplish this.
The other aspect of this is that if the megapixels are too low, it can eventually reach the point where it is impossible to tell what you are looking at. Consider how important photo resolution is based on what you will be using the camera for. If you simply want to be able to see if wildlife is passing the camera’s field of vision, a low-resolution will do just fine.
Most of the best trail cameras will have between 10 and 20-megapixels. While 10 MP is on the low end, it is certainly good enough to give you everything that you need to see. 20 MP cameras will allow you to see great detail in your pictures. You can find functional cameras that go as low as 4 MP.
The best way to get a feel for the quality of the image that the trail camera will take is to look at actual examples. Make sure you examine pictures that are taken in a variety of different environments and times of the day to get a full idea of what you can expect.
- Battery Life
The battery life needed will vary greatly depending on the amount of time you are going to use the camera for and how often you will be able to check it. Since these tools are motion activated, camera may last longer than you might expect. They remain off until the sensors are triggered and it is time to snap a photo. This helps extend the battery life.
The exact amount of time is hard to say. It will depend on the amount of pictures it will take and in what timeframe it will take them in. If you set your camera up in a busy location, it’s going to take a lot more pictures in a shorter amount of time. This will cause it to run out of juice more quickly.
It is tough to protect how active a particular location will be if it is your first time setting the camera up in the area. The amount of traffic will also vary based on the time of year.
Another factor to consider that affects battery life is the type of batteries that it holds. Some devices use AA or AAA batteries while others will take D batteries. The larger the batteries, the more pictures it will be able to take.
Finally, the power efficiency of the camera will play a role in its total battery life. Low-quality cameras may only be able to take a few thousand pictures before the batteries drain out, while higher quality models can take 10,000 or more.
Consider how often you will be able to switch out the batteries in your camera and how long you want to have them running for. Some people only set them up for a day at a time, while others like to have them snapping photos year-round.
The worst thing that can happen regarding this is setting up your camera and thinking that you have more battery power than you actually do, only to find that you missed days or weeks of usage that you missed out on because your batteries died sooner than you were expecting them to.
- Trigger Speed
Trigger speed is a factor that is often overlooked by first-time buyers. Trigger speed is defined as the amount of time that it takes for the camera to ‘wake up’ and snap a photograph after the sensor is set off.
The best cameras will be able to snap a photo in a few tenths of a second. We have seen some cameras that take up to two seconds or more to take a photo. Machines with a slow trigger speed should be avoided as standalone setups because the delay could cause it to miss a passing animal altogether.
If you are using a bait station that will attract wildlife, you may have more success with a camera that has a slow trigger speed. Since the wildlife will stop to investigate or eat the bait, it gives your camera plenty of time to turn on and capture the photo before they take off.
- LCD Displays
If you want to be able to see what your camera picked up as soon as you arrive on site, you will be able to flip through your photos using an LCD display. Without an LCD screen, you will have to connect it to a computer before you can look through them. This isn’t a necessity; however, it is a major convenience to have. It also allows you to quickly check your photos at any time to make sure the camera is set up in the position that you want it to be in.
- Infrared Vision
Snapping a picture of a buck in broad daylight is rare. It’s much more common to get these photos during the evening and late night hours. A flash could startle the deer and possibly push them away from the area, so you want to avoid that. Infrared vision allows the camera to capture images at night without being detected.
There are two different types of infrared vision cameras that you will be able to find. One type will emit a red glow. This light will generally not affect the wildlife; however, it can make the device noticeable to people passing by, which can lead to theft. These are called “low glow” infrared flash cameras.
“No glow” infrared cameras will use a filter over the photo. It will not emit any light, making it in detectable in the dark. We recommend the no glow filter infrared cameras to decrease the risk of theft.
- Video Recordings
The more advanced hunting cameras will allow you to automatically record video. While video is a great feature to have, it doesn’t provide any major benefits beyond what a photo will provide. The drawback is that it will use a lot more of your camera’s battery life, causing you to have to check it more often.
- Remote Viewing
Certain game cameras will allow you to pull up the photos through your cell phone or computer. It will send the images to your inbox. This is a huge convenience and it allows you to look through the photos without disturbing the area and potentially scaring off any wildlife, like the deer.
It keeps the human scent down in the area which wildlife can sometimes pick up on as well. For some, it’s the only way they will be able to check their photos if they are hundreds of miles away from the camera.
These cams can be very expensive. They will typically require a monthly service fee for the automatic uploading of the images. If you are in the deep forests, there may not even be a strong enough signal for this feature to work correctly at all.
- Multiple Cameras
Most trail cameras will be sold individually. You will be able to find cams that are sold in packs of two, three or four. Grouping cameras like this will give you certain information that you would not be able to get with a single camera setup.
For one, it will allow you to view a larger area. You can set them up to cover more of a certain area or scatter them in different spots throughout the location. Being able to see a larger area will create more opportunities to discover where the wildlife is located at.
More cameras will give you different viewing angles. This is helpful for those situations where wildlife is in the range of the motion sensor but it is out of the frame.
More cameras will allow you to learn and predict paths. With more cams, you will be able to watch the wildlife come and go through the frames of each camera. This will help you better estimate where that animal came from and where it is going. Chances are, any wildlife that you find will not be in the same location when you get there, so it is helpful to have these clues to help you determine where it could have gone.
Multiple camera sets can also be cheaper than purchasing multiple cameras individually. If you are looking to set up more than one, this is the most cost effective route to take.
Best Game Camera Comparison Table
Trail Camera Reviews
This XIKEZAN item is a great option for those that are looking for the best trail cameras under $100. It doesn’t have all of the features that some of our other choices do, but it is a great option if you are on a budget.
It has a low glow infrared camera that can capture images with motion detection of up to 50′. It’s not the best option if you are looking for high picture quality. At 8 megapixels, it offers the lowest resolution among the options that we reviewed here today.
- 50 foot detection range
- Captures video
- Easy setup
- Battery life of 12,000 images
- Comes in low glow or no glow
- Low megapixels
- Average trigger speed
- Limited features
The Crenova cam offers high-quality images with its 12 megapixel resolution. It has low glow infrared night vision extends up to 65′. It has a one second trigger time and a variety of photo options including timed photographs, time-lapse software, interval images and multishot pictures.
It can take up to 10,000 images on four AA batteries, or 1 million images on eight AA batteries. Storing 1 million images will require an additional SD card. It has a power saving mode that will turn down the infrared lights to extend the battery life even longer.
With its long battery life and high storage capacity, it is a great option for those looking for a camera that they can set up and leave for an extended amount of time.
- Low glow with automatic infrared filter
- Wide viewing angle
- Time-lapse software
- Built-in monitor
- 120° motion detection range
- Average trigger time
- Customers report confusion setting it up
The Browning BTC5HD can quickly snap photos using its PIR motion sensor in as little as 0.67 seconds. It has a detection range of 55′ and a nighttime range of 100′. It has a built in infrared flash that will be able to record passing wildlife without alarming them.
It has several modes including multishot and rapid fire, which will allow you to set the device to take up to eight images successively. It’s time-lapse and time-lapse plus modes will allow you to take shots at specific times during the day.
It can be mounted to a tree using its 6′ nylon strap attachment. It also has a mounting socket which will fit most tripods.
- Fast trigger time
- 100′ night flash range
- Time-lapse software
- Zero Blur technology
- Complaints about daytime image quality
- Low megapixels for the price
The Cuddeback E2 is our favorite hunting camera. They come in a pack of two or four and feature the fastest trigger speeds at 0.25 seconds. They also have the highest megapixels at 20 per camera. The high resolution photos it snaps will allow you to zoom in and examine the details of each picture.
The most noticeable aspect of this set is the amount of cameras it comes with. These cameras are designed to work together and be spaced out across an area. They have a zone control feature which will allow you to change the focus of each camera. You can switch between wide views which are ideal for fields and open areas, and a center view which is better suited for dense forests where vision is limited.
- 4 cameras included
- High megapixels
- Extremely fast trigger time
- Zone control views
- These cameras are not sold individually at this price
- They are not camouflaged which makes them a little easier to spot
This Browning tool is another multi-camera set. They come in a pack of two which makes them a great option to cover a large viewing area. They have a lower image resolution at 10 megapixels so they are better suited for situations where image quality is not critical. An ideal configuration will enable you to see where wildlife is entering and exiting through the full field of view.
These cameras have a long infrared flash range of up to 100′. They are a great option for long distance nighttime viewing. This set is a little more expensive than the single cameras that we reviewed, but the price is on par at a per-camera basis.
- 2 cameras included
- 100’ flash range
- Video recordings of up to 2 minutes
- Low glow infrared
- Fast trigger time
- Small camera
- Battery life is questionable
- Difficult to improve picture quality any further with added settings
This Browning model covers all of the basics that you could ask for from a trail camera. It has a long nighttime flash range of 100′ and a time-lapse camera option. It is comparable to the XIKEZAN camera that we reviewed above, but it offers better image quality and a faster trigger time. It’s a slightly better cam but it comes at a slightly higher costs. If you want these minor improvements, it will cost you a bit more.
This model received mixed reviews on the image quality. Some customers said they don’t believe that it is a 10 megapixel camera, while others raved about the image quality. As far as we can see, we feel that the image quality will vary based on the distance, the light and the environment it is set up in.
- Low glow infrared
- 100’ night flash range
- Fast trigger time
- Zero Blur technology
- Easy setup
- May not meet claims of 10 MP quality
- Similar to cheaper models
We selected these six cameras because we felt they were all able to provide what you should expect from the best trail cameras. Many of them share similar features, but a few of them stand out to us. If you want our top recommendation, we suggest the