How To Set Up Trail Cameras: The Ultimate Guide

Many outdoor sportspeople agree that no hunting gear kit is complete without a trail camera. They are used for many different purposes: to study patterns and movements, keeping an eye out for bucks, and to know when the right time to strike comes around.

Even if hunting is not your thing, outstanding wildlife and conservation pictures are taken with trail cameras every day. That’s why it’s important to choose the correct trail camera, helpful reviews and guides can be found at Pointoptics.com.

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If you are a beginner to the whole hunting and tracking thing, you might be a little daunted when it comes to setting up a trail camera for the first time. The key is continual use and practice. Remember that there will be a few missteps before you achieve the perfect set-up and photos.

Here are some handy beginner tips for anyone using a trail camera for the first time. 

1. First Learn How the Camera Works

Familiarising yourself with the camera is an important first step. It may be instinctive to want to jump into your 4x4 and hit the bush the minute you buy your first trail camera, but learn to master its functions at home before you do. Having a working knowledge of the essential camera features will make it easier for you in the long run.

The problem with the in-store demonstrations given to you by the salesperson is that the information is often forgotten by the time you get home. For those of you who have bought your equipment online, it can be even more difficult, as all you have to go on is the manual. Here is the most important trail camera features to keep in mind.

  • The camera’s detection range operates by sensing any close-by motion. It then sends a signal to the automatic system that captures the shot.
  • Trail cameras work day and night, as standard ones are all equipped with a white-flash. This generates colorful, vibrant pictures at night, the only downside being that the animal will be scared away by the light. This is preferable, however, to the signs a human gives off when they are trying for a picture in real-time.
  • No-flash, infrared cameras are your best choice if you need to camouflage your trail camera effectively. They produce no lights or flashes, so don’t scare the buck away. On the downside, the picture quality at night is grainy.
  • There are no-glow, infrared trail cameras. They create minimal glow when taking a picture and this makes them the ideal device for night time trail photography.

The trail camera trigger speed refers to the time it takes from the moment it detects movement within its field of view and how fast it takes the picture.

The trail camera recovery time indicates how long it will take to reboot after taking a picture. It must capture the moving object, process, and store it in the SD card, and then prepare its system to take another photo. This doesn’t need to be super-fast with a white-flash camera, as the animals will have dispersed with the bright light and will take a while before they reassemble.

If you decide to buy a trail camera with an ultra-fast trigger speed, it will help you to take pictures in milliseconds. This is good for fast-moving animals and action photos. Since ultra-fast cameras have ultra-expensive price tags, your best bet might be to choose one with a standard trigger speed instead. If you are planning to set up your camera at a food or water source, the animals are likely to be spending a lot of the time still and in one place anyway. Also, a camera arm can be used to make it easier to set up your trail camera.

See also: 5 Helpful Wildgame Innovations Trail Camera Troubleshooting to Follow

2. What is the Best Time to Set Up a Trail Camera?

As you can see from the pictures here, beautiful animal photographs can be captured both day and night. Now that you have a better idea about trail camera basics, you can start to use your equipment on the field. Here are a few tips on the best seasons and camera positions.

  • Spring and summer: Hunters like to set up trail cameras in spring and summer. Knowing what bucks to expect is good information to have on hand before hunting season begins. It’s best to position the camera at food sources and also water holes if the climate is hot.
  • Late summer and early autumn: This is when the temperatures shift from hot to warm or cold and frosty (depending on what latitude you are hunting in). This means you may want to concentrate on the areas where there is grazing in preference to water holes. Choose to set up at fruit-bearing trees and where the fruit falls.
  • Winter: Transfer your trail camera to places where herds are known to graze.

3. How to Choose a Location for Your Trail Camera

trail camera

Here are the factors you need to consider when setting up your trail camera at a specific location.

  • ​Food Source: Keep in mind that camera traps can be seen by animals as well, so be cautious and choose a location that provides adequate coverage. There should always be a good source of food in the spot where you set up, or be on the chosen route to a food source.
  • Trails: Never set up the camera angled directly onto the trail. Allow it to detect movement from a distance instead. This provides the optimum range.
  • Sunlight: One of the factors to be considered when setting up. Make sure the camera will never be facing the sun at any time of the day. The detection technology on a trail camera is so sensitive. It can detect the heat rays, wind movement, and vegetation rustling. These are the cause of most picture failures hunters experience at first.

4. How to Analyse Your Trail Camera Data

Alright, so you’ve set up your trail camera in the right place, at the right time. The next thing is to retrieve it and analyse the data you have collected.

  • The information strip at the bottom of every image is essential. It tells you the date, time, and even the moon phase the animal was pictured. This helps you determine the travel patterns of the animals as well as the weather and speed they are traveling.
  • In summer, animals are on the hunt for food. In winter, the numbers decrease because of harsher conditions. Trail pictures will help you discover when the numbers begin to go down.
  • Data collection takes time. If you are serious about monitoring conditions, you won’t rush this vital information process.

5. Scouting the Area Where You Set Up Your Camera

You’ll be leaving your trail camera on location for up to three weeks. Scout the set-up areas before choosing one. If this is your first time in the field, leave the camera for a few days and then return to see if it has captured any images. When you have discovered the routes and feeding spots, you can set-up and leave the camera for a few weeks at a time. Remember to stay away from places where there is the possibility of human traffic.

Trail cameras are also used to monitor endangered species in the wild

Trail cameras are also used to monitor endangered species in the wild.

6. Best Tips for Using a Trail Camera

  • Set up your camera at mid-day. This is the best time as the likelihood of scaring an animal away is less. They are more active at dawn, dusk, and night.
  • Watch out for rain. It washes away your scent after setting up and makes it more likely the animals will relax their guard.
  • Check that your sensor is pointing in the direction where the animals emerge. This will give the camera time to adjust to the animal’s dimensions.
  • Make sure your battery is fully charged.
  • Check you have remembered to reformat your SD card before leaving for another set-up. Get into the habit of reformatting your camera after every use.
  • Watch out for thieves. Learn how to conceal your trail camera from animals and humans.

Unlike normal digital photography, a trail camera user is not present to fiddle with knobs and make adjustments. This is what makes setting up a trail camera so important in obtaining the best results. But don’t let this put you off using a trail camera if you are a beginner. 

Keep on learning from your past mistakes and practice more and more. If you follow these tips, your results will get better. Soon, you will be producing professional results and gathering important information from the analysis of the data.

The results are very rewarding and worth the effort of learning at the end of the day.

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