Written By Kris Brown.
Posted on August 31st, 2021.
I started using trail cameras in 2019 to scout for deer and to capture photos of other Catskill Mountain wildlife I might not easily see on woods walks. I did my homework before I got started, but sometimes the best way is to learn by doing. Hopefully some of these takeaways will help you out.
I have been using trail cameras, mainly as a deer scouting tool, for almost two years. I have six cameras on Watershed recreation lands owned by the New York City Dept. of Environmental Protection, plus one in the woods behind my house. I documented my early learning experiences in two blogs, one about installing the cameras and another about downloading photos for the first time. I also experimented with the cameras on video mode and shared some of my favorites here.
While I don’t claim to be an expert, it’s fun to reflect on the journey of learning something new. With that, here are five things I’ve learned about using trail cameras.
1) Photographing wildlife is fun! One of my goals for setting up trail cameras was to ‘see’ more wildlife and they haven’t disappointed. I’ve gotten photos of deer, bear, turkey, coyote, fox, and squirrel. The excitement of checking the cameras to see what they’ve seen over weeks and months never gets old.
A fox in the woods behind my house.
2) Maintaining 7 cameras isn’t all that hard. Don’t get me wrong, I put many a mile on the truck and a few on my feet to install the cameras. However, once the cameras are in place, you can just let them go for as long as you can stand it. Expect to change the batteries at least once a year. *Note that I am using Wildgame Innovations Terra Extreme 14 Megapixel cameras that take 8 AA batteries.
3) Have a spare SD card ready when downloading photos. Simply pop out the existing SD card and replace with a spare that has been wiped clean. I like to start from 0 when I change memory cards. As a side, my laptop does not have an SD card slot, so I purchased an SD card reader for $15 that plugs into the USB port.
I use this SD/microSD card reader to transfer photos to my laptop.
4) Prevent theft or tampering by hanging cameras high. I use my climbing treestand to hang cameras about 10 feet off the ground. I also use a $15 cable lock to secure cameras to the tree. This doesn’t mean my cameras can’t be stolen, it just makes it more difficult. It’s also more effort for me when I go to check on the cameras. *Note that you can easily use a stick shim or the locking cable itself to angle the camera toward the ground so animals don’t walk under your camera undetected.
By its nature, the locking cable angles the camera downward. You can achieve a steeper angle by wedging a stick in between the tree and cable.
5) Leave the cameras alone. If you repeatedly enter the woods to check your cameras, the deer will start to pattern you instead of vice versa. For this reason, it’s generally best practice to just let them be. Granted, I don’t always follow my own advice here.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to move your cameras to new spots if you are not seeing a desired level of wildlife. There, I set the bar low with five key points and gave you six.
If you want to learn more, check out MyWoodlot’s trail camera resources, Catskill Forest Association’s trail camera program, or email me