Smile! You’re on Camera!

Joe Keckeisen

Viewing photos from your trail camera is often described as opening gifts on Christmas morning. The anticipation of seeing what has been lurking in your hunting domain is almost as exciting as climbing up in the stand.  Having the ability to place a set of eyes out in the bush or woods without disturbing the area is a great technological breakthrough.  Just like computer technology advancing every waking moment, so does the technology behind trail cameras. Many of us are familiar with the basic understanding and intent of trail cameras, but are you using them to their full potential?


I can recall reading articles in hunting publications back in the early 90’s of new cameras that work on motion sensors which can be placed in the woods to capture photographs of wild game! What a concept! I could not wait to get my hands on this new tech-geek hunting gadget!  Looking back, the early trail cameras were much like looking at a Commodore 64 computer or old Atari game console.  This evolution though was necessary to bring them to where they are today, no doubt.  So are you still using your new trail cameras like you were your old trail cameras?  Are you taking advantage of the new technological features that can increase your odds of harvesting the deer you have your sights set on? Not taking advantage of these new features is like buying a new computer to play solitaire on and nothing else.

As with most technology, things become faster at less of a cost to the consumer with more capabilities. Today’s trail camera is no exception.  Let’s take memory storage for example. I can remember when a 512Mb SD flash card cost me in excess of $75. Not only did the storage size limit the amount of photos you could capture to about 20 images, but the price also put a big damper on how many you bought as well. Today for around $20 you can buy SD cards with 32Gb! Yesterday’s cameras also had limitation’s on them allowing you to only use SD cards with a maximum amount of memory. Today’s cameras now allow me to take advantage of high capacity SD cards! So how does this help me become a more successful hunter? Allowing your camera to sit in the woods for longer periods of time before visiting it again to retrieve memory cards minimizes scent and decreases your chances of being detected by deer in the area.  As much as we like to check cards as often as possible to see what new monster buck is frequenting the area, RESIST! The longer you let them sit, the less you will educate the deer of your presence and possibly bump that mature buck to your neighbor’s property.  With the high capacity cards becoming so affordable with some being only $20, you can now afford to have an extra card or two which allows you to simply grab and go from your camera and get out of the woods quickly.

Another technology that has changed the game is video capture.  Old trail cameras with video capability would not only drain memory cards but also drain the battery power and leave the camera inoperable within a few days.  How many times have you seen a photo of a deer looking directly at the camera? Ever wonder how the flash or glow of the infrared LEDs affected the deer right after the photo? Well, wonder no more…with today’s technology you can capture those responses, take video! Does movement of the deer and what they are doing not tell a better story?  Nine times out of ten, having video of a buck provides a much better view of his antlers and body and in turn makes judging the maturity of the animal and score of the rack easier and more accurate than only having photos.  Getting back to a deer’s reaction to a flash or IR when the camera activates, using video allows you to see exactly what happens.  Erich Long of Drumming Log, a land management company, did a very in depth study on the negative effects of trail cameras on deer. I highly recommend if you have some time to watch his VIDEO and see the different reactions deer had to cameras mounted at eye level versus 6’ or higher.  I can tell you, I took his advice this year and mounted all of my trail cameras 6’ or higher and only had a few deer throughout the entire season even notice them.  With today’s technology, video is definitely the way to go!
Check out a few videos capture from this past season. (G2 Buck) (Sparring)

How about time lapse photo capture, or otherwise called “plot watcher” mode?  This technology is yet another innovation that helps us pattern deer movement in vast areas where deer may be out of range of the camera’s motion sensors.  This technology can help you answer some of those age old questions like “How do you know if deer are hitting the food plot you put in this year?” or “Where are the deer coming out into the field?”  The plot watcher mode works based on the time of day setting of the camera, most cameras will start capturing photos during the morning and evening at times and intervals set by the user. This technology can also be used for animals beyond whitetails…for example, use it to pattern and scout the turkey activity in your favorite field!  The plot watcher technology doesn’t stop there, now certain manufacturers are offering software that can scan your photos for abnormalities, so instead of spending hours clicking through hundreds of photos looking for animals, let the computer software do it for you. The key to this new software is it looks for differences in photos that are in a sequence.  If it finds a difference, it stops the scanning process and alerts you that may have identified a new object in the photo (animal or person). This software is even being offered with trail cameras under $100 and I must say, does a fantastic job.

These are just a few new technologies commonly found in most trail cameras today at affordable prices.  If pricing is not a concern for you, there are even more features and technologies that are worth considering.  Some trail cameras now have cellular technology that automatically sends you your trail cam photos to your email or sends them to you on your mobile device via text messaging.  There are also cameras that will send your photos to a receiver that you carry with you allowing you to check your camera from your tree stand, given it is within range parameters.   But as with most technology, these features will continue to drop in price over time and be more affordable to the average hunter one day. So make sure you take advantage of all those bells and whistles your new trail cameras have to offer. Hopefully they will help you with your next wall decoration! How are you using today’s technology with your trail cameras?

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About The Author
Father and Son Hunting with Each Other

Joe Keckeisen

Joe is a professional photographer and videographer primarily in the outdoor industry with his company New Order Productions. He also enjoys writing and sharing his experiences with several publications, websites, and social media. Aside from hunting, Joe also enjoys utilizing his carpentry skills, brewing his own beer, and spending time with his family and friends.   Joe Keckeisen | New Order Productions


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