How To Setup A Trail Camera For Hunting

hunting trail camera

Can you believe it’s almost that time of year again? Late summer is right around the corner, and with it comes the start of deer hunting season across much of the country. As a fellow whitetail enthusiast, I know you’re already starting to prep for opening day just like me. One of my favorite tools to use during the early seasons is the trusty ol’ trail camera. Those things can be a huge help for scouting out deer activity before the real action starts.

Let me share a few quick tips I’ve picked up over the years on how to use trail cams to maximize your pre-season scouting. The early part of whitetail season is a whole different ball game compared to later in the fall. As the seasons change, food sources dwindle down, the rut kicks in, and the deer start moving and behaving in different patterns. To avoid pressuring them too much, it’s usually best to stay out of your hunting spots over the summer months. Otherwise, you won’t get an accurate picture of what deer are in the area and what their habits are. All that intel you gathered back during late season last year? Yeah, it’s basically useless now.

So here are the key questions I’m asking myself during early season prep:

What deer are here?

What groups are they staying in?

How/where are they moving?

When are they moving?

When planning a whitetail deer hunting strategy, it is crucial to consider using scouting and trail cameras to gather data.

Types of Trail Cameras

Trail cameras come in two varieties: those that are cellular and those that are standalone. There are pros and cons to gathering data about an area you plan to hunt and preparing for the season. Both can be used in different situations to get the most information.

Cellular Cameras

Cellular cameras have an obvious advantage. They will send pictures to your phone once you have set them up. Deer are easily disturbed by changes in their environment, so it’s best not to do anything that might disrupt their everyday habits. This includes wearing scent-free products and not placing anything unusual in their habitat. If you spend a lot of time in an area where you hope to hunt, the deer will start to behave differently, making it harder to understand their natural patterns.

Cellular cameras can be placed strategically to help you determine where deer may be traveling or near a natural food source. You can go inside, set up your camera, and watch the area for daily traffic patterns.

You might not be able to take many pictures, but if you’re lucky, the few you can take will be enough to show you what you’re trying to learn without having to go in there often.

Standalone Cameras

Cameras not part of a system are usually more straightforward and don’t require as much upkeep. The most significant disadvantage of Standalone cameras is that the SD card must be manually swapped out to retrieve pictures. This lessens the opportunities to disturb the whitetail population in the area and that you’re getting real-time data.

Some people believe that putting a trail camera over a feed source will help you determine the best time to hunt it, while others think it will scare away the animals. If you want to collect a lot of data from a specific area, it’s best to use a standalone camera at a food source that is easy to access. You are aware that deer will eventually visit the location. You know they’re going to stand there and eat. While they are taking pictures of you, you will also get their picture.

This is a great way to estimate the number of deer in the area. You can see what groups of animals travel together when they eat and how they travel to and from the food source.

Beginners Guide to Cellular Trail Cameras

If you’re even just a little bit into the outdoors, I bet you’ve heard about the latest thing in trail cameras – the cellular trail cam that can send photos right to your phone. These mobile cameras (or wireless cameras, as some people call ’em) are totally changing the game when it comes to how people scout and use trail cams. For anyone looking to step up their scouting skills, this new tech is pretty much a must-have.

But before we dive into all the details on cellular trail cams, it’s important we cover the basics. There are a couple of key things to think about before you start setting up cameras on public land. First up – make sure you know the laws! Every state has different rules about using trail cams, especially for hunting. Some states, like Alaska, say it’s totally illegal to use your phone to snap pics of wildlife. Other places, like Arizona, have banned trail cams altogether. So be sure to read up on the regs where you live and hunt. Don’t want you to end up in trouble just for scouting!

The other big thing is ethics. And on this one, I can’t tell you exactly what to think – that’s for you to decide based on your own values. But let me walk you through how I worked it out for myself, and hopefully that gives you something to chew on.

The way I see it, ethics aren’t about following a set of hardcoded rules. There are plenty of things that are legal but not what I would consider ethical. For me, it comes down to the moral principles that guide my behavior as a hunter and outdoorsman. I ask myself: Is what I’m doing respectful of the animals and habitat I’m interacting with? Does it align with my personal values around fair chase and stewardship?

After reflecting on those questions, here’s where I’ve landed when it comes to trail cams. I feel okay using cellular cameras to keep tabs on access-limited properties from a distance. This helps me pattern deer movement without excessive disturbance. But I don’t personally feel right blanketing huge areas of public land with cameras just to inventory deer numbers. And I always try to consider if camera placement might make animals more vulnerable to unethical hunters.

Obviously, reasonable people can disagree on these grey areas when it comes to tech in the outdoors. But the important thing is taking time to develop your own thoughtful boundaries when using trail cameras. If you do that, you can enjoy the scouting intel these awesome new cameras provide while still being a responsible steward of the land!

Let me know if any of that resonates with your own take on trail cam ethics. Curious to hear your perspective, and of course happy to chat more about the ins and outs of cellular cameras. They really are game-changers once you learn how to use them right!

Picking a Trail Camera

The process of choosing a cellular trail camera can be daunting for people new to the technology. There are a lot of features to consider when picking a camera that sends photos to your phone. Remember that a cellular trail camera is just a simple trail camera when you are first starting.

Like traditional trail cameras, cellular trail cameras can adjust settings such as photo burst, delay, megapixels, and PIR sensitivity. They use the same AA lithium batteries as traditional trail cameras and take the same standard SD card.

A mobile or cellular trail camera is a type of camera that is designed to take pictures of wildlife. Hunters typically use these cameras to get a better understanding of animal patterns and movements. What sets a cellular trail camera apart from a standard trail camera is that it can transmit photos to your mobile device via an app.

Price of Cellular Trail Cameras

You’ve probably noticed that cellular trail cameras are more expensive than regular trail cameras. The approximate cost of a cellular trail camera is $335.80, while the average price of a traditional trail camera is $164.05. Cellular trail cameras cost, on average, twice as much as traditional ones.

Why is there such a disparity in price? It simply costs twice as much for a manufacturer to implement the technology of cellular service, keep their cameras up to date with cellular providers’ guidelines, and continue to work on research and development.

If you know how traditional trail cameras work, then you will understand the pricing structure. That is what it is worth. A cellular trail camera is only worth half the price you usually pay. This camera is just as good as the ones in a traditional trail camera.
For example, if there is a $100 cellular trail camera. Divide 100 by 2 to get a price point of $50. Look at traditional trail cameras in the $50 range. The camera you would get with a $100 cellular camera would be of similar quality. Within that price range, you can find some of the cheaper Wildgame Innovations cameras or a white-label camera from Amazon.

Just because the price of a cellular trail camera may be high, that shouldn’t stop you from considering it. We wrote an article discussing whether or not cellular cameras are worth the price. It will show you how much you would save using this product instead of a traditional trail camera, including gas, time, and battery consumption.

Tips for Setting up Trail Cameras

Here are a few tips to get the best results from your trail camera in any situation.

Use Trail Cameras Seasonally

Even if modern trail cameras are built to be more durable, they are still electronic devices that require regular maintenance. Although they are useful for scouting and during the season, you should include them all year.

After you have finished hunting season, you should gather your hunting equipment and bring it back inside your house for some care and maintenance. Clean your trail cameras and store them indoors until you can use them for early-season scouting.

Prep Your Trail Cams

When you will use your trail cameras again, get some new batteries and format the SD cards to ensure they are suitable for your camera. But testing your trail camera before setting it up is most important.

There’s nothing worse than finding the perfect spot to put a camera, only to find out a few days later that your camera is not working. You wasted time setting up the first time, and now you have to go back in and spend more time setting it up a second time.

Set up your cameras quickly and let them work.

Pay Attention to Height

This will ensure that the deer cannot spot the camera quickly and trigger the sensor. Trail cameras are often used to take pictures of deer in the wild, which sometimes results in images of huge bucks with their eyes glowing in the darkness.

Even though we don’t have any lights or soundproof shutters, these deer live here daily. The birds are familiar with their surroundings and fly to different branches accordingly. One day, they see something unfamiliar and are perplexed. If the animals are staring at the camera, it’s likely because they can sense something is off, and they’ll be more skittish than before.

Directions Matter

Never face your cameras East or West! The sun is at its brightest during sunrise and sunset, so you’ll likely get a whited-out picture if you take a photo then.

To get the best quality lighting, face your camera North or South.

Captain Hunter is a seasoned hunting mentor with over 20 years of experience in the field. His passion began as a young man on trips with his father and grandfather in the Colorado mountains. Today, he shares his unmatched skills in survival, tracking, and marksmanship through his website When he's not volunteering with youth hunting programs, you can find Captain Hunter providing expert hunting tips, gear reviews, and answers to your most pressing questions. His decades of experience make him the trusted guide to help any outdoorsman master the sport.

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