By Mark Kenyon
With antlers quickly sprouting, it’s getting to be that time of year that most people haul their trail cameras out of the closet and back into the woods. I’m certainly going to be deploying my full array of trail cams soon, and my goal this year (as is every year) is to have more big buck pictures and less empty frames, blacked out photos or broken cameras! So with that in mind I reached out to my friends at Moultrie to get a better idea of how I can avoid making the mistakes that lead to these problems. Lucky for us, I was sent some great pointers – so read on for the 7 most common trail camera mistakes that you don’t want to make!
(And if you want to dive deeper into advanced trail camera tactics to use during the hunting season, be sure to listen to our “Trail Camera Masterclass” podcast interview with Don Higgins)
1. Using “High Speed” SD cards: High speed SD cards are meant for high-end point & shoot and DSLR cameras, not for game cameras. Game cameras don’t write as fast to the SD card as regular digital cameras because of the tradeoff with battery life (nobody expects their DSLR to run for 3-4 months on one charge or set of batteries). Therefore, you can get some weird things when you try to use one of these cards in a game camera.
2. Altering Files On An SD card Outside of the Camera: A lot of people use their point & shoot digital cameras to view the contents of their SD cards in the field, and there’s nothing wrong with this. However, problems can arise when you erase images using that digital camera because it can rewrite the file structure that your game camera needs to be able to save photos to that SD card. Whenever possible, never delete photos using a digital camera; always reformat the card INSIDE the game camera and you’ll get better results.
3. Using Inferior/”Off Brand” Batteries: This is one of the most common causes for a call to customer support. Not all batteries are created equal; Energizer and Duracell batteries cost more for a reason – they last longer and work better in electronic devices. For optimal battery life, lithium batteries are almost always the way to go when dealing with AA’s.
4. Using Rechargeable Batteries: It would make sense that people would want to use rechargeable batteries to power their game cameras. However, the reason this is a bad idea is because the voltage is never the same as a regular alkaline or lithium battery (it’s lower). The internal battery calculators inside game cameras are calibrated to read the voltage put out by alkaline or lithium batteries. Since rechargeables have a lower voltage, the camera will tend to shut itself off when these batteries still have a charge because it thinks the batteries are dead due to their low voltage.
5. Using External Power Supplies: While a lot of folks like to hook a tractor or ATV battery to their game camera by rigging some sort of connector, this is always a bad idea. While the overall voltage may be the same as the DC power source created by the batteries, the way that voltage is dispersed to the camera can be vastly different. You may get lucky and not have a catastrophic reaction to a homemade power source, but you’re just as likely to “fry” your circuit board and have a $100+ brick on your hands (with a voided warranty). Always opt for the official external power supply for your game camera.
6. Placing Your Camera Due East/West: This is never a good idea, and most people understand that you don’t want your camera pointed into either the rising or setting sun. You’ll wind up with at least one time period per day when your photos will not turn out the way you want them to. Try to always place your camera north/south whenever possible.
7. Setting the camera Too High/Low: We recommend placing your camera roughly 36″ off the ground. You’ll get the best results from this height. Some cases will require you to mount the camera higher and aim downward – especially for security purposes – and that may work fine. You’ll just have a bit more trial-and-error to make sure you’re detecting what you’re after.
Want more trail camera advice? Check out these resources: