In recent years, the trail camera market has exploded into prominence for deer hunters all across the nation.
Once a novelty and now a must-have item for yearly success in the woods, one of the lines that has been continually seen at the forefront of sales in big box stores from coast-to-coast – as well as in small mom-and-pop establishments everywhere else in between – are the units made by the Alabama-based Moultrie company.
As the market gets more competitive each year, new innovations keep on coming and coming, improvements that are unveiled each January at the annual ATA and SHOT Show trade gatherings.
As the cameras get better and better, and the field of competition grows deeper and more pronounced in the industry, then it would stand to reason that this is no time for a company like Moultrie to rest on its laurels and brand familiarity.
And the company isn't doing that according to Moultrie brand manager Daniel Fagan.
In fact, just the opposite. On top of the company's successful Panoramic 150i, Panoramic 150 and M-1100i units, an inside-and-out redesign has occurred in the other Moultrie cameras offered this year. That includes the new Gen 2 versions of the M-990i, M-880i, M-880, M-550 and the A-5.
"We've totally redesigned out popular A-5 camera, one of the best-selling cameras in the market," said Fagan. "We've made it better from the case design, which is now designed to be more weatherproof. All of the critical components are sealed. And it now takes AA batteries instead of the C-cell batteries it took in the past. That's just a little more convenient we found for our buyers, they prefer that."
In fact, battery life is one thing that Fagan says is improved across the line in both the M-series and the A-series of Moultrie cameras.
On top of that, Moultrie is bringing a highly affordable unit to the market this year, one that will help a budget-conscious hunter get into the camera game for the first time while also allowing hunters with multiple properties or significant landholdings to expand their trail camera inventory without breaking the bank.
"The new addition to the (Moultrie) line is the A-7i," said Fagan. "It's our newest, lowest priced invisible-flash camera and we're excited about that. It's a step up from the A-5. If you want the same functionality (of the A-5), basically, with a little bit stronger photo – it's got a 7 megapixels camera – then this is a good camera to consider."
Since the camera walls at most big box stores – and the pages of most hunting catalogs – are literally chock full of trail camera units to consider, how does the hunting consumer find the best camera and/or value for his or her money?
To start with, be educated, says Fagan.
"If I was a consumer, I'd say compare (cameras) and read the reviews that are out there," he said.
The second key is go to a source for purchasing the trail cameras that you trust.
"Usually, the associates (at most stores) can help you find answers to your questions," said Fagan,
A third key is to know what you're looking for – at least in general terms – before you go out to shop and/or purchase a unit. Fagan says a consumer should pick out what's important to them in terms of buying a camera, whether it is image quality, fast trigger speeds or ease of use and then look for units that have such features.
"If you're just looking at a wall of cameras, it is a little overwhelming at times," he said. "In terms of our Moultrie cameras, we try to be real specific on the box about what our features are (for each camera)."
Such packaging should help consumers begin to narrow down their choices.
"We try to have our top three, four, five or six features spelled out (on the box) so that you can compare (one camera to another)," said Fagan. "This one may have an invisible flash while this one may have a long-range infrared flash. We try to be educational with our packaging."
And that can help make for educated purchases by hunting consumers.
"I think it's really important to figure out what's important to you (first) and then compare that across the lines," said Fagan.
One area that seems to influence most hunters’ trail camera purchases each year are how many megapixels a unit actually has.
At the Archery Trade Association Show in Indianapolis, Daniel Fagan shows off one of Moultrie’s newest game cameras for 2015. (Lynn Burkhead photo)
But just how important are they to a hunter who simply wants to get some good photos of the various white-tailed bucks that are roaming their hunting property?
"There's differing views on that," said Fagan. "We've got cameras that go all the way from 5 all the way on up to 12 megapixels. And yes, you do get some better (quality) images the higher you go in megapixels, but really, it's about the makeup of the camera, the lens and the sensor. That adds as much to the image quality as the megapixels do."
What about fast trigger speeds, how necessary are they?
"I think it's important," said Fagan. "But I wouldn't necessarily say that it's the most important (feature to look for). I think they kind of add up together to make a camera most useful for what you need it to be.
"But (there's no doubt) that the trigger speed is important because it's the time from when game enters the field of view to the time that (the camera) actually takes the image. So the faster the trigger speed, the more likely you are to capture an image of a deer or other game."
That said, most cameras are taking pictures of animals that are feeding or moving through a specific spot at a relatively slow to moderate speed.
That simply means that most units on the market will take good photos of deer and other animals if they are set up in good locations to begin with.
"Usually, deer aren't just sprinting through the field of view (where a camera is set up)," said Fagan. "It's not the end-all, be-all. Our cameras go from less than 1.5 seconds down to less than a half-second. Yes, it's important, but even at our entry level (camera speeds), you're not going to miss too much game."
Another area of consideration for would-be camera purchasers to consider is the range of the camera itself, particularly in dark conditions when the camera's flash ability is put to the test.
"It's pretty important, obviously, for your night images," said Fagan. "You want to capture deer entering the zones (that are covered by cameras). Again, though, it kind of depends on what you're trying to do (with the camera)."
"If you're set up on a known trail and kind of know the path that the deer are taking, then a shorter flash is not that (big of a deal)," said Fagan. "(But) if you're trying to track the movement of game on your property, and you're not exactly sure if that's going to be 70 yards out (or less), then flash range becomes more important and you might want to get something a little more powerful until you can refine that path (of approach)."
A final area of consideration before making a camera purchase is how simple does a hunter want that particular unit to be in terms of operation?
Because some are amazingly complex and offer a wide variety of user-controlled options – HD quality video, color image capture, sound, different image-burst speeds, etc. – while some others are a bit more simple.
"We have a lot of consumers say (to us) 'Man, I just want to go out there and set the camera up and I don't want to fool with all of the settings,'" said Fagan. "So we've added a pretty cool feature (to some of our cameras) this year called ‘Quick Start Set-Up.’ All you do is put your batteries in, your SD card in, switch it on to ‘Quick Start,' then set your date and time – because that's what really drives the camera – and that's all you've got to do."
As hunters get more comfortable with their camera units, they can then explore the other settings to fine-tune the type and amount of image captures and information that a camera is gleaning from the whitetail woods.
If the above is some good advice on how a hunter can properly select a camera, then what advice does Fagan have that gives hunters an idea of how many cameras they need to purchase to effectively cover their property?
"I think that's how well you know your property (to some degree)," he said. "It's really personal preference. We've had folks that have 50 cameras on a relatively small plot of land and we've had others that say 'I just want a camera to monitor this one feeder.'"
Then, as any good manufacturer would do, he grinned and added "Obviously, the more the better."
All kidding aside, “better” is what Moultrie is after each year in terms of building high quality, simple to use, long lasting and useful trail camera products.
"For Moultrie, it's all about every year trying to improve the quality and reliability of our cameras," said Fagan. "Our surveys have found that everybody expects the standard features and we try to do that (and) more. But we also try to put a camera out that is going to last through the season, the rest of the year, and on past that. That's what we're trying to do every year."
As one of the leaders in the trail-camera industry, that should come as little surprise to deer hunters looking for their next trail-camera unit.
One that will make the complicated whitetail woods a little less difficult to figure out in 2015.
All while making it more than necessary for a hunter to have their favorite meat processor's and taxidermist's phone number handy on speed dial.
For more information about Moultrie Game Cameras, please visit: http://www.moultriefeeders.com