It's certainly no secret that trail cameras have revolutionized the way hunters go about their pre-season scouting for whitetails.
And these units have changed over the past decade. No longer a simple monitor strapped to a tree and triggered by an infrared beam, today's trail cameras are incredibly high-tech pieces of outdoor surveillance equipment.
One sends 14 megapixel images instantly to your smartphone; another can record 30-second bursts of 720 progressive scan video. Still another boasts of a 70-foot infrared flash range. But with dozens of options sitting on the trail camera shelf, where does a hunter begin?
"One of the things I get asked about most often is what a hunter really 'needs' in a trail camera," said Tom Rainey, marketing director at Browning Trail Cameras. "It's easy to get caught up with all the amazing new features out there. My recommendation is simple, and speaks to a vast majority of the trail-camera users out there.
"Outside of picture and video quality and battery life, the sometimes overlooked features to consider are infrared illumination, detection range, and shutter speeds."
These three variables, Rainey said, impact the end results of a camera's function as much or more than a lot of other features.
For those looking to maximize the performance of their trail camera, Rainey suggested installing the highest quality batteries and memory cards possible.
HOT ON THE TRAIL
Have specific objectives in mind when setting out cameras. Consider setting up cameras at pinch points and along clear-cut pathways, and even position them along a mock scrape to entice deer to come to examine the area.
"These two things," he said, "can absolutely ruin the best-laid plans. I mean, if you're going to invest the time and money everywhere else, make sure not to be too frugal when it comes to batteries and SD cards."
Where one deploys the camera, according to Rainey, is a factor to be considered when determining function and settings.
"If the camera is at a feeder," he said, "it's probably not necessary that the camera fire every five seconds (when triggered). However, on a trail, that option might be desirable. A big buck walks by just once, and now there's more than one image to look at. Have specific objectives in mind when setting out cameras. Map it out in advance with goals. This helps develop an effective plan specific to the situation."