Everything You Should Know About A Trail Camera

Everything You Should Know About A Trail Camera

One of the primary tools utilized by eager hunters is a trail camera. It is a quintessential piece of equipment that enables you to monitor animal movements.

Trail cameras feature distinct characteristics. That means you should carefully assess the market before deciding on one. Still, the broad variety of products could transform the decision-making process into a tiring one.

Rest assured, though, this guide aims at presenting everything you should know when choosing a game camera, which will give you confidence during your hunting adventures. Let’s proceed, shall we?

What Is A Trail Camera?

We’ll start with the basics. A trail camera is a device that captures images: photographs or videos. Most hunters choose these tools for game surveillance reasons.

Two trail cameras set up on a tree.

Tracking wildlife could be quite mundane and tiring. So, a game camera enables you to save a lot of time, while being practical. It allows you to keep track of the animals in your area, and determine the places they visit the most, establish patterns in their behavior, and so on.

Due to technological advancements, remote cameras can be used for various purposes.

Top Uses For Trail Cameras

First and foremost, hunters utilize game cameras in an attempt to establish the quality of the game, in a given land. In essence, having such a camera could make your hunting season successful.

Nevertheless, that is not all. Trail cams can be used for other purposes as well. A trail camera could, in fact, be a cheap alternative to a surveillance camera. Not only could you use such a device to monitor your property, but your home, as well.

Thirdly, another common use is that of a nanny cam. If you want to check on your kids, or you are doubtful regarding your nanny’s reliability, such a gadget could be life-saving.

A remote cam can also be used for hobby and amateur photography. As long as you select a device that captures high-quality, clear images, it could be useful in this respect, as well.

Plus, this gadget could capture pictures that would be impossible to get with a typical conventional camera.

And lastly, you could use trail cameras for observational or educational reasons, as well. You can manage your land by installing a set of cams on your property to keep an eye out for wildlife, predators, varmints, so on and so forth.

How Do Trail Cameras Work?

The fundamental principle according to which a remote camera works is the following: you place it in a remote spot and set it to record or take pictures when it monitors motion.

Typically, trail cameras function round the clock, whenever they sense movement.

What you should do is install it, set the controls and you’ll be good to go.

Man using a trail camera.

Types Of Trail Cameras

There are several types of trail cameras. We will explain each one so that you are familiar with the types before buying one.

Film Trail Camera

A film trail camera utilizes film, typically 35mm. These types of gadgets are older models, as they use traditional film.

Developing the images could be rather costly and inconvenient. Still, an advantage would be that such a camera captures high-quality pictures.

Even so, considering the vast diversity of product to choose from, you can find a digital model that delivers excellent results, as well.

Digital Trail Camera

Distinct from film cameras, digital cams record the pictures on a memory card. This way, you can conveniently transfer the images to a computer, where you can sort them out.

These devices are equipped with a broad range of features, depending on the use and price tag.

Cellular Trail Camera

A cellular camera documents images. Plus, it enables you to transfer them to your phone via an Internet connection.

First, you should insert a SIM. In general, these cameras work on GSM networks. That means you should purchase a data package for the SIM, as well.

Also, these cameras feature a motion sensor. Movement in the proximity of the lens’ span activates the sensor.

What is great about cellular trail cameras is that they are compact. Secondly, they are adequate for both outdoor and indoor installation. The portability feature is just as important.

Cellular trail camera.

Presumably, the main aspect that makes this tool the perfect choice for wildlife activities is that you can camouflage it easily. You don’t have to worry about any wires hanging out.

As for the drawbacks, this camera runs on battery. So, I would advise you to get one that features a low battery indicator.

Secondly, the SIM requires service provider’s network. For example, if you want to send some pictures while in the wilderness, you can’t do it unless you have a network.

Another potential downside is that a cellular camera could be hacked via the Internet that connects it to your phone.

Wireless Trail Camera

Typically, a Wi-Fi trail camera features a built-in transmitter whose purpose is to transport images using the wireless network. On that note, you should select the receiving device’s wireless network to establish a connection.

Wi-Fi cameras are state-of-the-art and user-friendly – two characteristics I find to be crucial. Plus, since no wires are involved, installing it is a breeze. Apart from that, it is easy to operate, particularly for tech-savvy individuals.

You can easily share the pictures via Wi-Fi. The lack of wires makes it excellent for camouflage purposes.

Moving on to the potential disadvantages, you should know that a natural environment could jeopardize the wireless signals. In other words, this wouldn’t be the perfect piece of equipment for an outdoor setup.

Moreover, if you aren’t in the Wi-Fi range, the transmission feature won’t function. The use of the Internet for transferring the images makes the camera defenseless to cyber-attacks.

Also, unless there is a Wi-Fi enabled environment, one cannot use the transmission feature. This restraint makes it inadequate for isolated areas.

Security Trail Camera

A security trail camera is another viable purchase, especially if you want to supervise a temporary shelter in the woods, a warehouse, storage space, or even your house.

If that is what you’re looking for, I would advise you get a fully enabled security camera, also known as a surveillance camera. Such an item is extremely dependable.

In the event in which an unfortunate event does take place in your absence, the camera will record everything in real time. So, if you’ll need footage or evidence of something, you can depend on that. Additionally, it could also hinder criminals from lingering around your property.

The major benefit of choosing a fully equipped security trail camera is that it gives you peace of mind. Furthermore, this is a versatile item, as you can use it for monitoring the wildlife in your area.

On the other side, I wouldn’t say that this is a sound choice for setting up in the wilderness. In fact, it is yet to be established that it is fit for wildlife setups as well.

Before installing a security trail, note that you should delete the data on a regular basis. This is important especially if you want to prevent data leakage.

Infrared Trail Camera

An infrared trail camera is an excellent acquisition for recording during nighttime. If you want to ensure round the clock surveillance in the wild, this is probably your best choice.

Trail camera with an infrared.

As a general rule, infrared cameras present high resolutions. Therein, they take high-quality night photographs. Secondly, they are equipped with sensors that turn the infrared feature on or off.

Since they work excellently in dim scenarios, infrared cameras do an excellent job at capturing wildlife shots. In this direction, scientific researchers depend entirely on using infrared cameras during their expeditions.

Infrared cameras feature a study, robust design. That means they resist tampering. Also, installing these tools isn’t difficult.

In spite of all these significant advantages, the primary drawback is that these cams tend to be quite pricey. Plus, the reflective surface has its range of limitations, which is something worth considering.

Flash Trail Camera

As you might expect, a flash camera is created for night shots. In dim lighting, the camera automatically switches to flash mode. This way, the cam is perfect for both daytime and nighttime usage.

The quality of the pictures is one of the main things I like about these cameras. In fact, note that flash trail cams feature the best zoom capacities.

Trail camera with a flash.

Secondly, they come in various sizes, and you can choose the right one for your needs.

Now moving on to the disadvantages: while the flash feature can be beneficial, when it goes off without prior warning, it could annoy you. Not to mention that it could drive wild animals away.

Also, a flash cam tends to make a shutter noise whenever the flash function is activated. It is needless to say that the flash could agitate animals. As for covert tracking, this type of camera isn’t fit either, since it is far from being clandestine.

Laser Aim Trail Camera

Numerous units are equipped with a laser aiming device. This feature could be really helpful at aiming the camera properly. This way, you are less likely to miss a shot.

In other words, this feature facilitates excellent control while enhancing the quality of the pictures.

Sound Producing Trail Camera

As game cameras develop, they feature special characteristics. Built-in sounds represent one of them. Whether it’s for sports or research purposes, some users want to lure the animals in approaching the camera. Sound producing cameras can do the trick.

In other words, you can program some cameras to produce sounds such as turkey, moose, deer, predators or elk to attract animals. You can activate this setting remotely while other units are activated by a timer or motion sensor.

Motion Activated Trail Camera

I’d like to start by saying that a motion-activated camera is fitted for both outdoor and indoor settings. We would recommend this to users who don’t want to depend on manual interference when it comes to photo taking.

Motion activated trail camera.

So, once you install it, you pretty much forget about it. It’s genuinely functional and convenient.

This type of camera is preferably used for both sports and wildlife photography. Nevertheless, note that both scenarios feature a given window period for a capture. Plus, articulate timing is a must.

So, what are the main advantages to this kind of camera? To begin with, you can install this piece of equipment in a threatening set up. Additionally, it detects motion in its range. Note, however, that it won’t capture images outside the detection area.

Also, if the range is short and isn’t sensitive enough, it won’t be as practical as you want it to be. Thus, make sure you check this feature before purchasing.

Distinctive Features Of A Trail Camera

You should also be familiar with the features of a trail camera before purchasing one.

Trail Camera Megapixels

Naturally, more megapixels equal higher resolution captures. Nevertheless, this shouldn’t be the only element to factor in. Megapixels are worth nothing if the quality of the remote camera is subpar. A covert trail camera, for instance, is popular for its extraordinary quality image.

Still, the simplest manner to determine the quality of the trail camera pictures is by doing your research. Look for product reviews, forums, or testimonials on the company’s websites.

Capture Modes

A game camera can capture still photos or videos. While still captures are helpful, the video mode could be more useful. That’s because the video option enables you to get an insight view of the animals’ world and observe the way in which they behave.

A single video could offer you more practical information than ten still photos.

Trail Camera Flashes

Cameras have distinct flash options, as follows: no-glow flash, low-glow flash, and white-flash.

A no-glow trail camera capture BW pictures and they have reduced flash range. Nevertheless, these are less likely to be observed by game animals.

Trail camera flash.

Low-glow flash cams deliver a slightly visible flash; nighttime pictures will be black and white, as well.

As for a white flash camera, it will produce color images, night or day.

Trigger Time

Trigger time refers to how long it takes for the cam to take a picture, once it records the presence of an animal in the detection zone.

It could make the difference between capturing or not capturing animals. A camera with fast trigger speed can capture a sequence of photos that other cameras wouldn’t manage to do.

Recovery Time

The time the camera needs to re-start after taking a photo is referred to as camera recovery time.

Just as slow trigger speed equals missed opportunities, slow camera recovery time could mean the same. The recovery time range varies from under a second to over a minute.

Hence, ensuring that the recovery and trigger time are adequate is quintessential, particularly if you place the remote camera on a trail or path.

Detection Zones

Detection zones refer to the area in which the camera’s sensors could detect movement, hence trigger the cam to capture the image.

Typically, long-range cameras are excellent for hunters, in particular. You can choose a gadget whose detection zone is almost 100 feet.

Trail camera detection zones.

Apart from a distance in feet, the field of view is just as crucial. A wide field of view equals better captures since the movement will be in the zone for an extended timeframe.

Also, bear in mind that some trail cams indicate higher detection zones than they have. That’s why it’s always worth checking the trail camera reviews.

Battery Life

The biggest problem when it comes to using a game camera is that you have to change the batteries round the clock. Even if you go for a pricier camera, getting a product with excellent battery life could help you to save money, in the long run.

Additional Features

Except for the main features there's more:

LCD Screen

An LCD display is useful as it lets you look at your pictures/videos, and navigate through the camera settings.

PIR angle

PIR equals passive infrared, and PIR angle represents the degree from which the camera could monitor movement. A large PIR angle means that the gadget could track movement faster.

In general, first-rate cameras feature a PIR angle of 48 degrees. This means that these cams could record everything that enters their field of view.

Sensitivity Adjustment

A high sensitivity rating means that your camera will capture almost everything, irrespective of size. On the other hand, a low sensitivity rating means that the camera won’t capture smaller animals.

Trail camera settings.

Having the possibility of adjusting this feature could be helpful since the sensitivity rating could reach further than the flash range.

Laser Aiming

This characteristic enables you to hang the camera, and then determine where the lens is through the laser pointer. While this additional feature could be helpful, it is quite unnecessary in open land.

Burst Mode

The burst mode permits the camera to capture a prearranged amount of images before it stops. This is useful mainly if you want to collect numerous pictures of the wildlife in your area.

GPS Geotag

High-quality models of trail cameras offer the alternative of embedding the GPS coordinates of the cam’s location onto maps. This could make game tracking easier.

Date Or Time Stamp

Shrewd hunters want to find out a bunch of useful information about the animals they pursue. That could include moon phase, weather, barometric pressure, so on and so forth.

On that note, date or time stamp offers valuable data about the picture, like when it was taken and other details that hunters consider vital.

Wireless Connectivity

The wireless connectivity feature gives you access to your pictures without having to remove the SD card.

SD Card Capacity

If your goal is to capture a lot of images, you must check the size of the SD card. The smaller the capacity, the sooner you’ll need to replace the card, which means visiting the site of the camera frequently.

Motion Freeze And Frame Shutter

Some products on the market are equipped with a shutter technology that reduces the likelihood of obtaining blurred images. Nothing’s worse than getting blurry pictures of game: they aren’t helpful in any way.

Top Manufacturers

There are several most known brands that you can choose from.

Different trail cameras.


Bushnell has a top position in the game camera market with over seven decades of experience. Bushnell trail cameras include a vast range of state-of-the-art features.

Bushnell products are made to perform excellently, irrespective of the rough environments. Each gadget goes through a series of tests, which confirm its durability and reliability.

This means that irrespective of what you’re looking for, Bushnell has something that will fit your budget and needs.


Another reputable manufacturer is Moultrie. Over the years, Moultrie trail cameras have assisted plenty of hunters during their adventures.

Officially established in 1980, this brand has evolved continuously, being a leader in producing first-class game cameras.

Their products combine features such as innovation, high-quality and durability. That makes them the right choice for enthusiast hunters.

Wildgame Innovations

Wildgame Innovations trail cameras are qualitative and surprisingly affordable. In fact, you could definitely find the best trail camera for the money at Wildgame Innovations.

Their product line is meant to address the needs of hunters while keeping the prices affordable. Their new releases feature 360-degree views, silent operation, invisible flash illumination and others.


Browning trail cameras are high-quality products that work as advertised. They feature top-quality craftsmanship, durable construction, high-quality materials and ingenious design.

Additionally, each Browning game camera you get is accompanied by one-year warranty.

Most designs have state-of-the-art features such as time-lapse imaging, night vision, infrared illumination, etc. At the same time, they are surprisingly compact.

How To Set Up And Use A Trail Camera

First of all, you must establish the perfect spot for installation. We would advise you to place the game camera off the beaten track, faced towards the trail. This way, you increase the likelihood of capturing good photos.

Once you installed the memory card, and you equipped the camera with charged batteries, you should mount it.

Tail camera setup.

One way of doing that is by using bungee cords attached to the tree and camera.

Alternatively, you could purchase trail camera mounts, if that is more convenient to you. Irrespective of the method you select, ensure that the field of vision is clear and that the gadget is secured. Activate the camera and test its settings.

Trail Camera Management, Monitoring And Maintenance

It’s essential to maintain your remote camera properly, especially if you keep it outdoors. Make sure you charge its batteries on a regular basis. Secondly, I would advise you to use only branded chargers and batteries.

Another handful tip would be to take out the batteries before storing your game camera for an extended timeframe. Use a compatible solution for cleaning the lenses.

Before setting up the camera in the woods, have a look at all its gaskets and seals for tear and wear.

These easy steps could help you in making sure that your gadget functions optimally for a long time.

Final Thoughts

Once you have a reliable trail camera, you’ll never scout without one again. Before getting one, try to comprehend what each feature does and whether it’s something that you need or not.

Trail camera set up on a tree.

That is the safest way of ensuring you have made the right purchase! Now you know everything to accomplish that.

Next, I invite you to have a look at the buying guide that includes the best budget trail camera, and other products that qualify as the top-rated trail camera. Happy hunting!

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