Minimize Your Signature
A major mistake that many hunters make is not taking precautions to avoid spooking animals while placing or checking a trail camera and end up scaring the very animals they are trying to get photos of. Every time a person enters the woods, no matter how careful they are, they create a disturbance that can disrupt the behavior of animals by the noise they make and the scent that they leave. As time passes after they leave the woods, the evidence of their presence slowly dissipates and animals start to behave normally again.
When placing or checking on a trail camera, it is very important do all of the things that you usually do when hunting to avoid alerting animals in your vicinity to your presence. This includes things like staying downwind of likely deer locations, wearing rubber boots, using a cover scent or scent eliminating spray, not slamming your car door, etc.Don’t forget to take the same precautions with the trail camera itself: after I’m finished handling the camera, I like to spray it down with a scent eliminating spray (just be careful not to get any on the camera lens).
Another trap many hunters fall into is the temptation to check their camera for new photos too frequently. Checking the camera more often means more disruption of the animal routines in the area and therefore less chances of seeing a trophy animal. There are two ways to avoid this: by checking the trail camera no more frequently than once every 7-14 days, or by purchasing a our trail camera that can send photos to your cell phone in the form of text messages.
Trail Camera Positioning
Proper positioning of a trail camera is probably the single most important factor in getting good photos. One commonly overlooked aspect of orienting a trail camera is the location of the sun relative to the subject of the photograph. For locations in the northern hemisphere, the trail camera should ideally face north. This will ensure that the sun is behind the camera, and help reduce the number of false triggers or “washed out” photos where no details are visible. If it is not possible to point the camera to the north, then face it south. Facing the camera directly west or east is least desired, as this will ensure that the camera is looking directly at the sun as it rises or sets.
Additionally, when emplacing a trail camera, ensure that you trim branches and leaves around the camera. This will ensure that their movement will not accidentally trigger the camera when game is not present. Trimming branches around the camera will also ensure that the photographs are free from obstructions and better allow for easier identification of game in the photographs.
At the same time, ensure that the camera is positioned at an appropriate height. I’ve found that 2-3 feet off the ground works well. A camera emplaced any higher than that must have enough of a downward angle to avoid missing game completely. Remember, most animals aren’t very tall and can walk right by a camera without triggering it if the motion sensor is looking over the top of their head.