9 Game Camera Mistakes to Avoid

Game cameras are a fairly new innovation in the hunting community. If you’re a keen hunter and you want to get better results, then you can take advantage of this technology so you can go for that prized buck. We know that many of you guys are perhaps the more traditional type who aren’t used to this type of technology and that you’re wondering how to use it properly. You certainly don’t want the first day of hunting season to go to waste because you didn’t utilize your game camera properly.

When you’re getting set up with your new game camera you’re bound to make a few mistakes along the way. This type of hunting technique s a whole new ball game compared to any other kind. You won’t be present when the deer walk by and the footage is rolling. This means that you need to set it up correctly in order for you to get the pictures that you want. 

There are multiple ways for you to slip up when you first get started with game cameras. There are simply so many ever-changing variables in the environment that you are bound to overlook something, causing a mistake to be made. These mistakes are inevitable for every budding wildlife photographer but these can be minimized. Read on to see what common mistakes can be avoided when you’re getting started with your game camera.

 

A deer in the grass.

By tracking the movement of the deer correctly you can make big improvements to your kill rate.

 

Buying the wrong game camera

The first mistake that you can make with a game camera is buying the wrong one. As game cameras become more popular, and the technology more accessible cheaper and less reliable models will hit the marketplace. Make sure you do some thorough research before you order one. There are countless reviews of them out there to make sure you get a game camera that’s going to improve your hit rate by a big margin. If not, then what’s the point in buying one in the first place? 

As hunting enthusiasts, you know that it’s always worth your while buying higher quality equipment. Your kit is always going to be exposed to the elements and if it lets you down then it ruins your hunt. Make sure that it’s something that’s sure to last you for many years as using trail cameras is a long game strategy where you track the routes and behavior of deer and other game.

 

Incorrect camera placement

Setting up your trail camera correctly is something that comes as a challenge to everyone who is new to this activity. One of the mistakes that are often made is setting up your camera incorrectly. The slightest displacement of your trail camera can ruin all of your results and footage of the game you are trying to film. The height and direction of your camera are of the utmost importance and are common initial mistakes for beginners.

You must be conscious of the fact that deer don’t walk upright like humans, this the camera must not be placed too high at our head height. Instead, the trail camera should be placed at a deer’s shoulder height, which is around three feet high. If you go lower than this you’ll mainly be looking at their feet, and not picking up any useful footage. Of course, the environment you are installing your trail camera can be different. So perhaps you have to place it a little bit higher or lower and alter the angle of the camera’s shooting direction. 

The direction that your game camera is facing is also extremely important. You must take the sunrise and sunset into account when letting up your trail camera. The glare from both of these can severely disrupt your footage. This is particularly important as deer are particularly active at both dusk and dawn meaning that you may miss out on the most important footage.

To combat this it is advisable to face your camera to the north or the south. Bear in mind, however, that if it is facing to the south that it will be facing in the direction of the sun all day. This means that if it is a clear day that your footage may be poor in the afternoon if the sun is shining on it all day. Also, remember that the days are shorter in the winter so you can adjust the position of your camera accordingly if it is affecting your footage.

You also need to be wary of obstructions to your game cameras field of vision. There are various things that can get in the way and cause your footage to be diminished. Make sure you select a tree that doesn’t have overhanging branches as not only can they get in the way, if they are blown by the wind they’ll set off your camera’s trigger, meaning you get some useless footage. So, always make sure that your camera has a clear line of sight in order to get the best shots and not overload your trail camera’s memory card.

 

Leaving your camera in an obvious position

Your trail camera should be placed secretly and in a subtle position so as to not attract thieves. To lose an expensive piece of kit that you have put a lot of time into both planning and waiting patiently for can be truly heartbreaking. It won’t just be the kit that you’re lost but countless hours that you’ve invested into achieving great footage. 

Avoid placing it in an area that has a high volume of walkers and away from footpaths. Not only are people less likely to walk by it but more wildlife is going to be around the further you are from people. You can also take additional security measures once you’ve installed it. There are cable locks that you can install that fasten your camera to the tree trunk, deterring thieves if they happen to discover it. 

 

Messing with the power

Some of you may be people who love to tinker with their technology but please leave this your game gadgets be. This is remote technology and is exposed to the elements, which increases the risk of damage being done. Not only that but because it’s remote you won’t know that there’s a problem for a great length of time. If it’s a piece of kit that you use at home that malfunctions, you know straight away that there’s something wrong and you can sort the issue straight away.

One of the mistakes that a lot of people make with regards to messing with the power is to use rechargeable batteries instead of the ones provided by the manufacturer. In your mind, you may think that it makes economic sense as it should extend the battery life when in fact it does the opposite. Rechargeable batteries run at a lower voltage than lithium batteries which I theory will cause them to lose less of their charge however it causes their performance to decline. This may cause your game camera to shut down way before it’s supposed to, causing you to lose some great footage, ruining a lot of hard work.

Another game camera mistake that you can make is having an external power supply. Although this could lead to longer battery life it can also mess with your game cameras’ internal circuit board. You should especially be wary if it is an unofficial one and not one produced by the same manufacturer as this can really cause your game camera some unnecessary damage. As your camera will be left with the power on and unattended for a long period of time, it’s simply not worth the risk of damaging it and losing your footage.

 

Brown deer in the forest.

A clearing in the forest, without big obstructions, is the perfect place to set up your game camera.

 

Be aware of your smell

No, you don’t need to shower before you head out into the backcountry, (maybe some of you do anyway!) but should be aware that you leave behind a trace when you go to check on your camera. Years of evolution have caused deer and other animals to have hypersensitive senses of smell that have allowed them to become aware of prey long before they arrive. When you’re walking towards your game camera deer can smell you from around half a mile away, meaning that there will be a few of them aware of your presence.

When you go out to set up or adjust your trail camera you have one simple task. Simply go to the area it’s in, do the job, and leave. If you go for a leisure stroll around the area afterward, the whitetails may be disturbed and change their activity patterns, affecting future footage. Instead, save your outdoor strolls for other areas, or a completely different part of the same territory your game camera is in.

Also, be aware of smells that can be left upon your game camera. There are says which you can purchase online that mask the smell that is left on them. These are foreign objects to the deer’s world so, naturally, they can pick up on the ever so small hint of a change of smell that it leaves. This is particularly notable if there is a rainy spell, which can wash away the spray that you’ve left on it. Be sure to top up on it every now and then to keep your trail camera incognito.

 

Checking on your game camera too often

Following on from leaving a trace behind, checking on your trail camera too often can also have adverse effects on your results. As has been mentioned before, the deer in the area are aware of your presence in the area. If you start to make a regular pattern of checking on your camera every week then this can spook them, causing them to change their patterns of movement, the thing you want to analyze in the first place. 

Instead, aim to try and visit your trail camera once every three to four weeks. If you have set up your camera correctly then there is no need to constantly check on the battery or on the memory card. Instead, be patient and wait to see the footage of the big bucks walking by another time. If you really can’t help yourself and you’re a true outdoors addict you can always set up multiple cameras in different areas.

 

SD card mistakes 

You may think that SD cards are simple little devices that are just there to save your footage. Although that is somewhat true, they are a little bit more complicated than that. 

Firstly make sure that you avoid high-speed SD cards. These are not designed for game cameras and are instead better utilized when using DSLR or point and shoot cameras. The flow of information from the camera to the SD card on a trail camera is much slower in order for the camera to preserve battery life, which is supposed to last at least three months. If you use a high-speed Sd card you risk getting some dodgy footage as well as shortening your battery life. 

A second common trail camera mistake with regards to the SD card is that some people view the content of their SD card outwith their trail camera. If you are checking on your game camera you make take your regular digital camera along with you just to view the footage. Although this shouldn’t cause any issues, if you proceed to delete some of the unnecessary images it can possibly overwrite the structure of the memory cards file. So, by all means, use the SD card to view images on your digital camera when you’re in the backcountry, save the editing of information for another time. 

 

Be wary of programming mistakes

Game cameras are a technology that is relatively new to hunting. Although some of them may seem straightforward to set up, not all of us are wizz kids when it comes to computers. Now, when you’re at the stage where you’re switching the cameras better or memory card you need to be careful. There’s several weeks worth of footage on there and to lose it now will have put all of the time, effort, and money that you’ve invested to waste. 

The time and date of when the footage was shot are of the utmost importance when it comes to recording the deer. If you don’t know the date and time, you’ll never truly learn their behavior patterns which can lead to a frustrating day of shooting. Some cameras may reset their date and time when you replace the battery or SD card. Before you head back home, double-check if it’s correct before you leave or you may find yourself very frustrated when you return next time. 

 

Forgetting to turn it on

Yep, it seems like this is the last mistake you think you’d make but it can happen! When you’re getting yourself pumped up after installing it you may just forget to hit the power switch. You’ll be oblivious to your mistake until you next check on your camera which is potentially many weeks later. You certainly won’t want to wait all that time for your footage only for there to be none when you make the effort to trek into the backcountry to fetch your SD card.

 

Some hunters in a field.

With your mistakes eradicated, you can look forward to the open season to begin.

 

Final Verdict:

You’ve gone ahead and purchased a game camera in order to try and improve your hunting results. When you have a game camera you can track the movement of what you are hunting, particularly deer with a lot more precision. Hunters can’t be out scouting the hills and forests of the backcountry all day every day but luckily game cameras provide a solution. 

You need to be careful both when purchasing, setting up and replacing the battery and SD card. There are so many potential mistakes that you can make when undertaking these things. The most frustrating thing about it is that you won’t realize your mistake until a few weeks later when you’re retrieving your footage and preparing for the upcoming hunting season. You can’t buy that time back and it will put a big hole in your plans. 

Before you take your game camera out into the field or even purchase one on that matter, you should undertake some extensive research on game cameras. Not just which one to purchase but for how to use them properly. Once you get the hang of them they’re very straight forward to use. All you have to do is check up on them every few weeks and look forward to the opening day of hunting season to come along, as you know exactly which buck to go for!

 

Bonus tip: Check out this video to help you get to grips with how to use your game camera’s SD card!

 

 

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Riley Draper

Riley Draper

Riley Draper is a writer and entrepreneur from Chattanooga, Tennessee. As a world traveler, he has been to more than fifty countries and hiked some of the most elusive trails in the world. He is the co-founder of WeCounsel Solutions and has published work in both national and global outlets, including the Times Free Press, Patch, and Healthcare Global. When he's not writing, he's probably on a hiking trip or climbing in the mountains.