When you’re out in the backcountry in the off-season you’ll be looking for some game trails and other great spots to set up a trail camera. A well set up trail camera can improve your hunting success as well as your understanding of the wildlife in the area. If your trail camera is not well hidden then it may not bear much fruit. There is no point putting time, effort, and money into a project if the success is going to be limited.
Trail cameras should blend into their natural surroundings so as to not disturb the deer and other animals that you are trying to capture. When hunting and interacting with wildlife in general you must always be aware of the sensitivity of the animals. The slightest changes to their environment are enough to spook. So anyone looking to set up a trail camera should always bear this in mind.
Not only should trail cameras be well hidden from animals they should be hidden from humans too. A camera placed in plain sight can easily be noticed and scooped up by someone looking to make a quick buck. Game cameras are expensive devices and many hunters have lost hundreds of dollars worth of technology from thieves. Imagine if you left your laptop or smartphone out in the forest in plain sight. You would be lucky if you returned a week later and it was still there.
Before you get to the stage where it comes to hiding your trail camera you first need to do some scouting for a good location. Choose a forest or area that you are permitted to hunt in during the open season. If you just want to capture wildlife footage this shouldn’t matter but make sure that you avoid trespassing on private land when scouting. Forested areas tend to be ideal as trees are ideal hiding spots for trail cameras.
Once you have chosen an area to scout out, take a hike around the area. Keep a keen eye out for game trails while doing so. You will notice a degree of disruption to the undergrowth that is caused by animals walking over it. Now you need to determine whether or not it is a trail caused by deer humans or a predator that you don’t aim to hunt. Trails that deer have tread upon are often disrupted from the impact of hooves upon them. Whereas ones caused by predators are lighter due to paws spreading the animal’s weight out more evenly.
At times the differences between trails caused by deer and ones caused by humans can be less obvious. Pay particular attention to the distance between the lines that the feet have made. If you imagine a human’s footprints in the snow they tend to be approximately one behind the other. A deer’s hoof prints, on the other hand, are more dotted about and spread further apart.
As well as this, take a careful examination of any leaves that are lying on the ground. If they seem to be embedded into the ground then it is likely that deer pass over this trail. Their hooves will push the leaves deeper into the ground as they power their way through the undergrowth.
Another way to spot the difference is to look at the ground surrounding the trail. A trail that’s been produced by humans is likely to be flatter and more distinct. This is because of the flat soles of shoes and hiking boots creating an impact upon the ground. Deer, on the other hand, will place their feet time and time again in the same position due to their muscle memory placing them back into the same place when on that route.
Deer will continuously use the same trails for their whole lives. These trails link them between their sleeping areas, water source, and food plots. Many deer even stick to the same trails that the generations before them did. As long as it leads them to places that aid them in their survival they have no need to change it.
That is one of the beauties of finding a good game trail. You can keep returning to the same one year after year if there are many deer using it – just don’t get greedy when it’s open season! Once you have found a trail that you are fairly certain has been caused by deer it’s time to set up a trail camera to prove this.
Another thing to consider about the potential location is human traffic in the area. The best way to avoid having your trail camera stolen is to place your camera in an area where humans don’t tend to trek too often. You must make a fine balance between a place that is not likely to have humans walking past yet is also accessible for yourself. Deeper forest away from footpaths yet not too deep that you are going to get caught in the thicket is ideal. Also, when you are going to check on your camera make sure you are discreet about it so that no one spots you doing it and thinks to return to take it once you’re gone.
Tips to hide your camera, the camera itself
The next thing that you need to decide is what type of camera is best to keep it hidden. An infrared game camera is an excellent option as it is less obvious to both humans and to animals. These are used when there is a lack of direct sunlight in the area that your camera is located in and for some night vision shots when it is after dark. There is no bright flash thus both humans and animals cannot pick up on the camera’s presence when they are walking by when there is a lack of light.
There are various types of these cameras. No glow, low glow, and red glow. The no glow camera’s infrared light is not visible to humans or to animals so it should be strongly considered since there will be no light at all to give away its position. A low glow camera has a very faint light that comes from it. It is quite unlikely that a thief would notice it but it can always happen.
The red glows light is visible to the human eye and it can sometimes be obvious. Although they can give out better pictures these are best to place in areas where people seldom pass by. Many people actually use this type as home security cameras. This is because it is put in plain sight so that it deters burglars and trespassers from carrying out misdeeds.
Camouflage your game camera
A little bit of effort to place some camouflage on your game camera can go a long way in protecting it. There are various types that you can put on it and it is a simple yet effective way to ensure that your camera stays put.
One option for this is to buy a pre-camoflaged game camera. Take a good look at the colors on the camouflage pattern. You need to be sure that the colors are going to match to the terrain that your camera is going to placed in. Before you decide on this make sure you know the color of the trees that it’s going to be installed in. A bright green camera shall be no use if the rest of the foliage is dark brown.
The other option that you have is to create your own camouflage from the items that are lying around the forest. This has the distinct advantage that the leaves and thicket that you collect will be of the colors of that area. Now, this can be a delicate job and quite frustrating. It is best to pack some glue, tape, and sting for this so you can build it in a manner so that it won’t fall apart.
Carefully stick or attach various bits of foliage lying around to your game camera. You must be precise with this as to not cover your camera’s lens or its motion sensor. Any infliction to its line of sight can ruin your whole month’s long trail camera session. Just the slightest infringement over either of these can and will lead to blurred images or your camera’s SD card being full due to the motion sensor continuously going off.
One thing to bear in mind with your DIY foliage camouflage is that it will change color. The leaves and moss will die, turning them from green to brown so make sure that this shouldn’t have a big impact on it beforehand. One way to overcome this is by painting camouflage on your game camera yourself at home before you set out. Just ensure first that the paint is waterproof and will take a while before the rain damages it. Another option is to buy plastic plants as these will always retain their green colors.
Placing your game camera at a good height
The optimum height for a game camera is often around three feet off the ground to capture deer from around their shoulder height. This is not the safest area though when it comes to potential thieves. If a camera is placed higher than a person’s eye level then it is much more likely to be safe. People hardly stare to the sky when they are walking, particularly in the forest when you could lose your footing very easily.
If your camera is placed around ten feet high this you’ll be high enough that it is not noticed by the common passerby. It also means that if it is a regular walker who may be tempted to swipe it that their temptation could subside if it means they have to climb to retrieve it. A camera within arms reach is much easier to take as there is little to no effort to do so. Just make sure that you’re fit enough and have the right kit to install it at height. We don’t want any injuries now.
Build a box
A box surrounding your camera will not only help to camouflage it. It will also add an extra layer of protection from the elements or if it should happen to fall from its elevated position. Not only that but it gives you more flexibility about where you can place your camera. If good branches to place it upon are scarce then a camera box can be nailed upon a tree trunk.
These are fairly simple to construct either at home or out in the forest. Now, a homemade one can be designed to look like a bird box. The trick with this one is to leave the camera in plain sight to anyone walking by. All they will see is a bird box that they assume that birds are nesting in.
It’s very unlikely that this will be tampered with. A normal passer-by who may be tempted by a game camera sitting at eye level wouldn’t even think about mindlessly destroying a bird box. Even common vandals are very unlikely to destroy it. Even though they may damage or steal your game camera, destroying a bird’s nest and killing its chicks for the sake of it is not something that many people’s consciences would permit.
A box can also be constructed to hide the camera further and not to place it in plain sight. Take a look in the woodland for dead trees from which you can construct a basic box to cover up your game camera with. Take an old tree stump or large bra get and clear out the inside. Next, carve out an opening so your camera’s lens and motion sensor have a clear line of sight. Your camera can be placed inside and then the top covered so that it looks as inconspicuous as possible.
Specifically designed lockboxes can also be purchased as a deterrent to thieves. These are not hidden as easily but are instead designed to be very hard to break into which deters the thieves. These are secured onto the tree trunk in a manner that would require bolt cutters or a hacksaw in order to break in to steal it. Although some people may try their hand at taking it, the majority won’t bother trying to interfere with this security system.
Build a dummy camera
If you’ve had a camera or two stolen or some of your hunting buddies have been warning you about thieves in the area, it could be a good idea to try and catch them out. A dummy camera can be purchased for a very cheap price and then placed in an obvious position as to catch the thieves attention for them to commit another theft. You should place your real trail camera in a very discreet location so as to not give away where the expensive kit is.
When you are next checking on it first look to see if the dummy camera is missing or has been tampered with. If so, check your real game camera’s photos to see if there is evidence of criminal activity and if the faces and clothing are obvious in the pictures. It’s now up to you what to do next. You can either hand the photos over to the authorities or you could print out the pictures around the woods so that the thief notices them and is scared off from the area. This sort of detective work can be a lot more fun than picking up footage from animals!
Setting up a game camera and waiting for the results is a long arduous process. You must scout out an area, find a good game trail, set up your game camera, and check on it time and time again to see if it is producing results. To have that camera stolen or obvious to the animals will ruin all of that hard work. It’s not just the price of the camera that matters here, it’s the time that you’ve invested into the setting up of that would really hurt if it were to be stolen.
As a hunter caution and patience are your two most important qualities. If you’re not cautious on the hunt you’ll lose the whitetail you’re after. If you’re not cautious with your game camera you may not get good footage or worst of all it could get stolen. Make sure you are cautious and follow our tips so as to not go through the pain of having all of your hard work undone.
Bonus tip: Check out this quick video to help you stop making silly mistakes that could affect your footage or even lose it all!