I’m sure we’ve all heard the old adage, “If a tree fell in the woods and no one was around, would it still make a sound?” Of course it would, but if no one was around how would you know? Following that same thought pattern, if the trophy of a lifetime passes by your stand and you’re not there, how will you know? Use a trail camera! These devices are quite ingenious little sneaks when it comes to keeping tabs on an area you can’t be in 24/7. I recently acquired a trail camera, and want to share some of my thoughts on the process of choosing one, their physical placement, and their entertainment value.
I now live in Texas, where about 96% of the land is privately owned. If you’re a hunter moving to Texas, be prepared to enter into a lease agreement with a land owner in order to hunt. The whole lease agreement process is an ordeal worthy of an independent article, but it’s not the focus here. I am on a lease with two friends and we have several stand locations around “our” property. We decided to place trail cameras out to see what passes by our stand sites. In trying to keep costs down on my lease budget, I began the quest for the most advanced yet economical trail camera I could find.
The first thing I can tell you is to decide on a set of requirements of what you absolutely must have in a trail camera to be happy with it. I already owned a handheld digital camera for snapping pictures of vacations, kids, special events, and the dog doing something stupid. I used some of the features of that existing camera as my starting point. The handheld camera takes 4 megapixel photos on its highest setting. For me, 4 megapixels provided plenty of detail when I pulled the pictures up on my computer. I figured I’m not going to be counting nose hairs on the deer, so I decided that 4 megapixels would be the base picture quality for my trail camera.
Next, I wanted a trail camera with infrared capability that could take pictures at night without a flash, for three reasons. First, we have feral hogs in Texas and they move at night most of the time, so I wanted to be able to see them. Secondly, when pressure is high and the moon is full, the big boys go nocturnal. And finally, a flash draws attention. I’m paranoid about thievery, so stealth makes me feel better. I also wanted date and time stamping and an SD card slot, figuring I would need lots of megabytes to hold the plethora of beasts who would be lining up to pass by my stand. I figured all that was simple enough, so I decided about fifty dollars should do me fine...right.
Once you’ve decided on your trail camera requirements, you’re ready to go shopping, but be prepared for sensory overload. I think every hunting company out there makes some type of trail camera, and no two are alike in features. As I prepared for my shopping adventure, tingling with anticipation, I stopped off at my “library”. While there I browsed through the many outdoor catalogs I tend to accumulate throughout the month. I was surprised to find each had an entire section of about 3-4 pages of trail cameras. After flushing and washing my hands, I sat down at the kitchen table with several of the catalogs and I used my chosen requirements to eliminate several trail cameras. Right off the bat, however, I had to increase my budget by a hundred dollars in order to get the infrared feature.