Updated: Jun 1, 2020
Few would argue that trail cameras have changed the way we scout and hunt and some would even go as far to say that no other piece of equipment has changed the deer hunting world more. Despite being valuable from the beginning, seemingly endless advances have made them more valuable than ever, with the latest improvement being cellular technology. Having the ability to access trail camera pictures at your finger tips does come with a price however, so one must ask, are these cellular trail cameras worth it?
How do cellular cameras work?
Before we get into the value these cameras provide, its important to know how they work in the first place, especially if you've never seen them. In essence, these cameras function just like any other trail camera on the market before.
You set them up in a desired location, pop in an SD card, choose your settings, and walk away, only returning to swap the card and change the batteries. With a cellular camera, these steps still need to be taken, but instead of coming back to check the camera, it instead sends the images wirelessly however you'd like at any interval you'd like. That's It.
They do this by using cellular technology as if someone was standing with your trail camera texting or emailing you the pictures as they are taken or once a day, whatever you choose.
The only time you need to return to the camera is if you want to move it, remove it, or change the batteries, unless you choose to use a solar battery charger or a cellular camera with built in solar capabilities such as this one. You choose the camera you want, with the provider you want (such as Verizon or AT&T), then pick a data plan with the company who manufactures the camera and you're ready to go.
How much do cellular trail cameras cost?
So these cameras will remotely send you pictures, that's great! But how much do they cost? If you are unfamiliar with cellular cameras then there will be some sticker shock, as some of the more expensive cameras, such as the SpyPoint Link-S-V Solar Cellular, will run you nearly $500 but will come with more features such as built in solar charging.
The good news is there are several budget friendly options out there for less than $200 and will get the job done, including the SpyPoint Link Micro, Moultrie XA7000i, Cuddelink Dual Cell, and more. You can check out the most recent prices below:
The other cost you will have to consider is the data plan you select for your new cellular trail camera. Similar to cell phone plans, costs will vary depending on the brand you select and the amount of pictures you wish to receive each month.
Spypoint for instance offers plans as cheap as free for 100 pictures a month up to $15 per month for a month to month plan ($10/month if billed annually) for a Premium unlimited plan. Cuddeback offers a base plan of $15 a month for 750 photos and $40 a month for unlimited photos, with discounts offered as well for annual contracts.
Most companies will require a data plan for each camera, but some, such as the Cuddelink series, will allow you to run multiple cameras on one data plan. You can view the various data plans for popular brands below:
So, are cellular cameras worth it?
In order to figure this out, let's do some simple math for my situation. The public land in Ohio I hunt is a round trip of 452 miles and 7.5 hours of drive time from home. Adding an hour of time to check cameras would take me to 8.5 hours per trip.
My Toyota Tacoma averages 17 mpg, meaning at $2/gallon, I would spend $52 per trip to check conventional trail cameras. I check my cameras just once per month in the summer so I would spend $52 and 8.5 hours of time per month from July through September.
If I bought the 2 least expensive cellular trail cameras on the market right now at about $115 each, and bought the most expensive monthly plan at $15/month for each camera (month to month plan), I would have a total investment of $350 plus $52 in gas for the trip out to set them up. Meaning my monthly average would be just over $130 and 3 hours of time for the same summer months for year one.
However, after the first year I would not be purchasing new cameras, so my total expense would be $142 for the 3 months, or just $47 per month. This means that after my initial investment, I would be saving $5 and a full day of driving on my day off each month to gather the same intel I want!
Now its important to remember that this situation is unique to me. Some hunters may travel further than I do, some will travel less, and we all will spend different amounts on fuel depending on regional price differences and our unique MPG's.
Additionally, some will only want to use one camera and some may want to use 3 or more. It's up to you to decide if cellular trail cameras are for you, but as seen above, it's easy to figure out how much time and money you could be saving after a small initial investment.
Something else to consider is whether or not you have cellular coverage where you would employ a camera as some public lands are too remote yet.
One thing is for certain however, trail cameras and cellular trail cameras are here to stay and are constantly being improved while the prices continually decrease. Spypoint and other companies are even working on cellular devices, such as the Cell Link, that are capable of turning any ordinary trail camera into a cellular one at a very reasonable price of less than $100.
So just because they may not be right for you now, cellular trail cameras could be a tool for everyone in the very near future. Stay tuned!
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