So you have purchased your trail camera, you've decided when you want to put it out, and you know exactly where you want to put it, but how do you actually set the thing up? In this article, we will take you through all the important steps to take to ensure your camera is going to work as efficiently as possible when afield.
What will I need to bring to put out trail cameras?
If I'm putting cameras out for the first time in a season, I will insert new batteries and an empty, formatted SD card into the camera before I hit the woods. This way I'm sure the camera is in good working order and can fix any potential issues from the comfort of my home.
While any batteries will work, I highly recommend Lithium batteries in trail cameras because they will give you the most life.
I'll also assemble all of my locks and keys and make sure they're all matched up and accounted for prior to leaving my house. Nothing stinks more than realizing you forgot a key when you are standing at the tree.
If I'm going in for a camera check or to move a camera I'll always bring with me replacement batteries, empty SD cards to swap out, my card reader, and a simple pocket knife.
Camera hanging checklist:
Card Reader (for when doing a camera check)
Pocket knife, my current go to knife is the small SOG Flash
A small pocket knife like the one shown can be an extremely valuable tool for many hunting activities and is one I never head afield without, click the pic to check it out!
What precautions should I take?
Generally speaking, you want to treat a camera hanging or checking mission as you would a hunt from a scent control perspective.
This doesn't mean you need to dress in full camouflage from head to toe and moccasins for increased stealth, but you should be wearing rubber boots and avoid touching as much as possible to prevent leaving residual scent behind.
If at all possible, monitoring the wind so your scent is not blowing into known bedding areas is also very important.
Using quality rubber boots such as these Muck Woody Max will greatly reduce the chance of scent being left behind
Scent control is probably less detrimental if you only go in once or twice a year but if you are regularly checking cameras and are not aware of scent control, mature bucks will eventually get wise to you and begin avoiding the area. This is the last thing you want to happen so just be careful.
What time of day should I set up my cameras?
While there is no right or wrong answer here, optimally you want as little disturbance as possible to your local deer herd when you're in the woods. Because of this,
Time of day is going to vary!
In some situations, the morning is going to be the best time where other places the mid afternoon is going to be the less intrusive time of day.
For me and where I hang my cameras, the 11:00a.m.-1:00p.m. window seems to be the best time frame for me to hang and check cameras with the least likelihood of jumping a bedded or feeding deer.
If I'm unable to make that time, early morning after the deer have left the local ag fields and immediate woodlots are second best.
As you learn your local area, adjust your time accordingly to be as least disruptive as possible.
How high should I hang my trail camera?
If you're on private land or far back on public land and theft is of little concern,
Hanging your cameras at about waist height, or 3 ft. off the ground will be perfect
Terrain features can affect this some such as if the camera is looking towards a lower or higher elevation than the tree it's hanging on, but this problem can be improved by angling the camera tilt up or down accordingly with a stick of appropriate size for the situation, as seen below.
This camera was angled toward the ground more than what I liked, placing a stick at the bottom of the camera helped improve this significantly by leveling it
For example, a low placed camera can be angled upward, and higher placed camera be angled downward. In both instances, the desired zone will likely be in frame.
If you're not sure that the height is going to work, in my experience it is better to have a camera too high than too low. In 15 years of trail camera use I don't recall ever being able to see just the tips of the tines on a buck but can recall several instances where the neck up of a mature deer is chopped off and out of frame.
How should I angle my camera?
If you have your camera set up on a scrape, mineral site, buck bed, or any other fixed location, the camera should simply be angled directly on that target.
If however your camera is being set up on a trail or travel route, try setting up the camera on an angle that is slightly parallel to the trail, instead of perpendicular.
This camera is placed on the same tree over the same trail, the only difference is the angle. As you can see, the odds of missing a deer is much less with the camera on an angle. Additionally, there is a second trail seen in the bottom picture perpendicular to my target trail
This is especially true for cameras with slower trigger speeds where a camera placed perpendicular to a trail may be triggered too late for a clear picture of the animal.
Because you will be choosing one direction over another, there 2 main few factors I take into consideration when deciding on which direction i pick:
Can I cover more than one trail? If the answer is yes, I will choose the direction that offers me coverage of more than one trail as it gives you, the hunter, more intel.
Will the sun ever be facing directly into the camera lens? If it is and I will only be able to cover one trail either way, I will opt to face the camera away from the sun.
As a third consideration, I prefer to have pictures of bucks facing towards the camera rather than facing away. This is strictly my preference and I only mention it because you may have your own preferences that cause you to choose how you set up your cameras.
Regardless of location, once I think my camera is set in a good place, I will then go and stand where I expect a deer to trigger the camera and double check the position of the camera.
Imagine you set a camera on a tripod for a family portrait and everything looks good, but when you hop in frame yourself the camera looks crooked. This is why I double check the positioning.
What settings should I set my trail camera on?
The settings you use are going to vary based on individual preference and in the long run will not matter much or make too much of a difference, for the most part.
For stationary targets such as scrapes, etc. as named above, I prefer a longer delay time of 30+ seconds and no more than a 2 picture burst.
I made the mistake one time of using a short, 10 second delay and a 2 shot burst at a location and the result was flipping through 1,000 pictures of a single doe parked in front of a mineral site for hours.
If my stationary object also has a trail behind it, I will sometimes opt for a shorter delay with still a single photo rather than a burst.
For a stationary object like a mineral site shown here, I'll use a longer delay and a single photo mode rather than a burst of photos
On the other hand, when my camera is going to be capturing a moving deer such as on a food source, I will almost always utilize as short of a delay as possible and a 2-3 second photo burst.
Reason being, especially in the summer, if you have a long delay and a bachelor group of bucks wander by, you may miss the second or third deer in the bunch. The combination of a short delay and multi photo burst decreases the chance of this happening.
Another decision you'll want to make is whether or not you want to use photo mode, video mode, or time lapse mode.
I prefer photos because they give me the information I need and they maximize my battery life between camera checks. But with trail cameras like the Stealth Cam DS4KMAX offering superb video quality in 4K, many opt to have videos captured rather than photos.
With cameras like the Stealth Cam DS4KMAX offering 4K video quality, its tempting to use a video mode over photo modes with modern trail cameras!
Time lapse mode is primarily only used to cover a food source when you are unsure where deer are coming out and how long they are staying there. Once you figure this out, you may want to consider moving the camera to the primary trails in and out of the food source to get a better look at the deer.
Don't forget to format and set date/time!
After picking your settings, you should always make sure battery life is good, the date/time are correct, and I always format my SD card to the camera just in case.
It's also wise to make sure the camera is turned on or turned off from the setting's menu as I have made the mistake of not doing so, which leads to a disappointing camera check weeks later!
How can I prevent theft?
After everything is ready to go and the camera is shut, I then go through my process of securing my trail camera. We cover how you can prevent trail camera theft in detail in THIS ARTICLE, but this is the time to lock all locks or security boxes.
Once my I make sure all my cameras are working and locked up, I'm ready to move onto my next camera or head home after marking the location of my camera.
Mark your cameras on HuntStand!
In many situations, you may remember exactly where all of your cameras are placed. But if you start putting 5, 6, 7, 8+ cameras out deep into the back country, you can see how it's possible that cameras get "misplaced".
I've heard several stories of hunters forgetting where 1 or 2 of their cameras are placed, only to find them years later by accident. (Wouldn't that make for a fun card pull?!)
To prevent this, I will mark my camera's location on my HuntStand app in case I dont remember.
Not using HuntStand already? Be sure to click HERE and use code ARCHERHS to get 10% off the pro subscription!
Hopefully this article covers everything you need to know to get out there and get those cameras hung before the season starts! Feel free to ask any questions about anything we may have missed!
If you like what you read and want to stay up to date with all of our tips and tricks, be sure to subscribe to mailing list or become a site member for FREE to never miss a beat!
**Some links are amazon affiliate links, you can read our full affiliate disclosure on our contact page**