Have fun with a trail camera

Much like underwater cameras when they became available to the public about 10 years ago, trail (or game) cameras were slow to become popular with the everyday sportsman.
When underwater cameras first came out, they were expensive and only the most avid anglers had them. But over the years, cheaper—and better—versions came along and now they are common in the boats of tournament and weekend anglers alike.
The same can be said for trail cams, which were first available in 35mm film models that were quite expensive. Now there are digital cameras that are easy to use, can hold hundreds of pictures, and you can find a good one for under $200.
Trail cameras work by taking a picture of any kind of motion that sets them off. So, if they are set up on a well-used game trail, you can expect to get good pictures of whatever walks down it.
The motion of an animal walking triggers the camera to take a picture.
Trail cams mostly are used by deer hunters, who use them to scout hunting areas and see what size of deer are using a certain area. If hunters get pictures of a large buck, they may decide to spend more time hunting that area for that single deer.
These cameras can be used for much more than taking pictures of deer, however, as any kind of movement sets them off. For instance, I’ve used them to take pictures of wolves, moose, and ducks.
Last week, a friend from Minnesota showed me the coolest trail camera photos I’ve ever seen: pictures of ruffed grouse in the woods.
When I asked him how he took these pictures, he told me he found a drumming log in the woods and set up the camera next to it. How do find a drumming log, you ask? Look for droppings from grouse on the logs and you will get pictures.
I did not realize this but grouse will use the same logs quite often to stand on and make their famous drumming sounds. These pictures were beautiful, and showed grouse in their strutting position with their feathers all puffed out.
No matter what type of wildlife you’re trying to get pictures of, there are various “high percentage” spots to put up your camera. Well-used trails are likely to get some action. Feeding or drinking areas also are high percentage spots and usually make for good pictures because the animals are not moving as much.
With deer, you will get some really good shots when the camera is placed over a hot scrape.
These cameras are mounted to a tree and there are a few tricks to get the best quality pictures possible. I typically set them up about three feet off the ground, and about 20 feet from the main target area.
Many people put trail cameras much too close to the target spot—resulting in many pictures of half an animal or no animal because it moved out of the picture before it was taken.
I set my cameras up for deer most of the time, but I have ended up getting pictures of all kinds of other wildlife, including pine martens, raccoons, foxes, and bobcats—lots of animals most folks never get to see in the wild.
Trail cameras are fun if you enjoy spending time in the outdoors, no matter what your intentions are.
The anticipation to look at your pictures after your camera has been in the woods for a week or so is indescribable. And if you get a picture of what you are looking for you, it feels great.

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