Outfitting Your Outdoor Lifestyle
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Home / John Bingham / Trail Camera Basics

Trail Camera Basics

June 27, 2016
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If you are planning your summer scout so that you can fill that elk tag that you’ve waited for years to draw, or you want to see if that big whitetail is coming into your favorite water hole or along that trail that your tree stand is hung, I’d like to share a few trail camera tips that have worked for me.

First, if you’re hunting public land, check with your local game and fish department or forestry service to see what the regulations might be in regards to placing your trail camera. You could end up losing your trail camera to the local warden if there are rules against placing them.

  1. Select a location that animals regularly travel through. Water holes are a good start, just try to find one that will likely have few or no other hunters visiting. If you don’t know exactly where to start, learning a little about your animal in regards to where they feed, bed, migrate will open up some ideas. Think about placing your camera at fence crossings, funnels coming up out of canyons and bedding areas. Mapping software is EXTREMELY helpful in locating likely areas.
  2. Prepare your camera. Use lithium batteries if you can. They’ll last longer than your average battery and can stand the weather a bit better. Make sure you have the SD card in. Turn the camera on and make sure it is functioning. Consult the instructions so that you know how to manipulate the settings so you’ll get the best quality photos. If possible, etch your contact information on the inside cover. While this may not deter a determined thief, it may keep honest people honest! Lastly, try to find a good trail camera lock box.
  3. Once you’ve determined a suitable location to hang your camera, consider placing it up higher than is considered normal. This will leave your camera out of view of passers-by. Please use caution and consider your safety and climbing ability before you scramble up a tree! There are several climbing devices on the market that will help you climb safely.
  4. Place the camera on the shady side of the tree or pole you’re hanging it on. This will help getting better quality photos. Double check the angle of the lens and make sure it is pointing towards the area you want to capture your photos. You may have to wedge an object behind it so that you can get the correct downward or upward angle, or use one of these.
  5. Clear all limbs and brush from around the area. A good saw or pair of shears are invaluable here and aren’t that much of a load to carry into your spot. This may sound rudimentary, but there are millions of photos out there of limbs and brush that the wind moved just enough for the shutter to click!
  6. Hang your camera and turn everything on. This is your last chance to make sure that your batteries are good and your SD card is in. If this is a new spot for you, make sure you save the location on your GPS or mark it on a good map.
  7. Give it time! We typically won’t go back to check our cameras for at least a week. This gives the animals time to settle back into their normal patterns and will increase the likelihood of you capturing that bull of a lifetime on film.
  8. If you’re using bait to bring the animals to you, check your game and fish rules to make sure that baiting is legal. It is not in many areas!
  9. Have fun! Trail cameras are a great way to see what…or what is not out there. Please be courteous and yield to other cameras that have been placed. There is lots of room for all of us out there. Courtesy and respect will go a long way with your fellow hunters, especially when you may need assistance.

I hope that these small and basic tips will help you out with your summer scouting. Best of luck out there!


Your friend in hunting,


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About John

John Bingham

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My Bio

I am a native Texan who has resided in Arizona for twelve years. I am a lifelong hunter, fisherman, licensed Arizona hunting guide and outdoorsman. My first hunting experience was with my father when I was 8 years old and since that time, I have harvested whitetail deer, Mule deer and other assorted small and big game animals. I have hunted and guided in the rugged brush country of South Texas, the mesquite flats of Southern Arizona and the wide open vistas of Northern Arizona. I am currently employed as a regional safety manager for a general contractor, based in Phoenix, AZ and have been with the company since 2004. My favorite method for taking game is by archery. My preferred tactic is to spot and stalk from a remote hillside or ridge. I’ve often felt that this method “evens the odds” and loans itself better to my sense of adventure and fair chase. Backcountry backpack style hunts are one of my favorite hunting activities.