We're certainly not the first or only people talking about running trail cameras with elevated sets to stop trail camera theft, but we're likely the only people talking about how it could be potentially hurting your data points.
Over the last several years, the idea of chasing whitetails on public land has absolutely exploded. While the idea of hunting public land whitetails sounds adventurous and promising, it doesn't come without challenges. One of those problems is theft. Whether that comes by way of tree stands or trail cameras, it's something that is always present on public land hunter's minds. To specifically talk trail camera theft prevention, often the notion is to hang the camera high out of the line of sight of people. They cannot steal what they cannot see. While this tactic of elevating trail cameras is extremely effective, it has it's short comings.
HARD TO JUDGE ANIMALS
There's simply no way around it, elevated trail camera sets make it nearly impossible to rough age and size up whitetails. Now, let's say this....approximating a whitetails age from a single trail camera photo is nearly impossible. Add several years of photos and it becomes much more accurate. Typically when folks are attempting to put an age to a buck they are looking for body contours, flat or sagging stomachs, leg length compared to body size, and/or where their neck meets there brisket; all of which can be extremely difficult with elevated sets. Same goes for rough scoring deer antlers, downward/upward angles often make antlers look much larger than they truly are.
CREATING BLIND SPOTS IN DETECTION AREA
Creating gaps or holes in your trail camera's detection area is the biggest issue with elevated trail camera sets. For example if your camera is 10' in the air and angled down at a 45° angle (1:1) you will have an approximate 10' gap in detection from the base of the tree to where the detection area will start. We call these "blind" spots.
The same goes for distances beyond the targeted area. Take the scenario above, if that specific camera has a 60' detection distance you will likely only be using a 1/3 of that distance creating an additional "blind" spot past the camera's field of view.
To better understand detection circuits check out the article "An In Depth Look: How Trail Camera Detection Circuits Work"
WHERE TO USE ELEVATED SETS
Even with the problems mentioned above, we're still big advocates of elevated trail camera sets to eliminate trail camera theft IF you're aware of the potential performance problems and where to deploy this tactic.
For us, any static environment is THE best use case. Areas where you can pinpoint deer movement and know the approximate location of deer movement in relation to your camera. This would include feeder locations, bait sites, mineral piles, scrapes, and even very defined pinch points. Elevated sets are great for security purposes too like shown in the photo above.
At the end of the day, elevated trail camera sets are extremely effective for deterring theft and by no means are we suggesting folks take elevated sets out of their playbook. Obviously missing a few photos here and there is not has big of a deal as having your trail camera stolen. With that said, folks should certainly think about the specific use case and weigh the risk vs reward to determine if it's the best strategy for that particular set. For more trail camera tips, strategies, and best practices visit our YouTube channel and tune into our podcast Trail Cam Radio