What if I told you cell cameras spook deer? What if I told you all trail cameras spook deer? Would you want to learn why and adjust your trail camera game? Would you stop using them?
An article titled in this manner coming from a trail camera company is probably unexpected but it is something that holds some truth. That truth lies more so around all trail cameras have potential to spook deer. Over the years we've learned there's a lot of "anti" cell camera folks out there. Dividing them into two different categories, most either feel cell cameras are unethical or they think cell cameras spook deer. Cell cameras do spook deer, regular sd card cameras spook deer. Why is the question...And it's probably not what you think.
REGULAR TRAIL CAMERAS VS CELL CAMS
When comparing regular SD card cameras to cellular cameras there are plenty of similarities, in fact there are really only a handful of differences. The obvious difference being cellular trail cameras operate on a cellular network and transmit data over that cellular network. To make that happen a cellular trail cameras needs to be equipped with hardware to both receive and transmit data through RF (radio frequencies). What I'm about to explain is ultra important....Cellular devices only work in areas of signal. To have ANY amount of signal for any cellular device to work, RF is present. When RF is present there are radio waves moving data through the environment. Adding or removing a cellular trail camera in that environment is not changing anything more than a meniscal amount.
Think about this....RF is used across most wireless communication including AM/FM radio, hand held radios, CBs, cell phones, etc. Ever see deer with a cell phone in your pocket? Ever see deer around cellular towers? Ever see deer around radio towers? If RF spooks deer and causes them to void areas, whitetails would only reside in the most remote areas absent of cellular network signal.
This concept is important for all cell camera users to understand. Don't fall for any gimmicks around designs for cameras "blocking" energy or having feradyne cages or even the speculative talk of cell cameras bothering whitetails due to the RF.
FLASH DEBATE: WHITE VS RED VS BLACK
There's an age old debate around different types of flashes from trail cameras and how they affect deer. There's no obvious right or wrong here. Every situation comes with different circumstances. Every whitetail has a different personality which causes it react to its environment and daily encounters differently. Talk to one guy and he'll swear by white flash cameras, talk to another and his deer jump out of their skin. However, it is majority or common belief RED flash cameras tend to spook more deer than white or black flash cameras.
Cellular trail cameras are still relatively new to mass acceptance. With that, the general public is still some what unfamiliar with how they function and their abilities. One of the con's with cellular trail cameras is that images are typically compressed when transmitted over a cellular network. This is done to decrease the file size and make data plans more affordable. Couple lower quality compressed images with black flash night photos and you have a real problem. The easiest fix for this is too simply use RED flash LEDs to present more light at night which has lead some companies to utilize RED flash units in cellular trail camera models being released over the last 3-4 years.
There's plenty of guys out there killing deer that run different types of flash units. At the end of the day, why not take out as many variables as possible and stack as many things in your favor as you can? This is why, we simply choose to run trail cameras, whether cellular or regular, with 940nm flash units.
SPOOK PROOF EQUATION
This one is easy, hang your cameras with as much thought as you hang your tree stands. If deer are consistently staring down your camera or all together avoiding them, you have a problem. Over the years we've built out a series of steps to help conceal our camera sets to collect the most accurate data as possible. A few items on the list we've taken from Jeff Sturgis and others we've came up with on our own.
Hang your cameras 6'-8' of the ground. Keeping your trail cameras out of the line of sight of deer is a big deal. We like 6-8' feet because it does just that without causing detection circuit issues of sets that are 10' or higher. When your cameras are hung too high it creates a void in the detection area and also turns the set into a static environment. With trail camera sets above 10' it is also much harder to judge the size of the animal.
Hang your cameras on a multi trunk tree or a tree bigger in diameter than the camera. This technique prevents the camera from being silhouetted and/or being seen from the side.
Ditch the strap. We prefer to use paracord to hang our cameras but also any type of 3rd party mount does the trick. This also helps prevent theft.
Stop putting your cameras in the face of deer. Ideally we like to keep our cameras back 25' from the area of interest. Keep in mind, we are not after glamour shots... our goal is to simply get as much accurate/true data to help us fill tags.
External power sources are a must when trying to get the most out of your cell cameras. We urge people to also keep their solar panels or battery boxes hidden in the same manner as the camera. We typical mount a solar panel above our cell cameras, on a different face of the tree, and run the connection cord neatly.
These steps may seem extreme. Again, it eliminates variables and they all are very easy to accomplish.
THE BOTTOM LINE
All trail cameras have the ability to negatively impact deer movement and spook individual deer. Objectively looking at the causes, it's more about the person hanging the camera, how the set is hung, and possibly the camera flash features not the transmission ability of cellular trail cameras... No two deer are alike, no two scenarios are alike. Take the time to analyze each of your camera sets, maybe even do some split testing of your own. I think you'll find your own answers.
Author: Chad Sylveseter, Co-Founder/Owner of Exodus