Posted on Feb 18, 2020 by Chad Sylvester
Ask 5 different trail camera users that question and you'll likely get 5 different answers! Just like whitetail hunting, there's no shoe box answer. Before you can understand what is the right height of your trail camera set, you first must ask yourself what is the objective or goal for that specific camera. Is it to gather critical data points for mature buck hunting? Do you want the photo object to be caught from a different angle? Maybe you are trying to deter theft on public land? Each goal will give an answer with a different height. You can certainly learn on your own through trial and error, but we wanted to provide some insight to expedite the learning curve.
Stop Trail Camera Theft
For public land hunters, trail camera theft is a big topic. Heck, these days it's a problem on private land! We've written and talked on this topic numerous times over the last 5 years. In fact a quick google search will bring three pieces of our content to the first page. The idea here is simple, get your trail cameras out of the line of sight and reach of other people. In these scenarios we look to hang our cameras 9' to 12' off the ground, pointed at a downward angle. For a more in depth look on how to execute an elevated trail camera sets to help stop trail camera theft check out the article "Eliminate Trail Camera Theft with Elevated Setups" or the YouTube video "Running Trail Cameras on Public Land: Preventing Theft"
Mature Buck Hunting
While mature buck hunters across the nation have different opinions on strategies, tactics, and styles to get the job done they often reference these same exact few words "...mature bucks are a totally different animal". We believe that to be true. When you simply compare the trail camera data points from bucks under the age of 4.5 vs. bucks 4.5 and older, it becomes quite apparent older bucks simply carry themselves different. Of course every animal is going to have a different personality, some might be "camera shy" others might desire to be a "Hollywood star". Generally speaking, if you take some precaution with your trail camera setups you'll have your basis covered regardless of the deer's personality.
Stealing a play from Jeff Sturgis, one of the most credible whitetail consultants in North America, if mature bucks are staring down your trail camera there's something wrong. While there could be a multitude of issues, the camera flash type, audible noise, human scent, etc etc, we are simply focusing on the trail camera height for the sake of this article.
We agree with Jeff, in the fact that placing all trail cameras, with the objective of gaining data points for deer hunting, should be hung at a height between 6'-8'. This height is just above where deer would normally look, the camera is still within arms reach allowing for easy access for most people, and the camera is low enough where the downward angle will not greatly affect the detection area. Jeff has a great video on YouTube that talks about the other important points on hiding trail cameras for mature buck data "Hiding Deer Blinds and Trail Cameras is CRITICIAL"
Remember the objective here, monitor an area without any evidence or noticeable device. Regardless of the device you are using the whole point is for it not to be seen but still be able to provide some intel should a event ever happen. Hang your camera too high and you have no worries of it being detected but it may not provide the needed info. Hang your camera too low and you'll likely get the needed info but it could also walk away.
With security setups more often than not you'll want your cameras out of the line of sight of people AS LONG AS you can monitor the desired area properly. If that is not an option you'll often have to think outside the box, especially if you're using trail cameras. In our opinion you're much better off disguising the devise and setting it up at a height that ensures the camera will capture incriminating evidence should anything ever happen. A great example would be building a custom enclosure that would appear normal in the specific environment. Maybe that's a bird house in the back yard, mail box or hollowed post on the drive way.
In closing, we want to remind you to ask yourself what the objective or goal of each camera set is. Give yourself an honest answer and remember the insight from this article. We think it will pay big dividends in becoming a better trail camera user. For more information on each of the specific topics in this article check out the Exodus Trail Camera YouTube Channel, and or Podcast Trail Cam Radio.