How many trail cameras do I need?
By: Cole Seitzinger
Recently I took to social media and ran a survey in some Facebook trail camera groups and pages.
I reached out and asked how many trail cameras an individual should use.
The results were just as expected. If money was no object then there is no limit to the number of cameras you should be using! That’s great info but unfortunately, time and money is a problem for many hunters, and if the money spent on the cameras isn’t bad enough, money spent on batteries will be!
After all that, then it comes down to time, and the more cameras you run the more time you need to maintain them all.
So what is the correct answer to the question?
Let me break it down and see for yourself-
A lot of variables go into deciding this, but a good general rule can be if you are using all the cameras you have and don’t want to sacrifice moving one for a new spot, then you probably need more cameras!
That’s a good problem to have because running cameras is a ton of fun and is a lead scouting tool in today’s hunting world.
Time ⏰ and Money 💸
Since money is a priority in deciding how many cameras you wish to have in your arsenal then let’s start there. Say you are on public land or share a property with other hunters then you are most likely spending extra money on top of cameras for lock boxes, cables, and locks for each additional camera. That’s on top of batteries and SD cards which come as an added expense to any camera you purchase.
If you are a landowner or exclusively on private land then the good news, if you trust your neighbors you are going to have a little extra money in your pocket for more cameras because you may not feel the need to lock every camera up in a lock box.
The bad news if you live in bear country you risk having unprotected cameras destroyed or carried off by a bear so locking them up might be the best route to go anyway.
If you find yourself with a damaged or stolen camera then lucky for Exodus owners, Exodus has your back if this happens and will save you some money in replacing an exodus trail camera that is damaged or stolen. This comes with the 5-year warranty, giving you peace of mind when you purchase one that you will have a working camera for 5 years!
Anyone who has gotten the trail camera bug knows, once you buy one you want two. Once you have two, you want three and so on.
There are always more places you know you would run a camera if you had a room full of them. It is an addiction that is hard to control! Each additional camera you plan to purchase will likely cost more than just the camera itself.
Expect to buy 1 or 2 more SD cards, and be ready to supply each camera with a good set of Lithium batteries as often as needed.
Running cameras year round in comparison to just before or during the season will also play a role in the added expense of cameras.
So when it comes to money, you make your budget and then decide how many cameras you should be using.
If you only hunt one 10 acre property odds are if you run 10 cameras you will be doing more harm than good.
A camera that just sits around the house unused is a waste, so make sure you can afford batteries, SD cards, and time to enjoy the benefits of owning multiple cameras.
An unlimited number of cameras may not be in your best interest.
As we already know a trail camera can be your best friend or your best enemy. Adding pressure to properties with tons of cameras is not something you want to do.
That eliminates the idea that you should use as many cameras as possible because it just wouldn’t be practical and it will end up hurting you in the long run.
Too many cameras being placed all over a property will be a red flag too mature deer in general.
Add the constant pressure of human activity going to check cameras and leaving scent behind every time is a sure-fire way to ruin your hunting grounds.
Instead of littering the woods with a camera every 25 yards trying to catch every possible animal be smart about placement.
Use funnels and pinch points. In most states for inventory and quality pictures, people will bait in front of the camera with feed or minerals, this is a great way to avoid having to buy more and more cameras.
In addition to that, after you get some information from one spot and a few good pictures, note the activity and then move the camera to provide you with more information in the same general area.
No need to have too many cameras running in a small area save some money and move the cameras you have every couple weeks, this keeps the pressure lower and still gives you the info you need to kill a big buck!
After reading the comments and seeing the votes in my poll, a good general number for an average hunter is 3-6 trail cameras.
This would cover a single hunter’s core area on one or two properties.
Granted more serious hunters would laugh at only running 3 cameras, but a large majority of hunters do not Eat, Sleep, and Breathe hunting 365 days a year.
Most hunters that start running trail cameras will almost always want more. If you are the type of hunter that hunts one stand every year in the same place on a small property you probably will never need more than 1-2 cameras to satisfy you.
The more hardcore you get and the more obsessed you are with following and chasing and knowing animals you are hunting then you will want more cameras to cover each possible hunting property. If you are fortunate enough to have large properties you can easily get to the point of needing 20+ just to cover the area.
How many trail cameras per acre?
Now that we covered the number of cameras you wish to run. Well sort of anyway. The true number is up to the end user but hopefully, you have enough time and money to let you run as many as you need to be more successful each and every year after all these are great scouting tools to make you a better hunter. Let’s dive into the number of cameras per acre that will give you positive results without a negative effect on your property.
I’m going to use myself as an example because I am just an average guy, I work a full-time non-industry job and I am completely obsessed with whitetails. I hunt 2 main properties one 21 acres, and one 400+. I currently have 18 cameras and I do not consider myself a trail camera junkie by any means.
During the summer and fall, I will run all my cameras between the two properties and I could easily run more on the 400-acre piece. I would say I typically am running 3 on the 21-acre property and 15 on the 400-acre property. That is 1 camera per 7 acres at the small one and roughly 1 camera per 26 acres on the other. I feel both places are covered fairly well when it comes to inventory and locating a bucks core area. I still know from experience while hunting that just because a camera nearby does not mean you are capturing all the activity in that area.
A prime example takes us back to opening day of 2016 Firearm season. I had a trail camera setup over a community scrape on the edge of a kill plot all season long. Leading up to the opening day the activity drastically went downhill on the camera.
That first morning I watched over 20 deer walk within shooting range of my stand and the camera and only one time did a fawn walk in front and trigger the camera.
5 of those deer were bucks and two were on my watch list, one being a deer that I thought may have left during the rut because I didn’t get him on camera much through November.
Could I use more cameras on these properties?
Absolutely, but if I do that I am already intruding on a large percentage of my properties trying to better locate and find the buck I am chasing. It would benefit me more to pull cameras from spots that are not producing and move them closer to the spots that are, rather than buy more cameras to fill the property. This way I could check them all at once on the way to or leaving stands without making more trips around the property to check cameras.
It is safe to say that if you want to cover ground to the fullest extent you will want to run at a minimum 1 camera to ever 10 acres. This will become an average number, because in some timber and field scenarios you may run 5 cameras in a 10-acre section. It all depends on how the deer are using the area.
You don’t need 5 cameras in 50 acres of wide open field or unattractive timber. It is best to work the edges of the primary spots to capture a majority of the deer activity. This keeps you less intrusive and covers a good section of the property. Some people may think that 1 camera for every 10 acres is way too many they might think 1 every 50 acres is better.
The end outcome is really what everyone is after and that is pictures of their hitlist buck. Because that leads to information on that buck. If you know your property inside and out you can certainly get away with running fewer cameras.
Problem is, it is way too exciting checking cameras in search of more buck or new activity! You can miss deer by having 10 cameras on 10 acres or 100 cameras on 100 acres.
The happy medium is when you find the hot spots and are satisfied with your results on that property. Then once you are happy, go buy a few more cameras just in case because we all hate when we forget to turn a camera on or the batteries died a few days after the last check. In order to feed the addiction more is always going to be better.
Nothing beats having an extra camera when you find a hot spot and you want to hang 2-3 cameras within a few yards of each other!
The benefit to having a lot of time could be running a lot of cameras. But if you have a lot of time, then you also have time to check and move cameras often.
Letting them soak for weeks is sometimes the reason I want to have more cameras.
If the property is out of state, or a few hours from home. Then who wants to be checking and moving cameras every weekend.
Having more cameras out, in this case, would be better even if some of those cameras aren’t producing when it comes time to check them. At least you know and you have weeks’ worth of information.
Knowing where the deer aren’t is sometimes better than knowing where they have been. Having a sufficient amount of cameras per acre lets you scout your property 24/7 while you are away, even if you get too busy to check them and move them around.