Since 2015, we've been fortunate enough to travel the United States to talk trail cameras and deer hunting with some of the most successful whitetail hunters alive. From what we've noticed folks like Dan Infalt, Jeff Sturgis, Don Higgins, and so many others all have very similar characteristics even though their tactics may differ. One of those common traits we've noted is their meticulous nature about the details. From each hunt's access down to their gear, every detail matters and each person has a method to their madness. Taking care of and knowing your gear is a big part of the details.
The end of Febuary/beginning of March is the time frame we consider to be the trail camera lull. Most of us have confirmed which bucks have made it through deer season, we know the relative herd numbers, and at this point we know which bucks have shed. The trail camera lull gives you a great opportunity to round up our cameras and get them consolidated to perform some maintenance before the upcoming season. It's not uncommon for guys to maintenance tree stands, bows, and even boots in the off season but when it comes to trail cameras most folks fall short. In our opinion a big reason for that is a lack of educational resources. People simply don't think about it or when they do they don't know "how to". So, in this article we are going to break down 5 very basics trail camera maintenance tasks that will help you get the most out of your cameras.
KEEP YOUR FIRMWARE UP TO DATE
FW updates happen for a few different reasons. Either the trail camera manufacturer has found critical logic errors in the cameras operating system or has found ways to further omptimize the camera's functions. Keeping your camera's FW current is important because often times controller and hardware manufacturers have maintenance releases that include new FW for that specific piece of hardware used in that trail camera. These types of updates ensure overall stability in the cameras functions and performance.
KEEP YOUR CAMERA'S HOUSING CLEAN
Keeping the housings of your trail cameras clean isn't a giant deal but it does accomplish two things.
1. It ensures there is no insect eggs that could potential hatch and cause infestation while your cameras are stored away
2. Visually the cameras simply look better. If you ever go to resell them having the apperance "like new" could be the difference between moving them or being stuck with them.
To clean up the housings we recommend using a mild soapy water solution and a micro-fiber cloth...anything non-abrasive will work. Never use any type of harsh cleaners or detergents. Be sure that any housing penetrations, where screws are recessed, are free of dirt and other debris. Start at the back of the camera and work to the front.
CLEAN THE FLASH UNIT, OPTICAL LENS, AND FRESNEL LENS COVERS
Once you have the bulk of the camera clean you can focus on the flash unit, optical lens cover and Fresnel lens. These are the critical portions here and will most greatly effect your cameras performance. Before you begin, BE CERTAIN the surface area of these components are free of anything abrasive...no dirt, sand, etc. To accomplish that we recommend using keyboard cleaner or a can of compressed air. Next you can use a micro fiber cloth with eye glass cleaner or phone screen cleaner to wipe everything down. A mild soapy water solution will also suffice.
PROTECT AND MAINTAIN SEALS
Hands down, the number one killer of trail cameras is moisture ingress. Outside of the housing design, the seals of the camera is the only line of defense to the weather. Regardless of what some people think, trail cameras are not submergeable and only have an IP rating up to IP68 at the very best. So, keeping your cameras seals in good shape is one of the most important things you can do to extend your cameras life.
A good place to start is a simple visual inspection to make sure all seals/gaskets are properly seated and intact, free of tears or other damage. After you confirm all the seals are in good working order, wipe them down with a damp cloth to ensure any dust/dirt is removed. Last you'll want to use some type of lubricant and a Q-tip to apply. This ensures the rubber/silicon seals and gaskets remain pliable. "O" ring lubricant is a great choice or even Diver's lube by Lifeguard Aquatics (lubricant used on underwater diver's rubber masks).
CLEAN BATTERY TRAY AND TERMINALS/CONTACTS
Corrosion on battery trays, compartments, and/or terminals/contacts whether that is from battter acid or moisture ingress is very overlooked by trail camera users. Corrosion will not only lead to poor performance and battery life, but it could lead to product failure.
If your camera has a removeable battery tray, the best thing to do is always purchase a new tray if serious corrosion is present. If that is not a possibility then it becomes critical the terminals/contacts get cleaned.
An aresol contact cleaner and a small wire brush are the correct tools for the job. However, a water and baking soda or vinegar solution and toothbrush will do the trick. Once you have everything scrubbed up, cleaned, and dried you can go one step further. Using a Q-tip and die electric grease, coat the contacts in a neat fashion. This added step will provide future protection and also help with continuity.
Proper storage is the keystone tying annual trail camera maintenance together. It's a great idea to store cameras in the original box or zip lock bag with a silica pack and the associated SD cards labeled for that specific camera. Trail cameras should not be stored with, on, or in close proximity to other working powered up electronic devices. Nor should they be stored near magnets of any power. We recommend storage in a dry area at room temperature and always, always, remove the batteries from your cameras before storage.
Performing annual trail camera maintenance on our personal cameras has made a noticeable difference. We hope these few tips help you get more out of your trail cameras. For more trail camera related information be sure to check out the Exodus YouTube channel, our podcast Trail Cam Radio, and other featured blog articles.