Static and Dynamic Trail Camera Environments

Over the last 4 years of running 75+ trail cameras company-wide, we’ve realized not all camera setups are the same. However, all trail camera setups can be broken down into 2 very simple, basic categories. Understanding those categories will not only allow you to be efficient with your cameras but it will also save you time and money.

Before you ever hang a trail camera, you should be asking yourself one question. Is the setup a Static or Dynamic set? And to take that one step further before you even purchase a camera you need to ask yourself where it will be utilized. In a Static or Dynamic Environment? So, what exactly do those terms mean?

Static Trail Camera Sets

A Static set is a trail camera placed in any environment where you can dictate precise deer movement, location (distance from the camera), and the approximate time spent inside the effective detection range of that trail camera. Derived from the exact definition of Static, “lacking in movement, action, or changed”, we have coined the phrase “Static Set” to describe areas such as feeders, bait stations, mineral sites, water holes, and have even included scrapes. We consider these areas as such because we fully expect deer to spend an extended period of time at these locations, thus the reason we’ve included scrapes here. With very minor habitat work, like hinge cutting or simply creating barriers, we are able to dictate the entry and exit routes to these locations. And to top it off we can create these locations anywhere we see fit including mock scrape locations. It’s not very often we have the ability to dictate so much in a deer’s world and couple that with the powerful data from a trail camera.

When creating these Static Sets, camera location and access routes should be at the forefront of everyone’s thoughts. The last thing we want to do as deer hunters go through the money, time, and effort creating these environments to negatively impact deer movement. Access routes should be carefully planned to allow yourself to pull cards, change batteries, etc without bumping deer from being seen, heard, or smelled. Exactly the way you should be planning your stand entries and exits. With solid access crossed off the list, the next priority lies with camera location. People can fight this next phrase to their death, but surprisingly we say this with the utmost conviction. POORLY PLACED TRAIL CAMERAS CAN NEGATIVELY IMPACT DEER MOVEMENT!! That’s likely the last thing you’d expect to hear from a company selling trail cameras…. but it’s a simple truth. Because deer are spending an extended period of time in Static Sets, cameras become more noticeable specifically if it has any audible noise or visible flash causing camera placement to become much more critical. Our advice is simple, think of the rules you follow when hanging a tree stand. Place the camera on a tree that has a larger diameter then the camera’ width or provide side/back cover. This ensures the cameras will not be silhouetted. We strongly recommend utilizing a camera that does not have any noticeable noise and flash, which will obviously influence your purchase decision. Lastly, change the height level of your cameras in Static Sets. Cameras in Static Sets do not necessarily have to be an elevated set but having cameras 6’-8’ off the ground has proven to us they go unnoticeable to deer in these environments.

To make every soak the most efficient as possible we strongly recommend running these camera sets in photo mode with a longer trigger delay. Because deer will be spending a decent amount of time here photo mode will have increased battery life over video mode and a trigger delay of at least 3 mins will count down on one getting 100 photos of the same animal. We use 3 minutes as a starting point and adjust from there if we are getting too many or too little data. The exception to this recommendation would be scrape locations…. video and the shortest trigger delay possible.

With these best practice techniques, static trail camera sets can provide powerful off-season data when it comes deer surveys, creating inventory lists, and monitoring overall herd health. In season use can deliver even more valuable data when collecting annual trail camera date and attempting to devise your hunting strategy or plan for the current season.

 Dynamic Trail Camera Sets

With only having two categories, dynamic trail camera sets would naturally be the opposite of static. By definition dynamic means “constant change, activity, or progress”. So coining the phrase dynamic set trail camera sets would include any area or location where you do not have control over exit and entry routes, travel direction, location (distance from the camera), and time spent inside the effective detection range of that camera. A few examples would be trails, food plots, ag fields, bedding, topography features such as benches, saddles, and ridges.

When placing trail cameras in dynamic sets the first priority should be not negatively affecting deer movement, nothing different here. Again, camera locations and access routes should be carefully thought out to make card pulls and maintenance efficient and low impact. While doing so be mindful to place the camera in a nature that the PIR sensor is able to work at a right angle to where you think the majority of the action will take place. (To understand why that is important check out our detection circuity blog).

Camera settings for dynamic sets can tricky because there are no one-size fits all answer for recommendations. When it comes to which mode you run, it’s really personal preference. Something to think about though is the capacity of the card you are utilizing and how long it will be before you check that camera. This becomes ultra-important when utilizing video mode because of the larger files. In dynamic sets, we tend to use a very short trigger delay and often times the shortest the camera will allow. After your first card pull if you are unhappy with the results simply adjust your camera setting as you see fit.

Often times trail camera data from dynamic sets prove to be the most valuable. This holds true due to the strategically “scattered” locations of these cameras across a single property providing different pieces of the puzzle that allow you to see the entire picture. With a single camera location (typically that would be a static set to maximize the data volume per camera) on a property it becomes very difficult to know the entire story of how deer are using that property but with multiple cameras providing annual and in season data it becomes considerably easier. 

In our quest to help educate all trail camera users we would love any feedback, questions, and or topics you all would like us to speak on. Also be on the lookout for our newly launching podcast “Trail Camera Radio” where we cover all aspects of trail cam life!