It's a downer when you've put a ton of hard work into setting your trail cams only to find out something went wrong. Corroded batteries, an SD card glitch, nesting bugs, whatever ruined your chance to take a picture of a mature buck stinks.
Take care in your research, and you'll learn from others' mistakes. That's how most of the tactics that surround hunting work, but it's very true when hanging trail cams.
If you want to avoid some of the headaches, there are plenty of resources to help. You'll find in this post some of the basics and most common things to avoid that will help make your trail cam venture a success.
The first problem you'll encounter with a trail cam is an SD that doesn't work. It's easily solved but hard to swallow.
What you need is a Class 10 Standard SD card matching the user manual recommendations. The largest card a trail cam can handle is 32GB or less (minus a select few cameras), but if you're using photo mode, 8-16 GB is plenty of storage.
The next important thing about SD cards is formatting. Cards ALWAYS need to be reformatted, even new cards out of a package. Some trail cams have a reformat setting. If your camera does, you should use it. If not, make sure you do it on your computer before going to the field. If you need to save your pictures to an SD card, get a larger card to save pictures to ZIP files.
Using out-of-spec SD cards, switching cards between cameras, or never reformatting is a recipe for a botched card pull. Maintaining and using the correct SD cards will stop most of your problems with your cameras!
Check out more on SD cards here:
Wear and tear on trail cams is one of the minor issues, but it's still something you should address. When you pull a camera, take the time to clean it up. Use a Q-Tip to clean out the crevices and battery corrosion. Change dry rotted straps or paracord. Rubber seals that are not tight can be glued, or use silicone if needed.
Camera care only takes a few minutes. This simple care can give a little more life to your trail cams. Protecting your investment is worth that time.
We know the best way to get more function from your trail cam is to use lithium batteries. But what if you hands down refuse to front the cash at present? Lithium batteries are expensive right now, so here is what it looks like to use alkaline.
For extreme temps, cold or hot, expect your alkaline batteries to drain faster. As far as a power source, they will perform OK for daytime photos. But for night photos, they don't have the juice for the best output. That means a lower-quality image. If you're worried strictly about cost, you will get 3x the amount of life from lithium batteries. For alkaline batteries, you will spend between $7-$10 for an eight-pack; lithium will be as low as $13 up to almost $20. That means if you pay a low cost for alkaline, you will have to change your batteries 3x to reach the high price of lithium.
The other flaw of alkaline batteries is the corrosion they cause. This can degrade your camera, cause poor connection, and make it unusable much faster.
What else can you say except they suck! The most common thing for false triggers is plants that grow into the frame. Most of the time, you don't expect grass to grow 5 feet tall in front of your cam. Pay attention to what kind of dead vegetation is on the ground before you hang. If it's still a spot you want to pursue, it may be worth hanging the camera higher to avoid too many triggers.
Insects are a nuisance for trail cam users. Ants that get into the camera case can short-circuit the camera, spiders can build webs around the lens, and moths make cocoons on them.
There are a few ways you can avoid issues with bugs that Exodus suggests.
- Soak the strap in permethrin and spray the bark on the tree.
- Tape the camera's microphone hole.
- If insects are present when you pull the camera, put it in the freezer for 24 hours (remove batteries first). The freezer will kill any bugs and eggs left on your camera.
Check out this video for more on insects.
The biggest hurdle for cell cam users is the firmware update. Cell cams are NOT set it and forget it. All cell cams need to be updated. Most cell cams can perform firmware updates remotely, but some cameras require a trip to the field. Ensure that your camera's latest update is installed for the best function. If you let the updates slide, your camera will eventually stop sending pictures.
When troubleshooting an issue with your investment, you want the correct answers the first time. Most trail cam companies use a third-party service to answer questions about their cameras. That means you're talking to someone who knows nothing about hunting or trail cameras. Most of the time, they are reading verbatim from a user manual. You could have done that yourself had you known and not been on hold for 30 minutes.
The lack of third-party service is where Exodus shines. Their customer service is done from their office. These guys know how to identify the problem and tell you what you need to fix it, or you can use their 5-year warranty!
Why can't people leave their hands off your stuff? We will never know. Most guys wouldn't even care if you checked their cameras. It doesn't bother me as long as my camera isn't turned off or pictures are deleted. But too many people deal with stolen or broken cameras or SD cards. It's very petty and annoying. Maybe people do it to hide what's going on in the woods or protect their spot. But will it really stop a good hunter from hunting that spot anyway? Likely not, but remember, when you find a camera on public land, it's not "your spot." Anyone is entitled to hunt there.
If we didn't have theft, we wouldn't need locks. Cable locks are expensive, and DIY locks probably won't stand up to much tampering. Let's not forget that if you purchase 20 locks separately, you will have 20 different keys to manage.
One quick and permanent tip for labeling keys; use a Dremel tool! You can engrave a number on the key and the lock housing that will always be visible.
For more fixes on pet peeves, visit the Exodus Outdoor channel on YouTube!
Author: Aaron Hepler, Exodus Black Hat Team Member