Improve your surveillance skills

Trail cameras have come a long way since the early days, and are essential tools for hunters. (Photo courtesy Ben Lecroy)

Trail cameras have come a long way from the 35mm film options that were the staples of the late 90s. And while these cameras provided helpful information, the level of information and ease of use was practically an eternity away from what is available today. The information produced today can be used in so many ways to aid landowners, land managers, and hunters to better understand the behaviors of their feathered and furred subjects. And while deer are typically the main target of trail camera studies, users quickly realize they become more educated on the movements and patterns of other game and non-game species on the property that can be helpful when analyzing usage and preparing management decisions on the entire property.

Go big

Cellular options have become very affordable and should be chosen over non-cellular versions. They provide regular transmissions of images and videos instantly to users, and eliminate the routine disturbances usually associated with non-cellular versions.

The best paid-transmission options for cellular versions are the cameras that support the ability to connect the cameras to an ongoing unlimited data plan.

Unlimited data transmission is needed to transmit the amount of data required to get full usage out of a trail camera. While static or still images are acceptable, video or dynamic data collection will provide massive intelligence gains at the trail camera site. And when video is transmitted, data plans with a limited transmission volume can be quickly depleted. Unlimited data plans are required when transmitting video to get the maximum usage out of the technology. And the video length should always be maximized to the greatest extent possible that the equipment allows. Some allow up to 10 second videos and others as long as 30 second videos after triggered.

Go solar

Video capture and transmission uses more power though, and a solid power plan should be used to get the maximum duration of capture without having to visit and maintain the camera system. And the best way to maintain maximum power is with a system that utilizes solar technology. Some cameras have small on-board solar panels, but the larger self-contained solar and battery panels are the best options to fuel continuous monitoring.

Several options are available. One of the best options that has been well tested by the author is the Solar Pack from Herd360. The solar panel is practically indestructible and provides non-stop power to operate any camera system including cellular and non-cellular camera options. But as with any solar panel option, the panel must receive 3 to 4 hours of full sun daily in order to maintain the charge on the onboard battery system to run continuous usage for around-the-clock video transmission.

See it all

Video transmission provides a duration of data capture and multiple deer, turkeys, or other wildlife can be viewed as soon as triggered. Too many times the static images only capture the initial movement and the first deer or turkey that shows up along the trail.

When reviewing large amounts of video data, users will understand what has been missed because the 10 or 30 seconds after that initial trigger has so much more to see than just that initial photo. Once video capture is used, the still images will never be used again. Always select video capture when the cameras are equipped with the technology.

Lastly, always make sure the sensitivity is adjusted to capture all the animals on the trail. Surely nobody wants to review the 300 daily videos of the wind blowing, but users don’t want to miss any big bucks that are slipping in the back of the capture frame either. And with an unlimited data plan and a solid powering system, the extra footage isn’t cost prohibitive.

Surveillance systems are a needed equipment choice and can produce a wealth of information that can be used to discover food preferences, preferred feeding times, direction of travel, and then specific details about the animals themselves. While some hunters and land managers can avoid the usage of 21st century surveillance systems, the data can be used to make good management decisions for both harvest planning and habitat management.

Next level surveillance:

Cameras that take videos will tell users a lot more about what’s happening on their land than just still photos, and those with cellular options can deliver the videos right to your phone, keeping you informed in real time of which animals are visiting your hunting grounds.

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About Jeff Burleson 28 Articles
Jeff Burleson is a native of Lumberton, N.C., who lives in Myrtle Beach, S.C. He graduated from N.C. State University with a degree in fisheries and wildlife sciences and is a certified biologist and professional forester for Southern Palmetto Environmental Consulting.

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