The 11 Best Trail Cameras Reviewed – Hunting, Wildlife Monitoring and Home Security

the top trail cameras can withstand rain

Good information is vital to any hunt.

Sure, you can venture into the woods with a rifle and a dream, hoping to see a deer.

You’ll burn a lot of calories without much venison to show for it, though.

If you want a successful hunt, you need to be sure your game actually visits where you’ll be hunting. How do you do this?

Well, you could spend weeks scouting the area, trying to avoid spooking the animals you want to hunt. Or, you could install a game camera or three.

Trail cameras let you observe the goings on at a place of your choosing, not just while you’re there, but for days, weeks, or even months at a time.

With a good camera, you’ll know when and where that deer will appear. With a bad camera, though, you’ll have wasted money and time.

So, let’s look at some good deer cameras.

 

The 11 Best Game Cameras of 2019: Outdoor Empire Reviews

Here is a list of the 11 best trail cameras of 2019:

  1. Best Cheap Trail Camera #1: TOGARD H40
  2. Best Cheap Trail Camera #2: Victure HC200
  3. Best Cheap Trail Camera #3: Stealth Cam PX12
  4. Best Trail Camera for the Money #1: Campark T45
  5. Best Trail Camera for the Money #2: Victure HC300
  6. Best Trail Camera for the Money #3: Foxelli Trail Camera
  7. Best Overall Trail Camera #1: Reconyx HyperFire 2 HF2X
  8. Best Overall Trail Camera #2: Browning Strike Force Pro XD
  9. Best Trail Camera Under $100: Stealth Cam G30
  10. Best Trail Camera for Use at Night #1: Stealth Cam G42NG
  11. Best Trail Camera for Use at Night #2: Moultrie A-40i

 

CategoryBest Cheap Best for moneyBest overall
Product
TOGARD H40
Campark T45
Reconyx HyperFire 2 HF2X
Maximum Resolution14 MP14 MP3 MP
Video1080p1080p720p w/ Audio
Trigger Speed0.5 s0.3 s0.2 s
Detection Range75 ft.65 ft.
Flash42 low-glow IR LEDs42 low-glow IR LEDsNo-Glow High Output Covert IR
PriceCheck PriceCheck PriceCheck Price

 

1. Best Cheap Trail Camera #1: TOGARD H40

TOGARD H40

Specs

  • Maximum Resolution: 14 MP
  • Video: 1080p
  • Trigger Speed: 0.5 s
  • Detection Range: 75 ft.
  • Flash: 42 low-glow IR LEDs

Overview

The TOGUARD H40 is a remarkably capable hunting or security camera that’s available for a lot less money than you’d expect.

The camera can take pictures from 1-megapixel to 14-megapixel resolution. You can also take up to 60-second videos from 240p to 1080p, all at 30 frames per second.

The H40 is triggered by motion and has a detection width of 120 degrees. It can detect animals up to 75 feet away, even at night.

Forty-two low-glow infrared LEDs light up the animals without alerting them, so you get adequate nighttime pictures. Image quality is better during the day, though.

You can also set the H40 to record only during the day or at night by setting the “Target Recording Time.”

There’s a 2.4-inch screen on the unit. Images and videos are recorded onto a microSD card. No such card is included, so you have to provide your own. Same with the eight AA batteries, which provide a long battery life.

The videos are recorded in an odd format, which means they play at double speed unless you view them using VLC Media Player.

Pros

  • Inexpensive but not cheap
  • Long battery life

Cons

  • Poor video audio
  • Videos play at double speed unless you use VLC

Recommendation

The TOGUARD H40 is a great functional game camera at a low price point, making it great for hunters on a budget.

 

 

2. Best Cheap Trail Camera #2: Victure HC200

Victure HC200

Specs

  • Maximum Resolution: 12 MP
  • Video: 1080p
  • Trigger Speed: 0.5 s
  • Detection Range: 65 ft.
  • Flash: 26 low-glow IR LEDs

Overview

The Victure HC200 is the type of game camera that makes people ask why other game cameras are so expensive.

The HC200’s camera can take 12-megapixel pictures and 1080p HD videos, though only at 15 fps unless you lower the resolution. Nighttime pictures are adequate because of the 26 infrared LEDs.

While they aren’t no-glow or blacked out LEDs, they don’t glow very much, so they are unlikely to spook your prospective prey.

There are five recording modes:

  • Timed Photo
  • Video
  • Mixed
  • Time-Lapse
  • Motion activated

You can even set the HC200 to use one mode at a certain time of day and another mode at another time of day.

A 2.4-inch color LCD screen lets you look through the photos on the device, which are stored on an SD card. The body is IP66 waterproof, so it will survive long-term use outdoors.

You can power the HC200 with four or eight AA batteries for a standby time of up to six months. Of course, you can also plug in an external power system, such as solar cells.

A common complaint about the HC200 is the quality of the included instructions. They aren’t very helpful.

Pros

  • Good visual quality for such a cheap device

Cons

  • Poor instructions

Recommendation

The Victure HC200 may be inexpensive, but it still works well for hunters on a budget who aren’t new to using game cameras.

 

 

3. Best Cheap Trail Camera #3: Stealth Cam PX12

Stealth Cam PX12

Specs

  • Maximum Resolution: 6 MP
  • Video: 480p
  • Trigger Speed: Under 1 s
  • Detection Range: 50 ft.
  • Flash: 12 ER LEDs
  • Misc: EZ Dial Programming

Overview

Stealth Cam’s PX12’s main selling point is its price. You can pick one up for under $50, making it the second-cheapest device on this list.

However, it does skirt with the boundary between “inexpensive” and “cheap.” The camera’s resolution maxes out at 6 megapixels, and any video will be at 480p resolution.

Also, this camera has a scant 12 LED array. They visibly glow when on, so there’s a risk of spooking animals or getting spotted by an intruder. Plus, that’s not enough infrared light to take good night pictures.

The PX12’s camo exterior is a mono-color 3D digital camo, which strikes me as a little odd because deer aren’t the type of enemy to be defeated by digital camo.

The PX12 has good points, though.

The images are marked, not only with the time and date, but also the moon phase. As all good hunters know, the moon affects nighttime animal movements, so this feature aids you in planning your hunts.

Also, the battery life on this unit is great. You can get up to a year’s service with lithium batteries!

Pros

  • Easy to configure
  • Great daytime photos
  • Moon phase stamp

Cons

  • Poor nighttime photos
  • Slow trigger and recovery speeds

Recommendation

The Stealth Cam PX12 sacrifices nighttime quality to arrive at a price point under $50.

 

Stealth Cam PX12 is also available at:

Sportsman’s Guide

Walmart

 

4. Best Trail Camera for the Money #1: Campark T45

Campark T45

Specs

  • Maximum Resolution: 14 MP
  • Video: 1080p
  • Trigger Speed: 0.3 s
  • Detection Range: 65 ft.
  • Flash: 42 low-glow IR LEDs
  • Misc: 3 PIR sensors

Overview

The Campark T45 is one of the best-selling hunting cameras you can find online, and for good reason.

Unlike most remote cameras with one passive infrared sensor, the T45 has three. This increases sensitivity, cuts detection time down to 0.3 seconds, and also saves energy somehow.

The camera takes good photos at a maximum of 14 megapixels. It can take 1080p video, too. Forty-two low-glow infrared LEDs provide good nighttime light without scaring off the deer, though it may alert a human intruder to the camera’s presence.

The T45 requires a microSD card but doesn’t come with one. It does have a color screen as well. Some people have reported that their unit came set to Chinese instead of English, but it’s not too hard to set it to the correct language.

Mounting the T45 can be annoying, though. The screen is inside the housing, so when you close the IP56 waterproof case, the camera shifts slightly.

The T45 is available in two camo colors: Autumn Yellow and Spring Green.

Pros

  • Available in two camo colors
  • Good photos during day and night
  • Three PIR sensors

Cons

  • Potential annoyances when setting up the unit

Recommendation

The Campark T45 game camera is a great intersection of price and quality and will take good photos, fast.

 

 

5. Best Trail Camera for the Money #2: Victure HC300

Victure HC300

Specs

  • Maximum Resolution: 16 MP
  • Video: 1080p
  • Trigger Speed: 0.5 s
  • Detection Range:
  • Flash: 38 no-glow IR LEDs

Overview

The Victure HC300 may seem like a minor update to the Victure HC200 because of the similar model numbers, but that’s not the case. The HC300 is a full redesign and is better than the HC200, though it is also more expensive.

There remain some similarities. You only get 15 fps at the highest video resolution, and you still have to open the cover to access the controls and display screen. So, expect to use some trial and error when setting up the camera.

The camera may have similar on-paper specs as its cheaper predecessor, but the image quality is even better with the HC300. Colors have more contrast and details are more crisp.

The housing has been redesigned and is even more waterproof. Victure claims the HC300 will stand up to a desert’s dust or a rainforest’s rain.

The LEDs are similarly upgraded. These LEDs are no-glow models, so they do not light up in the visible spectrum when activated. This makes the HC300 great for nighttime use against game animals or burglars, enhancing its security ability.

Pros

  • Great image quality
  • No-glow LEDs

Cons

  • The internal screen means you can’t easily preview the camera’s final position

Recommendation

The Victure HC300 is much better than the HC200, sporting better image quality and less-visible nighttime flash.

 

6. Best Trail Camera for the Money #3: Foxelli Trail Camera

Foxelli Trail Camera

Specs

  • Maximum Resolution: 14 MP
  • Video: 1080p
  • Trigger Speed: 0.5 s
  • Detection Range: 65 ft
  • Flash: 42 low-glow IR LEDs

Overview

The Foxelli Trail Camera is a stealthy device that’s great for taking sneaky photos during the day and after dark.

Photos can be taken at a resolution up to 14 megapixels. Video can be up to 1080p. Most trail cameras can take half-minute or minute-long videos. The Foxelli can take videos up to 10 minutes long, so you can see everything the deer does!

Forty-two LEDs illuminate a wide area during the night without alerting trespassers or game animals, thanks to no-glow technology. The LEDs are bright enough for clear, detailed nighttime photos. Daylight photos are similarly grand.

The internal display screen, however, is not grand. It’s lit off-center, so it can be hard to see under certain lights. Also, the keypad buttons are not the easiest to use and sometimes have to be depressed further than expected.

Finally, while most hunting cameras have some sort of camouflage, the Foxelli trail cam actually looks like tree bark.

Pros

  • Best camo for mounting on some trees
  • No-glow IR LEDs

Cons

  • Poor internal display
  • Poor quality keypad

Recommendation

If you need a very sneaky camera, the Foxelli Trail Camera looks like tree bark and takes great photos, day or night, without any lights to give it away.

 

 

7. Best Overall Trail Camera #1: Reconyx HyperFire 2 HF2X

Reconyx HyperFire 2 HF2X

Specs

  • Maximum Resolution: 3 MP
  • Video: 720p w/ Audio
  • Trigger Speed: 0.2 s
  • Detection Range:
  • Flash: No-Glow High Output Covert IR
  • Misc: BuckView Advanced software

Overview

The Reconyx HyperFire 2 HF2X is an expensive game camera, but no other camera quite touches it.

Some of the on-paper specs don’t look too great. Only 3 megapixels? Only 720p video?

Raw resolution is not the only indicator of visual quality. Pictures and video taken by this camera will look much better, with clearer details and more contrast, than even a 20-megapixel camera.

Fewer megapixels also translates to smaller file sizes, so this camera can take more photos before you need to clear the SD card. Oh, and that SD card can be up to 512GB in size, far exceeding the 32GB limit of most game cameras!

The HF2X takes 12 AA batteries. When you use the recommended batteries, the camera can stay active in the field for up to two years.

Not two months. Two years. That’s the longest battery life I’ve seen on a trail camera!

Part of the energy savings assuredly comes from the infrared illumination technology, which is different from the IR LEDs used by other cameras. You get 120 feet of nighttime brightness without any external glow.

This camera does have a weakness:

Videos will max out at 10 seconds.

Pros

  • 5-year warranty
  • Easy to set up
  • Excellent image quality
  • Extreme battery life
  • Very fast trigger speed

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Short maximum video duration

Recommendation

The Reconyx HyperFire 2 HFX takes great photos and has an amazing battery life, making it the perfect hunting camera—if you can afford it.

 

Reconyx HyperFire 2 HF2X is also available at:

Basspro

Cabelas

 

8. Best Overall Trail Camera #2: Browning Strike Force Pro XD

Browning Strike Force Pro XD

Specs

  • Maximum Resolution: 24 MP
  • Video: 1080p w/ Audio
  • Trigger Speed: 0.15 s
  • Detection Range: 80 ft.
  • Flash: Red glow IR
  • Misc: Dual lenses

Overview

The Browning Strike Force Pro XD is a high-definition trail camera with a unique twist: dual lenses!

The two camera lenses work together to produce massive and extremely high-quality pictures. The pictures can be up to 24 megapixels in size and have amazing clarity and detail, even when set to a smaller picture size.

The Pro XD’s videos are also good, though a bit more muddled than the still photos. Unfortunately, you can’t take longer videos.

Browning claims the Pro XD has a trigger speed of 0.15 seconds, though actual testing shows it to be “only” 0.22 seconds, which is still faster than all other cameras.

You can get almost 10 months of usage out of six lithium batteries. This is not only a really good battery life, but it’s quite economical as well.

The screen is inside the unit and is, frankly, disappointing. It’s only 1.5 inches in size, which makes it difficult to discern what you’re looking at.

Also, sometimes people have had difficulty setting the correct time and date.

Pros

  • The best image quality, thanks to having two lenses
  • Long battery life

Cons

  • 20-second video duration maximum
  • Hard to set time and date
  • Small internal display

Recommendation

If you want the best image quality available today, then your trail camera needs to be the Browning Strike Force Pro XD.

 

Browning Strike Force Pro XD is also available at:

Basspro

Cabelas

 

9. Best Trail Camera Under $100: Stealth Cam G30

Stealth Cam G30

Specs

  • Maximum Resolution: 8 MP
  • Video: HD w/ Audio
  • Trigger Speed: 0.75 s
  • Detection Range: 80 ft.
  • Flash: 30 IR LEDs
  • Misc: GPS, Matrix Blur Reduction, multi-zone detection

Overview

Stealth Cam’s G30’s specs may not be as impressive as some, but what it does with those specs is great.

The maximum resolution is eight megapixels. However, Matrix Blur Reduction means that each of those pixels is crisp, so you get good images regardless.

The trigger speed is either 0.75 seconds or 0.5 seconds, but in either case, multi-zone detection makes for high-accuracy detection, offsetting the technically slow trigger speed.

There are 30 infrared LEDs, capable of illuminating up to 80 feet in the dark. They aren’t low-glow or no-glow LEDs though, so nearby creatures may notice the flash go off.

The G30 is also GPS-enabled so you know exactly where the pictures are taken. Also, you can note down the camera’s location.

This way, if you can’t find the camera, you can use a handheld hunting GPS to figure out if you are forgetful or if someone took off with your game cam.

Pros

  • Configuration presets
  • GPS tagging
  • Great photo quality

Cons

  • Glowing LEDs

Recommendation

The Stealth Cam G30 is a great trail camera with features that make up for low base specs. If you want better nighttime photos, then check out the G42NG.

 

Stealth Cam G30 is also available at:

Sportsman’s Guide

Walmart

Academy

 

10. Best Trail Camera for Use at Night Under $100: Stealth Cam G42NG

Stealth Cam G42NG

Specs

  • Maximum Resolution: 10 MP
  • Video: 1080p
  • Trigger Speed: 0.5 s
  • Detection Range: 100 ft.
  • Flash: 42 no-glow IR LEDs
  • Misc: Matrix Advanced Blur Reduction technology, Retina Low Light sensitivity technology

Overview

The Stealth Cam G42NG is an upgrade over the G30 in more ways than just stealth, but it’s that stealth what makes it such a good night hunting camera.

Forty-two infrared LEDs illuminate a distance up to 100 feet without any tell-tale glow. This isn’t the furthest night illumination possible, but coupled with the Retina Low Light sensitivity tech, the G42NG produces excellent photos and video when it’s dark.

You can buy the G42NG in either camo or gray to blend into the woods or an urban environment.

The camera’s resolution maxes out at 10 megapixels. It can take 1080p videos up to three minutes long. There’s also a burst mode where the camera takes up to nine pictures in a row after being motion activated.

t5tThough, the detection window is rather narrow compared to other game cameras.

Also, the G42NG seems to have trouble triggering when small animals enter the detection range.

Pros

  • Great low-light and nighttime photos
  • No-glow illumination

Cons

  • Narrow trigger angle that won’t always catch smaller animals
  • Poor battery life

Recommendation

The Stealth Cam G42NG is almost invisible in the dark and takes great photos, regardless of the light level, but it has to be positioned just right.

 

Stealth Cam G42NG is also available at:

Walmart

 

11. Best Trail Camera for Use at Night Under $150: Moultrie A-40i

Moultrie A-40i

Specs

  • Maximum Resolution: 14 MP
  • Video: 720p with audio
  • Trigger Speed: 0.7 s
  • Detection Range: 60 ft.
  • Flash: iNVISIBLE IR LED technology
  • Misc: Moultrie Mobile compatible

Overview

Moultrie’s most famous trail camera series is the A-series. The A-40i Pro is the best of the A-series for nighttime photography. The “i” stands for the iNVISIBLE technology used to produce no-glow infrared LEDs that won’t tip an intruder off to the camera’s presence.

This, combined with Moultrie’s Illumi-Night Sensor Technology, gives you great pictures in the dark.

The controls are backlit as well, so you can set it up easily, even at dusk.

However, the A-40i Pro’s strengths are definitely in the nighttime. If you’re looking for a camera that’s good all day long, well, the A-40i Pro is only okay.

The trigger speed is above average, and the detection distance is below average. Video is 720p with poor-quality audio. The camera takes clear pictures, though.

Also, the A-40i Pro does not always work with Ultra SD cards. Some users have had to buy lower-class SD cards to get their camera to work properly.

Moultrie sells a wireless modem, the Moultrie Mobile, which can be installed with this or any other A-series trail camera to send photos to your phone over a cellular network.

Pros

  • Moultrie Mobile compatible
  • Unique technology for high-quality nighttime photos

Cons

  • Inaccurate temperature reading
  • Requires older-technology SD cards

Recommendation

The Moultrie A-40i Pro is a great nighttime camera, but it’s lacking in other departments.

 

Moultrie A-40i is also available at:

Basspro

Cabelas

Sportsman’s Guide

Walmart

Academy

 

Trail Cameras 101

Not everyone knows about game cameras, and that’s okay. Here’s a short guide on these useful tools for hunting and security.

 

What is a game camera?

a best game camera mounted on a tree

A game camera, also called a trail camera, is a sort of security camera intended for outdoor use. They are often placed in areas where you suspect deer or other game animals will visit.

More specifically, a game camera is an automatic digital camera located inside a waterproof or water-resistant shell. Batteries are added, so you don’t have to plug the camera into a power supply, though most game cameras can use external power packs or solar cells.

Game cameras also have a digital storage medium, an infrared flash to take photos at night without spooking game, and a passive infrared sensor. There’s also a digital screen and keypad you can use to change settings.

 

How do game cameras work?

Detection range and trigger time

Most game cameras operate in several modes:

  • Timed
  • Motion Activated

You can set the camera to take a photo at regular intervals throughout the day. This is good for scouting an area without actually being there, and this will show off what’s going on everywhere in front of the camera.

You can also use the PIR sensor to make the camera take still photos or videos when something moves in front of the camera. Often, you can adjust the sensitivity as well, so a waving tree branch doesn’t set it off.

The animal moves in front of the camera, the PIR sensor detects the animal, then the camera takes the photo. Some game cameras can be set to take a burst of photos for more information about the animal’s movements as well.

Later, you can return to look at the photos on the camera itself or by removing the storage card and plugging it into your computer.

 

What should a game camera be used for?

Game camera uses

Game cameras are primarily intended for hunting.

You can use them to scout an area and see if deer or other game animals are visiting. They’re good for finding out the time of day that elusive buck is passing in front of your hunting blind. If you’ve set up a deer feeder, you can use a game camera to follow its progress.

Game cameras can also be used for security, too.

These cameras are small, can be put almost anywhere, and certain models can take night-vision photos without giving off any light.

This makes them excellent for watching your property and catching burglars, package thieves, or even to see what’s eating your cat’s food at night.

Some people have even set them up to watch their road or make sure their child makes it onto the bus safely!

How many uses for a motion-activated camera can you think of?

 

Types of Game Cameras

While game cameras are not new technology, they are still newer than rifles and deer calls. New strides are still being made in the realm of game cameras. There are currently two types of game cameras:

  • Standard
  • Wireless

Let’s look at those two types in detail.

 

Standard Game Cameras

standard game camera

Your average trail camera will be one of these. It’ll have a passive infrared sensor and a camera capable of taking both photographs and videos.

Almost every game camera today includes several features which used to require their own type of camera in previous years.

 

Motion Activated

Trail cameras didn’t always come with the PIR sensor. You had them on a timer, and it was up to luck whether or not you got a good photo of your subject.

However, motion-activated sensors are standard now.

 

Flash

A sudden bright light is good for taking photos in the dark. However, it’s also good for scaring away the game you want to hunt!

For that reason, no modern cameras have a visible flash. Instead, they use infrared.

 

Infrared

IR LEDs are capable of lighting up an area for a black-and-white photo with little-to-no external glow.

The development of infrared photography has been so beneficial to hunters that almost every hunting camera sold today has some sort of IR technology.

 

Wireless Game Cameras

Wireless game camera

The next leap in trail camera technology is happening right now, and it’s the development of wireless game cameras.

There are good wireless game cameras out there, but that technology always comes at a price premium. Some manufacturers also focus more on wireless connectivity than on making a good game camera.

Wireless game cameras come in two types:

  • Cellular
  • Local area

 

Cellular

These game cameras contain the tech necessary to connect to a phone network, most often AT&T or Verizon. They can send messages over MMS or other systems, resulting in an image going directly to your phone!

This is obviously advantageous, as you are alerted to any animal activity even if you’re hundreds of miles away.

However, you typically have to buy a data plan for each cellular game camera, which quickly adds lots of costs. They also need to have several bars of signal, which can be difficult in the wild.

 

Local Area

These game cameras connect to a smartphone app, either through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

Unlike cellular cameras, you don’t need signal or data plans. However, you do have to be much closer to the camera itself. The distance tends to be 30 feet for Bluetooth and 50 feet for Wi-Fi.

However, you still gain the capability of checking your camera for photos without physically touching the device. This can keep your scent away from an area you’re hoping to attract animals to.

 

How to choose?

There are so many game cameras to choose from. How do you know which one will work well for you?

Generally, all game cameras share similar features. You can count on every camera above to take timed or motion-activated photos or video, day or night, and store them onto an SD card of some sort.

If you want to go with the cheapest option, that’s perfectly fine. You’ll likely want to buy a more feature-rich and more expensive model next year. Several, even.

You could even print the list out onto a sheet of paper and toss a dart. Every game camera above is good!

However, if you want to make a more informed decision, here’s some information to help you.

 

Standard or Wireless

Wireless or standard trail camera

The first decision you should make is between a standard game camera and a wireless game camera.

The differences were explained above, so here’s a shortened version:

Standard game cameras are more economical, but you need to physically interact with the unit in order to view the pictures.

So, if you live far from the hunting property, it may be wise to invest in a cellular trail camera. Most of us can get by with standard cameras, though.

 

Image Quality

deer camera megapixels

A big deal is made about camera image quality, but when it comes to actual utility, if the camera takes a recognizable picture, then it’s good enough.

Every game camera made today will take a recognizable picture during the day.

Still, better images are nice when you want to share your images with your friends. It might be tempting to look at the number of megapixels and think that’s equivalent to image quality.

It isn’t.

Megapixels are volume, not quality. A hundred thousand blurry pixels are not better than ten thousand clear pixels. So, while you’ll often get better images with higher MPs, that’s not always the case.

Users will often post pictures taken by their camera when leaving reviews. It’s a good idea to look through those if you’re hoping for beautiful, crisp photos with good contrast and strong colors.

 

Infrared Flash

no glow game camera

When night falls, all color goes away. For game cameras, at least.

Trail cameras use infrared lights, typically from LEDs, to illuminate photos. Here you want to pay attention to three criteria:

  • Strength
  • Distance
  • Balance

IR strength most often comes from adding more LEDs. More LEDs equals more IR light, yielding brighter nighttime photos.

Additional LEDs can sometimes, but not always, add to the distance usable by the camera at night as well. The camera’s design has a lot to do with this aspect, though, so some long-range cameras don’t have as many LEDs as some shorter-range cameras.

In either case, you need a good amount of balance between the IR light and the surrounding darkness. If the camera’s balance is off, then you lose detail. Either the picture will be too dark, or the IR light will wash out any detail.

Note that some cameras good during the day have poor nighttime capabilities. That’s why I recommend the Stealth Cam G42NG when you want good night pictures and the Stealth Cam G30 when you don’t.

It’s also why I don’t recommend the Moultrie A-25; that camera’s night pictures are always washed out and blurry, making them basically unusable.

Some game camera units have specific technologies to make the camera work even better with the LEDs.

 

Detection

What good is a game camera that won’t trigger when a deer walks in front of the camera?

All game cameras have a passive infrared motion sensor. When set to motion activation mode, walking in front of the camera will trigger it to take a photo.

Most game cameras have a 120-degree wide detection area, though some have wider or narrower areas.

Perhaps more important is the detection range. This determines how far back you can put the camera before it’ll fail to detect the animal. You’ll want your camera to be further back so you can capture a wider snapshot.

Also, cameras that are too close to the animal can be noticed by the animal. This may spook some animals, though foxes and bears have been known to investigate trail cameras, sometimes destructively!

 

Trigger Time

trail camera trigger time

Trigger time is the amount of time the camera takes between noticing the animal and taking the photo. This is an area in which most camera manufacturers compete for the fastest possible time.

A fast trigger time does have more advantages than disadvantages. You’re more likely to catch the animal in the shot, and you’re more likely to get a good photo of small and fast animals, such as birds and varmints.

However, a too-fast trigger time can be disadvantageous under certain circumstances. If a slow-moving animal enters the frame, the camera will take a photo too early, wasting space.

Using a burst mode to take multiple pictures, a second or so after each other, can compensate for this at the expense of even more space.

 

Battery Life

Game cameras practically live outdoors. They don’t do anything for you when stored at home, and they don’t do anything for you when their batteries have died either.

Similar cameras set to the same picture resolution and sensor settings can drain the batteries at different rates, so it’s wise to pay attention to users mentioning short or long lifespans.

However, you can affect how long the batteries last several different choices.

 

Battery Types

Using rechargeable batteries is the most economical. However, these batteries last the shortest amount of time, so you’ll need to replace them more often.

Alkaline batteries are cheap but last a middling amount of time. I’d only recommend them when you want to use a game camera for a limited time span.

Lithium batteries provide the longest lifespan of any battery, though you will have to pay more for them. Many hunters prefer the peace of mind of lithium because visiting the camera only to find it’s been dead and not taking photos can be frustrating.

External power packs are another solution and will vastly increase the amount of time you can leave your camera alone. But they can be expensive.

Solar cells are even more expensive, but they turn game cameras into permanent installations. Most can power a trail camera year-round, even in winter.

 

Settings

Game camera settings

Changing certain camera settings can improve your camera’s battery life, too.

Larger photos require more juice to take and store, so choosing a smaller resolution will let the batteries last longer.

You can also set many game cameras to be active only at certain times of day. If you know the deer won’t be roaming at noon, why allow your camera to burn electricity looking for them then?

Videos can be useful, but they are very energy intensive. So is the infrared flash, though you do need that in order to take photos at night.

 

Viewing Screens

Game camera viewing screen

Camera-mounted displays are very useful for checking out the photos without needing to plug the SD card into your computer. Larger is always better here. You’ll see more detail. They won’t be on long enough to hurt the battery life.

Honestly, viewing size isn’t the largest consideration. Internal versus external screens, however…

Internal screens are more protected from the elements. You will need to open the camera’s case to access them, which makes them harder to use for establishing a good camera angle because the camera will move slightly every time you open and close the cover.

Externally mounted screens are easier to use but are also a potential failure point. They can be damaged if the camera falls or if a buck decides to rub the velvet off its antlers on your camera.

I still prefer them for easier setup, though.

 

Video

Video

Videos allow you to observe the animal’s behavior as it passes in front of your camera.

For hunting, I don’t use videos. They take up lots of space but don’t add too much utility in scouting the area.

However, videos are excellent when you’re using the camera to catch a raccoon or criminal. I highly recommend getting a camera with good video capability, preferably with audio, if you’re going to use the camera for security purposes.

 

Storage

Storage

Game cameras all require digital storage in the form of an SD card or a microSD card. The specific model will tell you which type it uses.

I would recommend getting the fastest and largest SD card supported by the hunting camera you choose. SD cards are comparatively cheap, and they always seem to fill up more quickly than expected.

Some cameras will overwrite the oldest photos when it finds out the storage is full. Not all can do this, however, and those will stop taking photos instead!

If you plan to leave the camera alone for long periods at a time, then it’s worth getting one of the few cameras which can support 515GB SD cards. However, if you visit the camera frequently, smaller maximums are acceptable.

 

Security/Anti-Theft

Some cameras can be locked with a password. These can be bypassed by taking out the SD card.

The best security for your game camera is to purchase an external lock. This may help to keep thieves from stealing your camera. I say “may” because any lock can be defeated if the thief really wants your camera.

Hiding the camera well can keep it from being discovered in the first place. Most game cameras are camouflaged, which does help. You can then put them between branches to further hide the camera.

Placing an unsecured camera at eye level on a tree trunk is a good way to attract unwanted attention. Being sneaky when placing the camera can be a better anti-theft measure than setting a password.

Low-glow or no-glow IR LEDs are even better because they are much less likely to attract a potential thief’s attention.

 

Budget/Price

For many people, choosing a game camera comes down to price. This is especially important when you want to use multiple cameras.

Some manufacturers will sell discount packs of two or more cameras. Generally, though, adding more cameras ramps up the cost quickly.

If you need one camera, feel free to splurge a bit and get the best one you can afford. If you want to set up multiple cameras, then it’s a good idea to get the cheaper models. Just make sure they have the features you’re looking for!

 

Top Brands

 

Browning Arms Company

browning

If you’re a sportsman, chances are you know about Browning.

The Browning Arms Company was founded in 1878 by John Moses Browning, the inventor of many semi- and fully-automatic firearms. Military weapons such as the m1911 handgun and the “ma deuce” M2 machine gun were invented by John Moses Browning, along with many pump-action shotguns and lever-action rifles.

He also invented many gun cartridges still used today, such as the .380 ACP, .45 ACP, and .50 BMG.

The Browning corporation still sells firearms, many of which are based on John Moses Browning’s models, but that’s not all they sell anymore.

They also sell fishing rods and tackle, a variety of hunting boots and waders, bows, knives, clothes, and even bicycles. I’m even wearing a pair of Browning socks right now. They’re my favorite wool socks, good for hunting and general use.

Browning’s massive amount of hunting experience gives them good insight into how to make good hunting cameras.

Browning’s gear may not always be the most budget friendly, but it’s typically not too expensive either. I’ve always found it to be a good value, and I know other hunters who do as well.

 

Moultrie

moultrie

Hunting is not just about taking game but also about managing the population to keep the environment in balance. Sometimes this means attracting deer to an area instead of, or alongside, applying hunting pressure.

Moultrie focuses on game management. Their products are primarily aimed at people with property used for maintaining deer herds, though there is obvious overlap with hunters as well. Moultrie has hunting-specific products, too.

Their most famous products are their feeder systems, which are capable of keeping an entire herd of deer fed through drought and winter. Smaller feeding stations are used by some hunters to attract deer to an area.

Since deer are skittish, a game camera is a good way to keep watch on these feeding stations, so you know which deer are using them and when.

Also, squirrels and raccoons are notorious for stealing from these feeders, so Moultrie developed game cameras which can track those little fellas as well.

Most Moultrie cameras can also be upgraded to use Moultrie Mobile. This service attaches a cellular modem to the camera, turning it into a wireless game camera.

So, you can buy an inexpensive standard Moultrie camera now and add wireless capabilities later.

Moultrie also sells bird and fish feeders as well as bear, deer, and hog attractants.

 

F.A.Q.

FAQs

 

How many trail cameras do I need?

Depending on your property, you may need just one camera or many cameras.

If you’re using game cameras for home security, then answering this question is easy. You need one camera for each object, such as a doorway, you want covered.

But for hunting, more is often better. Full coverage of an area can require many cameras!

For maximum scouting, put a camera at each of these sites:

  • Feeding areas
  • Sleeping areas
  • High-traffic spots
  • Wherever a trail crosses the hunting boundary
  • Every hunting blind or tree stand

That’s a lot of cameras!

Unless you’re running a commercial enterprise, you don’t really need that many cameras.

Instead, you should scout the area on foot and note down any areas which seem like they might make good hunting. Pick the top three and install a camera at each location.

If any of those areas end up not having many animals, then move that camera to a new location. Make sure to keep one camera watching any feeders you have, though.

You can do this with one camera if you have a small budget. It’ll be a lot less efficient, though.

 

How do I use trail cameras?

After scouting out potential camera locations, you need to set up the camera. Follow these steps:

  1. Turn on the camera at home and go through initial configuration according to the manual,
  2. Set up the camera at home and test to make sure it works,
  3. Bring the camera to the field,
  4. Find a spot a little way away from the chosen location, within the maximum detection range.
  5. Strap or mount the camera in that spot. The more hidden the better!
  6. Test the camera by walking through the location and checking the SD card to make sure it recorded the photo.
  7. Leave the location alone for a while—you just left your scent there!
  8. Return after a while to check the SD card and go through the pictures

For more in-depth advice check our our full guide to setting up a game camera.

 

Can game cameras be used for home security?

Game cameras are a great choice for home security!

They are easy to hide and, thanks to their motion detection, will catch any trespassers who pass through the detection zone.

The only problem with using a trail camera for security is that they won’t alert you when triggered. This can be solved by using a cellular camera, though.

 

Will game cameras work through glass?

Game cameras can take pictures and videos through a glass window. That doesn’t make it a good idea, though.

A clear window will still reflect some light. This makes the PIR sensor practically useless and can blowout pictures taken with the infrared flash.

However, a trail camera put up against the window then set to take pictures on a timer will work pretty well.

If you’re worried about someone stealing your camera, you can always use a lock or use a no-glow camera and hide it inside a bush.

 

Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson learned to walk in the mountains and has spent much of his life exploring the outdoors. He is equally at home in the woods, at the range, or on the gunsmithing bench, and loves to build guns almost as much as he enjoys shooting them. His travels have taken him to the four corners of the United States. Though his favorite hunting spot is in Alaska, Kansas deer taste better.

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