Trail cameras are not just valuable hunting tools; instead, use them for family fun and education.
Our family has been running trail cameras year-round for more than 20 years. During that time, technology has changed from 35mm film with 24 exposures to digital cameras with SD cards that hold thousands of pictures. The cost also has changed: In the past a quality camera easily cost $500, then we’d have to send off the film to be processed just to see what 24 exposures it captured. Today, good cameras are less than $200, and if you’re lucky, during the summer months you can find them on sale for less than $100.
Below are 10 ways you can use trail cameras to entertain your family in the outdoors all year long.
1. Watch a buck grow
After bucks drop their antlers in late winter, new ones begin to grow. We put cameras out in the spring and watch them grow throughout the summer months.
2. Get started early
We start the season in May, by setting our cameras on bait piles to quickly get an inventory of the bucks that are using our property. Where legal, corn and mineral licks work well to draw deer to a camera for consistent pictures. Stay up to date on baiting laws. In late summer, we move the cameras to natural scrapes and game trails. This helps us pattern the animals we are targeting.
3. Watch song birds
Even if you’re not a hunter, trail cams are fun, because they capture pictures of all types of wildlife. Do you love song birds? Put a camera next to a bird feeder in the winter. Catching birds in mid-flight make great pictures. The cardinal and blue jays are especially beautiful with a white, snowy backdrop.
4. Know what's around
We have a healthy population of flying squirrels on our land that we knew nothing about. Our trail cameras helped us discover them. Trail cameras are great for inventorying all of the various animals that use your property.
5. Keep interests high
Using game cameras helps keep kids interested in the outdoors. They will have fun anticipating what animals they’ll discover. They’ll also enjoy finding spots to place cameras while learning about game trails and other wood skills.
6. Stay involved
Keeping up with trail cameras also keeps you and your family active in the outdoors year round. Whether you walk in to change camera cards or ride a quad to distant locations, this activity gets your family outside and enjoying the beauty of nature.
7. Be an observer
You can capture elusive animals and what they do in their daily lives. We had cameras on a fox den and were able to watch how they interacted.
8. Winter tactics
One of the most interesting ways to use a camera is to place it near a carcass during the winter. Winter months are lean times for all wildlife, so many animals welcome a free meal. You may capture pictures of a variety of predators and scavengers.
Early summer, you may want to switch to the video mode on your camera. During this time, does will be with their fawns, whose antics are always entertaining.
10. Narrow down the field
Trail cameras help you target a specific game animal. I knew there was a big gobbler with an 11-inch beard and long spurs running with two bearded hens this past spring. By checking the cameras daily, I knew which side of the farm he was on. This helped me take a great bird.
Warning: Trail cameras can be addicting. I often find myself getting up early before work to watch the animals. If you have any interest in the outdoors, running trail cameras will give you and your family a new insight and respect for the animals in the forest.