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Exploring Game and Trail Cameras For Wildlife Observation and Prepper Security


One of the first security cameras that many preppers and homesteaders purchase is a game camera. There are many advantages to game cameras. For those that have not had a game camera in years, I need to point out that you get a lot more for your money than you once did.

Game Cameras are very rugged for the price you pay

Game cameras are used outdoors and have to be able to take some abuse from the weather and be protected from impacts.

Cameras exist that run on solar or batteries

AA batteries are the most common power source, but you will find some in this post that are wireless and run on solar power or batteries.

SD cards are the normal way to store pictures and film

Some cameras do video better or longer than others. It is important to remember that video takes up a lot of memory on a card. If your camera is limited to 32G SD cards, you might just fill up a card faster than you might think. You can take a lot of pictures and store them on a 32G card. The better the resolution, the more memory, and storage it takes. The maximum video length for most game cameras is in the 1.5- 2-minute range.

Placement

You need to ask yourself what areas are most important for you to observe. A lot of people choose main entry points or areas where they have valuable equipment or outbuildings that they want to be able to protect against theft. Of course, you may want to actually find out what type of animal is sneaking around your hen house at night or perhaps you do want to find out more about wildlife activity so that you can put some extra meat in the freezer.

It may take a while to get the position right.

You will need to place your camera where you think is best and then stepped close enough to take a few pictures from different approaches. Review the pictures and correct as needed. You may get it right the first time, but it is good to check when first setting up any new observation point.

Don’t use megapixels as the determining factor in your buying decision

High megapixel ratings do not necessarily mean that you are getting a better picture. Cameras that boast of super high megapixel ratings sometimes have a poor quality lens so the quality may be no better or even worse than a camera that has a lower megapixel rating.

Trigger and recovery times are important

The time that elapses from the time your camera senses motion to the time it takes a picture is important but so is recovery time. Your recovery time is how fast the camera can snap a second image.

Detection Zone

How far out do you want your camera to be able to sense motion?  Game cameras can have a detection range of 40 ft-120 ft. In general, you get what you pay for. Game cameras also only have a certain range of view.

No Glow Versus Red Glow

When pictures are taken at night, different types of illumination can help you get a better picture.

No glow cameras don’t produce light that is visible to people. This type of camera is great for those that want a trail camera for security

Red Glow cameras have a slight red glow that is produced by a very small infrared emitter. This small level of light makes all the difference when taking photos at night. For those that are mostly interested in night photos and are not concerned about people seeing the slight light. These cameras are not as expensive as comparable models that emit no light at all.

Using the right type of batteries can make a big difference in the performance and photo quality you get from your camera.

Alkaline batteries are a poor choice. Every time a picture is taken, the next photo will not be quite as illuminated. This may not be too noticeable at first, but it does not take long. The effect is worse in cold temperatures because the chemical reaction that takes place in alkaline batteries is very sensitive to cold temperatures. Lithium batteries work well as do NIMH rechargeable batteries.

Game cameras are prone to theft, but there are things you can do to prevent this from happening

Game cameras can be easily stolen if they are in a spot that is easy to reach. Putting one up higher in a tree can be helpful, but it also has an impact on the angle of your pictures and thus the details that may be important if you are using it for security purposes. This is one reason people buy the no glow cameras and hide them well. There are many different ways to hide a camera.

Even if your camera is not stolen, it may be damaged beyond repair or the lens may get painted or screwed up. Some may just take your SD card and destroy that, but there is a good chance that even if they take the card or destroy the card, they will probably break your camera too just to be sure, Thieves don’t necessarily know or think about the capability of your camera, they may very well just want to make sure there is absolutely no way that anyone gets their hands on any evidence to hold against them.

Special security boxes are available for many types of game camera. These provide armored protection so even if someone covers the lens or paints it, you can still use your camera later. Always check to make sure you are getting the right size security box for your camera.

Battery Life

Some cameras have better battery life than others. You need to make sure you are comfortable with power requirements and remember to check your batteries. It is very easy to forget to check only to find out you have not been taking pictures for days.

Warranty Offered

Like any product, there are different levels of warranties out there. A one year warranty is pretty standard on the least expensive units whereas the higher grade units may offer warranties of 3-5 years. Some people think that very long warranties are just a sales gimmick while others may have greater peace of mind if they think their investment is protected on some level.

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I see warranties as a small glimpse of how much confidence a company has that their product with last. Makers of cheaper goods are well aware that they would be pushing it to offer more than a year on some things. Warranties don’t always cover everything either so make sure to read up if it is a major selling point for you.

 

Note you must also purchase a home unit receiver to use this system.  Follow this link for receiver purchase info.

  • 20 Megapixels
  •  No glow illumination
  • 100-foot flash zone
  • 0.25 second trigger time
  • 1-2 second recovery time
  • Requires  12 AA batteries per camera but each camera has up to a 10,000 image or 6-month battery life
  • Includes a 16G SD card but will accept up to a 32G SD Card
  •  1080P HD Video
  • 2 year warranty against defects if you register online. They also offer a reduced cost replacement program for up to 5 years.

Cuddeback has a unique proprietary mesh network that allows cameras to repeat signals over several miles making it an excellent choice for those that want an extensive camera network without resorting to 3G services that must be purchased. Due to the complexity of this system, it’s not an inexpensive solution to security or game camera needs. 

I think this camera system is a viable alternative to some security systems and has the advantage of wireless connectivity. Not all home security systems are wireless, and that really limits where you can put cameras.

A cable lock for each camera helps protect against theft by people or wildlife alike. I like the idea of the lock when it comes to preventing drops and falls.

You can link up to 15 cameras together using this system.

  • 16 Megapixels
  • Infrared LED illumination
  • 80-foot detection zone and 120-foot flash zone
  • 0.40 second trigger time
  • 0.80 second recovery time
  • Requires 6 AA batteries
  • Includes a 16G SD card but will accept up to a 512G card
  • 5 second -2 minute 1280 x 720 HD Video w/ Sound
  • 1-year warranty against defects

Browning makes some excellent products and their trail cameras continue to live up to that reputation. The Browning Strikeforce is an exceptional value for the quality you get. For starters, it accepts a much larger SD card than most trail cameras, including those that cost almost double! You can fit a lot of pics and video on a 512G card compared to the 32G max size accepted by many brands of camera.

If video is important to you, then you will be happy to see that this little camera will take up to 2 minutes of video. When researching cameras, I found that 1-1.5 minutes is the limit for videos with a lot of different models.

The camera pattern is not the most important feature but I personally think it blends in a little better than some in my area. We have a lot of oak trees.

 

  • 12 Megapixels
  •  Super low glow illumination
  • 75-foot detection zone and 90-foot flash zone
  • 0.07 second trigger time
  • 0. second recovery time
  • Requires  6 AA batteries that are rechargeable but the solar panel keeps them topped off
  • Will accept up to a 32G  SD card, but you must purchase a card separately
  • Records 720P HD Video. From what I can gather it will keep recording until it runs out of room on your SD card.
  • 2-year warranty against defects

Spy Point solar game cameras offer longer battery life, giving them extended field time. The solar panel keeps batteries charged up. Although the detection and flash zone capabilities are lower than some less expensive cameras, the trigger time claims to be the fastest of any game camera at less than a 1/10 of a second. 

Some users report that the camera will record video until it runs out of memory, but I am betting that there is a way to set it to record more reasonable length videos.

A 2 inch LCD screen allows for quick review of pics and video without having to take the card out and put it in a computer or tablet.

If you want a camera that you don’t have to change out batteries and that will perform well at remote locations, this is a camera to consider. The price tag is a bit steep, but you are getting a good quality camera with a 2-year warranty, which is a year longer than most.

 

 

  • 16 Megapixels
  • Low glow illumination
  • Motion activated 100-foot detection zone and 80-foot flash zone
  • 0.3 second trigger time
  • 1.0  second recovery time
  • Requires 8 AA batteries
  • Will accept up to a 32G SD card which must be purchased separately.
  •  5-60 second long 1080P  HD Videos
  • 1-year warranty against defects

Bushnell HD is a brand name game camera at an affordable cost. For those that just want a basic game camera with a good detection zone and reasonable flash zone, it is a decent and readily available option. I have some Bushnell binoculars that were bought years ago. Bushnell seems to make quality optics. It may not be the absolute best, but you don’t always need the most expensive brands to get a quality product that performs well for your situation. 

The recovery time between pictures is a little slower than some, but I honestly don’t think it matters that much. 1 second is not long. The HD video feature on this camera is higher resolution than some at 1080P instead of 720P which means videos take up more storage space on an SD card than some cameras in this post. You are limited to a 60-second video which is not surprising considering the resolution,

 

 

  • 3 Megapixels
  • No glow illumination
  • foot detection zone and 150-foot flash zone
  • 0.25 second trigger time
  • 0. second recovery time
  • Requires  batteries
  • Includes a G SD card but will accept up to a G card
  •  Records 720P HD videos up to 90 seconds in length
  • year warranty against defects

 This is a high-quality compact camera with advanced features like long-range IR illumination, loop recording, and rugged antitheft design. Out of all the cameras in this post, this is the best one for security in urban environments.

You might be surprised how much wildlife activity occurs in the city at night after using this camera. The video features of this camera stand out. I do like that the video is 720P instead of an even higher resolution.

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Too much resolution takes up a lot of memory. If you use the camera in video mode, it will keep recording until you fill up your SD card and then it will record over the previous video.  This could be a positive or negative thing, so you want to make sure that you set up the camera in the mode that is best for you.

 

  • 0.7-1.2 second response time
  • Night vision capabilities up to 30 feet out
  • Solar powered and completely wireless but can be powered with two 18650 batteries that are not included with purchase
  •  1080P HD video that can be streamed to your smartphone
  • Accepts up to a 64G SD card for storage
  • Built-in microphone and speaker
  • I was not able to find warranty info, but most cameras offer at least a 1-year warranty against defects.

This solar powered and wifi enabled camera is good for keeping an eye out close to your house. The camera will stream directly to your smartphone so you can keep an eye on things with ease.

There are no batteries or wires to worry about with this camera. You do have to consider the exposure of the solar panel when deciding where is best to place your camera. You can buy batteries, but it is a lot easier just to be a little bit careful about placement.

Different modes allow for video or for taking pictures. This camera is a real bargain for the features you get. From the information I could gather this camera can be set to send an alert to your mobile phone if motion is detected by the camera. I actually might buy one of these as an alternative to the nonsolar Nest Cameras.  This camera is half the price and seems to be more rugged and functional.

 

  • 12 Megapixels
  •  Invisible flash
  • 65 foot night flash zone
  • 0.5 second trigger time
  • Less than 2 second recovery time
  • Requires  12 AA batteries
  • Runs off 3G internet and saves to a virtual drive. No SD cards to worry about but you do have to purchase a data plan. $30 per year is the starting rate for 12 months of use so while it is an expense, it is not a large one.
  •  720 HD video
  • Takes up to a 32G SD card that is not included
  • 1 year warranty against defects

This 3g cellphone enabled game camera is good for watching your bug out cabin or remote property. Yes, this does require a data plan but at a starting cost of $30 per year and the ability to watch your place from a great distance, it could be worth it. The first 30 days are free and then you can get a data plan from My Sim Hero according to the description. 

No security system is free of operating costs. Of course, the downside is that for this camera to work you have to be within cell phone range so for extremely remote properties, it is not going to work out. 

With the Bigfoot, you can get photos sent to your email. This means you can get photos without going to the location of the camera for review.

The camera does take 12 AA batteries which sounds like a lot but consider that you can leave this camera for up to a year without changing them.

  • 14 Megapixels
  •  No glow or illumination
  • 60 foot flash and detection zone
  • Less than 0.75 second trigger time
  • Requires  8 AA batteries
  • Includes a 8G SD card but will accept up to a 32G card
  • Takes short 15 second videos at 720p HD quality. Note: I did read that some users report that it will do videos up to a minute. This is a more up to date version than the model I have.
  • 1 year warranty against defects

This camera is a very basic starter camera. This brand is commonly found at Wal-Mart as well as Amazon. My husband and I have a few of these. They are okay, but they do not take the best quality picture. They are camo and tree colored, so it is easy to place them, so they are not easily seen. You will need to keep watch on the batteries in this camera, so this is not the best choice for a camera at a remote location. Even with ours placed where we often were, it was easy to forget about batteries.

If you just want some cheap and basic security you can move around; it is worth looking at. Just realize that if you find you really like using game cameras, you will probably want to upgrade soon.

You may decide that you want several types of camera to meet your security and wildlife observation needs

Like most things, there is no best solution for every situation. If you have a large area or property or multiple properties, you may want different cameras. For example, I might put a camera that is not visible to people near a front door, but a red glow camera might be my choice for the deer trail in the woodlot.

What game or trail cameras have you been happy with? While researching this article, it was clear that there are pros and cons to any camera regardless of cost. I would be very interested to hear comments from those that use wireless cameras that transmit back via an app or to a home base unit like the Cudde Back.

I know from using a relay system with our internet connection that terrain and obstacles have a big impact on how well things transmit. With advanced cameras costing so much, it is so important to know what they are really capable of. Although I tried to glean some info, it is hard to gauge some of the wireless or 3G cameras.

Samantha Biggers can be reached at [email protected].




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