The one thing every hunter wants to know is where the animals hang out when we are not looking. That is essentially what a good trail camera allows us to track.
We can actually set our stands based on animal movement, or we can verify that our stand location is a good one. In this article, we will cover how to select the very best hunting trail camera and get the most value for your dollar.
Summary: 5 Best Game Cameras
|VicTsing Tail Camera 12MP||No-glow flash, fast trigger time, big LCD display, IP66 waterproof, lateral sensors||Works better set on low resolution|
|Amcrest ATC-1201G 12MP Trail Camera||Remote, good trigger speed, good resolution||Short battery life, Shiny finish|
|Wildgame Innovations 360Degree Trail Cam||360-degree range, 6-month standby||Price, video skips, limited mounting options|
|ZenNutt Trail Camera HD||Price, memory card included, standby time||Picture resolution, video resolution|
|Covert MP8 Trail Camera||Picture stamps, battery life, ease of use||Trigger time, resolution, narrow viewing angle|
What is Important in a Good Trail Camera?
To understand how to select a trail camera, you must understand how the game camera works. The key to effective photos and videos is to have a model that snaps a camera quickly, does not alert the animal, and has a resolution that will allow you to count the points on a buck’s rack.
Other considerations are durability, ease of use, the convenience of viewing, and battery life. All these items will affect your experience with the game camera. Here are the specifications to which you should pay attention:
- Photo megapixels
- Video resolution
- Trigger speed
- Night vision type
- Viewing angle
- Sensor angles
- Picture stamps
- Standby time
- Flash range
Where Should I Set It Up?
Setting up a trail camera in the perfect location is an art in and of itself. Unlike some hunters I know, I cannot afford to buy a dozen cameras and cover every inch of my land. With only one or two cameras, you really have to make your location count. Here are some tips on where to set up your camera:
- Pick a location with lots of sign. This can include deer trails, rubs, scrapes, and droppings. It is also a good idea to focus on locations where you have actually seen deer. This is more valuable than trails or rubs that could be from last season.
- Maximize visibility. Most cameras have a flash range of 65 to 70 feet. You should have clear visibility at least to this distance throughout the viewing area. That means if your camera is a 360-degree camera, it should have a clear view out to 65 feet in all directions.
- Point your camera in a parallel direction to the travel of the animals. If you point it perpendicular to the direction of travel, the camera may only have a split second to capture the image. By keeping the animal in the view of the camera longer, you will get more pictures and better video.
- Be cautious of false triggers. This is when something other than an animal triggers the motion sensor and sets off your camera. False triggers are frustrating, but they can also kill your battery and memory card. Try to avoid pointing the camera at trees that sway in the wind or tall grasses that blow back and forth. Do not point the camera near any roads or trails where people walk or drive. Make sure the camera is secure so it does not move in the wind.
- Be aware of the height of your camera. If you are setting up near a game trail, your camera must be at the optimal height or you could get a picture of a hoof or tail. If you are targeting deer, set the camera at the height of a deer’s head while walking. This would be about chest high for me. That way you will have the best shot of catching antlers in your picture or video.
- Avoid light sources. If you have a floodlight on your property, you may think that you will take better pictures near the light. Aside from scaring off the animals, this light could also affect the flash on your camera. It is best if your camera is set up in an area that is pitch black at night.
- Avoid glare. Glare on still pictures and video can absolutely destroy the images. To avoid this, it is best to point your camera to the North. This angle gives you the smallest possibility of glare on your lens. Shady areas can also help with this as long as it does not cut into visibility.
- More is better. There is no such thing as too much scouting or information. I feel that this is the area of hunting that is most often overlooked. There is no need to go nuts with it, but if you can afford several cameras then get them. If possible, you want to have a camera on every stand and on every spot you are considering for a stand. You also want one or two backups in case one goes down.
- Do not check your cameras too often. Every time you set foot in the area, you increase the chances of spooking the deer. Touch as little as possible and use cover-up scent on your boots. If you can check your pictures and video on the display versus taking the SD card back to your computer, that eliminates half of your trips to the camera.
- Be wary of other hunters. People may steal your camera or steal your hunting spot on public land. There are boxes you can buy for your trail camera that lock and protect your equipment and information. You should also try to avoid checking your camera with snow on the ground as other hunters may follow your tracks.
- Stay organized. I suggest you assign a number to each camera and label it along with the SD card. If you have several cameras, there will be a point where you have a bunch of cameras or cards on a table and they tend to get mixed up. You should also have a separate file folder on your computer for each camera so you can keep track of the pictures and videos.
- Update your software. Each of these cameras has software that needs to be updated periodically for it to keep working properly. I suggest either updating all of them at once early in the year or updating one at a time with a rotation using a backup camera to replace the one you are updating.
- Take pictures after the season is over. If you are targeting one or two big bucks, it is nice to know if they survived the season. Even if you hunt on private property, this is a good idea. Bucks will cover about 400 acres during the rut, so if you do not own that much land there is a chance that somebody else got your buck.
- Use bait or mineral licks where legal to draw in the animals. If you really want a good idea of what animals are nearby, this is the way to do it. By drawing the animals to your camera you can use fewer cameras and view a much higher percentage of the animals. However, be prepared for some false triggers. Bait and mineral licks attract more than just deer.
Reviews of the 5 Best Trail Cameras for the Money
Editor’s Choice: VicTsing Tail Camera 12MP Review
This camera tops the competition in several different categories. It has the highest resolution of 12 megapixels and 1080p video, and the videos include audio as well. It has a .2 second trigger time which is by far the fastest of the models we reviewed. That being said, it has a reasonable price tag which fell in the middle of our group.
The flash range is 65 feet, which is pretty standard for these models. However, this model has a black-light no glow flash which is not visible, unlike the infra-red flashes. It comes with a 2.4” LCD display screen which is the largest of our group. This screen allows you to make adjustments, view photos, and watch videos without removing the SD card.
This camera can run for about six months on standby which is respectable for these high-resolution cameras. The equipment will also last a long time as the waterproofing is IP66 rated. This is a rating that can handle strong gusts of wind and water like you would see in hurricane conditions. In fact, some owners said theirs had actually survived a hurricane.
There are a few unique benefits to this unit as well. It can record video up to three minutes long. Most models cut you off with shorter video lengths. It also comes with a wall mount in case you do not want to mount it to a tree. It is also the only non-360 unit that has sensors pointing out to the sides to catch motion that would otherwise be missed.
The only complaint we have on this model is that it tends to operate better when set at a lower resolution. If you do not need to count the hairs on your buck’s head, you might want to turn it down a notch.
Pros: No-glow flash, fast trigger time, big LCD display, IP66 waterproof, lateral sensors
Cons: Works better set on low resolution
The Amcrest is another high-quality option with some nice features. It also has 12 megapixels and 1080p video resolution along with a 2” LCD display screen on which you can view both pictures and videos. It also has a price tag falling in the middle of our range, so the value is apparent.
This camera has a .7 second trigger speed which is the second best of our group. The camera has a 100-degree field of view which is better than average for trail cameras. It also has a 65-foot infra-red flash range. It is a small camera which helps make it easier to hide.
The camera comes with a remote control to adjust all of the settings from a distance. If you have several units and have a line of sight, this could be very helpful. The time stamp records the moon phase which is quite important for tracking behavior, and the video feature records audio as well.
The downsides of this unit are minor, but they are there. The casing has a shiny finish which could spook game. The unit says that batteries will keep it on standby for three months which is the worst battery life of the models we reviewed. However, in all reality, it is less than three months.
Pros: Remote, good trigger speed, good resolution
Cons: Short battery life, Shiny finish
The Wildgame is mainly impressive because it is the only 360-degree camera in the price range we reviewed. This gives you about four times the viewing range of a standard trail camera. The 360 range makes it ideal for a food plot where you have not yet placed a stand.
The picture quality is 12 megapixels, but the video quality is only 720p. It has a 1.5-second trigger speed making it the slowest of the group. This is largely due to the rotating lens and flash. There are six present points to which the lens will move once motion is detected. We did not find this movement to be enough to spook deer.
This unit has an infra-red flash with a 70-foot range. The battery can stay on standby for 6 months putting it in the middle of the group.
There are a few drawbacks to this model. Recording video even at 720p will cause it to skip, and putting the sensors on the highest sensitivity will cause false triggers. The only option for video is 30 seconds long, so they can eat up memory quickly.
It has an LCD screen but it is small and the print is hard to read. It is also only for settings. Photos and videos cannot be viewed on the screen. Because it is a 360-degree model, there is only one mounting option. This is a T-post with only one height setting. It also has the highest price of our group.
Pros: 360-degree range, 6-month standby
Cons: Price, video skips, limited mounting options
ZenNutt Trail Camera HD Review
This camera mainly made the list because of the price. It runs about 30% less than the next camera on the list. At 8 megapixels and 720p resolution, it is the lowest resolution of the cameras we reviewed.
This model does come with a 16GB memory card which is a nice benefit the others do not have. The video also records audio. You can insert anywhere from 4 to 12 batteries in this model giving you up to an entire year of standby.
The trigger time on this camera is .8-1.2 seconds putting it in the middle of our group. The pictures have a time and temperature stamp which is helpful for tracking purposes. There is no display at all leaving you with buttons and switches to adjust the settings. You would think this might make it more difficult to operate, but it is surprisingly simple.
Pros: Price, memory card included, standby time
Cons: Picture resolution, video resolution
Covert MP8 Trail Camera Review
This camera is towards the upper end of our price range and is lacking some features you can get with less expensive models. The resolution is 8 megapixels, so picture quality can be lacking. It has a 1 to 1.5 second trigger time putting it towards the high side. It also has a narrow viewing angle making it harder to get an ideal picture or video.
This model does have some nice benefits. The pictures are stamped with temperature, moon phase, time, and battery life. This can allow you to see how much battery is left just by looking at the pictures on the memory card. It has a good battery life and it is easy to use.
Pros: Picture stamps, battery life, ease of use
Cons: Trigger time, resolution, narrow viewing angle
We found that the best hunting trail camera was the VicTsing. It has a no-glow flash, the fastest trigger time, the best resolution, and the largest LCD display. This camera has the best chance of getting an ideal picture consistently. It is also quite easy to use.
The VicTsing has the highest level of waterproofing we found, so we expect that it will likely last the longest in adverse weather conditions. It also has lateral sensors allowing it to cover a large area despite being a directional camera. This opens up several mounting options.
We hope that this review will help you select the best game camera option. If you enjoyed our article, please take the time to comment and repost it on social media. We are happy your new trail camera will help your scouting and hunting efforts.
More guides: Hunting Action Cameras