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Benefits of Traditional vs. Cellular Trail Cameras

Situations for Both Traditional and Cellular Trail Cameras

When the rut really kicks into gear, is there anything better than looking at the pictures on your trail cameras? Well, actually sitting in a tree stand bow hunting would be better, but it’s a very close second. Loading the images from your SD cards rivals the anticipation of a kid on Christmas morning, and it never gets old. But with the capabilities of cellular trail cameras these days, how does that change the game for you? Is there still a place for traditional trail cams? In this post, we’ll talk about the pros and cons of each type of trail camera, some specific settings to use, and the best situations to use them in. 

Wireless Trail Cameras

Wireless trail cameras are the same thing as cellular trail cameras – essentially, they have the same capabilities as a traditional trail camera, but they can send pictures and/or videos to your phone. It requires some kind of data plan to go along with it since it uses a cellular network to send the pictures. These trail cameras have really affected deer hunting in a positive way, for the reasons mentioned below. Specifically, we love the Bushnell® Impulse trail camera. It can send videos (1080p quality) and pictures (up to 20 megapixels) to your phone to save you time in the field. It has a 0.2 second trigger speed to capture fast motion, and a no flow flash so it doesn’t spook any animals. Importantly, this Bushnell wireless trail camera also sorts photos by weather conditions (e.g., moon phase, wind speeds, etc.) so you can detect patterns in deer movement much easier. Here are some of the pros and cons.

Pros: 

  • Cellular trail cameras are perfect for hunting locations that are far from home or inconvenient to get to. After sneaking into a sensitive area and placing it, all you have to do is check your phone from the comfort of your home, while at work, or anywhere else.  
  • They also change your scouting strategies and effectiveness drastically. Every time you enter the woods and try to pattern a mature buck, you risk the chance of spooking him or educating him to your plans. By going in one time for a quick scouting trip and placing a cellular trail camera, you can minimize the disturbance you leave behind. 

 

Cons: 

  • Because of the high quality and technological innovation, the cost for cellular trail cameras is inevitably more than traditional cameras. It’s a justified cost for most people, but it’s something to consider.  
  • Your productivity doing anything else but looking at your trail camera pictures might plummet! 

Traditional Trail Camera

Traditional trail cameras are the ones that save pictures to an SD card, which you then have to physically retrieve to view. They still have their place in the woods, for a few situations discussed below. Specifically, we like the Bushnell® Core DS No Glow trail camera. The DS stands for “dual sensors – it has separate sensors for day and night to produce sharper, higher quality images in both situations. With an 80-foot night range and no glow technology, you will get more pictures of bucks sneaking through. It can take up to 30 megapixel photos and 1080p videos and has an in-camera LCD review screen. Check out their pros and cons below. 

Pros: 

  • Traditional cameras are great choices for hunting properties close to home or in areas where you can easily sneak in and out of without disturbing deer. 
  • Generally, they take higher quality images than cellular trail cameras because it just uploads it to the inserted SD card. 
  • They are often cheaper than a cellular camera and don’t require a cellular trail camera plan to operate. 

 

Cons: 

  • You have to retrieve the card each time you want to review the photos, which can be risky when trying to pattern a mature buck. 

Michael Waddell’s Settings for Trail Cameras

Regular trail cameras:

  • On bait (feeder, Big & J chum pile), 1 min delay
  • On scrapes, sign, or trail 10-30 sec. (Depending on SD card capacity and how frequently you plan on checking them)

 

Wireless cameras:

  • On bait, 1-5 minute delay (To save on battery life since they use more battery power).

The cool part about the wireless is you can change the settings frequently and maximize the use of the thumbnails that you are paying for. For example, if you notice a lot of raccoons or something, you can update your settings to 5 min to take less photos of them and preserve space and battery. Then you can change it back to 1 min during the morning hours.

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Situations for Each Type of Trail Camera

After reading through the pros and cons of each kind of trail camera, hopefully you understand their strengths and weaknesses. Here are some of the best situations to use each camera. 

Cellular Trail Cameras

  • Bedding Areas – the best trail camera for sensitive bedding areas are cellular options. You can sneak in early in the season, hang a cellular trail camera, and sneak back out. Then you can receive regular updates on which bucks are there and how or when they use the area. 
  • Travel Corridors/Funnels – trails and pinch points are great spots for wireless trail cameras too. Once you find an active trail or scrape site, you can put up a camera and get out of there before you leave scent behind. This tactic can also be used on mock scrape sites. 
  • Food Plots – while some food plots might consist of larger agricultural fields with regular human disturbance, some are in remote locations or near sensitive areas. These latter options are perfect for a cellular trail cam because you don’t have to disturb them.

Traditional Trail Camera

  • Bait Sites – where legal to use, bait sites are good options to continue using traditional game cameras. Whether for hunting purposes or trail camera surveys on your property, bait sites are very attractive to whitetails. You need to return at somewhat regular intervals to replace the deer feed anyway, so it’s no problem to swap out the SD cards while you’re there. 
  • Food Plots – on larger fields where deer are used to human presence (e.g., hayfields, corn/soybean fields, etc.), keeping a traditional camera on the edge is a good move. You can use a time-lapse function to scan the field every 5 minutes and get an idea for how deer move across it. 
  • Close to Home – if you’re lucky enough to be able to hunt on your own property behind the house, deer are definitely used to your presence. Running a normal game camera in these areas is also very useful because it doesn’t disturb the deer and you can easily switch the cards out at any point of the day in just a few minutes.

While the power and utility of cellular trail cameras is incredible, there’s still an important place for regular trail cameras too. Using a mix of the two options where you hunt is a potent hunting strategy to put a mature whitetail in your truck bed. 

 

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