How to get the best wildlife images from cellular trail cams
By integrating wireless communication with high-resolution imagery, cellular trail cameras allow us to remotely monitor and study the secret lives of wildlife like never before. With traditional trail cams, you have to physically swap out the memory card, which risks contaminating the area with your scent.
Not so with cellular cameras, which send photos and videos directly to your smartphone or home computer. Here’s what to keep in mind to ensure you get quality results.
Since cellular trail cams send and receive digital data, they use up power more quickly than traditional trail cams. Fortunately, there are several options that don’t require you to visit your camera to swap out batteries. First, you can connect a rechargeable 12-volt battery pack, which provides a continuous power source and lasts longer than standard AA batteries. You can also connect a solar panel, which can recharge the camera’s batteries during daylight hours.
As well, cellular trail cams can be programmed to only capture and transmit images during scheduled time ranges, which saves power. You can also adjust the trigger frequency and sensitivity so the camera doesn’t waste power by taking multiple photos of the same animal, or get triggered by falling leaves.
As with traditional trail cams, it’s important to securely set up your cellular cam where there’s plenty of adequate lighting. You also want to ensure a clear line of sight, so remove any obstructions and nearby undergrowth, which can creep into your photos as things green up in the spring. And to help keep the lens clear of frost on cold winter mornings, place the camera so it’s facing south. At the same time, mount it 10 feet off the ground, pointing downward. This doubly serves to keep it out of reach of animals (and humans), while preventing blown-out photos from the sun. You can also strap plastic bird spikes or two-inch PVC pipes around the antenna to protect it from critters.
When selecting a cellular network plan for your camera, consider the network’s compatibility, the amount of coverage in the area you’ll be hunting, and the contract terms. Offering various features, these plans require subscriptions, with the fees based on data usage. For one set of my cameras, I purchase the SIM card plan and program the cameras to transmit the images directly to me via email or text. On another set of cameras, I pay for access to an online application to view my images. Shop around to learn the pros and cons of each plan.