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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre Wildlife Talk
Thread started 04 Mar 2017 (Saturday) 09:12
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Are Trail Cams useful to you as a wildlife photographer?

 
JohnMajor
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Joined Oct 2012
Schenectady NY USA
Mar 04, 2017 09:12 |  #1

I've searched through the forums and have found surprisingly few mentions of trail cams (or game cams), so am starting a thread to ask you to share any thoughts or experiences on this topic. A couple weeks ago I purchased 2 Browning Strike Force trail cams at about $80 each, and was impressed enough by my back yard tests that I added 2 more. Video capability, both day and night, exceeded my expectations, daytime still photos are about what I expected, and nighttime photos not as good as I'd hoped (part probably a learning curve on my end, and have found tech support from Browning helpful). With snow on the ground and the ability to look for a track record, I am confident that the cameras are detecting animals within a useful range and not missing anything. There are very few trigger events where there is no animal in the frame, and I believe that most of these are due to the detection cone being bigger than the lens coverage, at least on this model, since I have several images/videos where I can just catch a tip of an ear close to the camera or find an animal in subsequent frames.

My interests have been to document who (species, number, "quality") is around, especially for the more secretive and nocturnal species, and to get a better idea of activity patterns to make more efficient use of my stake outs with my DSLR. For example, for several years running I've sat near a grouse drumming log in early May and have been successful in getting the photos I wanted, but at considerable investment in time (my sister says it just proves I have too much time on my hands!), and it would be interesting to leave a trail cam set up this spring to get a more comprehensive idea of just how often and for how long the grouse visits (my sense is that air temperature is an important factor, and the data strip will record this variable). While we know we have red fox in our suburban backyard from tracks and scat, we have actually seen red fox on only a couple occasions over the many years we've lived here. Yet on the first week deployed, I captured photos and video of a fox on about half the evenings. We have never seen a weasel (just tracks), but got one on the trail cam. Another example is on my parents' property where there has been an active fox den the last couple of years. I found some recent excavation there and the trail cam showed red squirrels using it on a regular basis, then a woodchuck, and one visit (so far) by a fox. Except for the woodchuck, squirrels and deer, almost all of the activity is nocturnal so far.

I am hoping the trail cams will help me zero in on productive locations and times to try to get some fox pup photos with my DSLR, pattern some moose at one of my favorite places in northern Maine, and maybe document rarer animals like fisher or bobcat that I would likely get only by pure luck and always having my camera at the ready and with me at all times.

I won't bother posting any videos or images here, but have set up a couple albums on my Flickr site (see sig line) with a few results thus far. Please share your thoughts and experiences! John


Visit my Flickr site: https://www.flickr.com​/photos/121865961@N02/​sets/external link

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Pondrader
"now I'm no rocket scientist but I do get a shot or two"
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Joined Aug 2012
Minden, Ontario, Canada
Mar 07, 2017 14:49 |  #2

I find them just plain old fun John, useful to the point they let you see the critter making the tracks your interested in. they can be a great source of fun to see what today brings.


Jeff ........7D Mark II, 7D, 70-300L, 100-400LII
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Grizz1
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Joined Apr 2011
Northeast Missouri
Mar 08, 2017 22:41 |  #3

John, I find trail cameras very useful although I'm not using them for photography purposes, hunting and documenting what animals I have on my farms are their main use.
Trail cameras are at work 24/7 so they will capture the unknown and help pattern animals, no doubt about it. If you want to get serious try logging your weather, time and moon phase along with the number of pics you get, this will use up any spare time you might have, lol.
I've captured some interesting photos, people trespassing on my land, dogs chasing and harassing wildlife but their owner swears they never leave his yard and I have pics of large mature White Tailed deer that have lived their entire life close to my house but have never been seen.
Many animals are very relaxed during the night time and provide some awesome photos of their behavior. And as Jeff said, trial cams are fun.


Steve
2 Canon 60D's, 70D 18-135,-55-250, Sigma 150-500 OS,Sigma 50mm 1.4 ,Sigma 120-300 Sport,Sigma 10-20. 580EXII

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Tom ­ Reichner
"I am a little creepy"
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Joined Dec 2008
Omak, in north-central Washington state, USA
Mar 09, 2017 23:30 |  #4

.

JohnMajor wrote in post #18291479 (external link)
Are Trail Cams useful to you as a wildlife photographer?

No, not at all. I haven't used them to scout for wildlife photography opportunities, and I honestly can't think of any way that the info they provide would be helpful to me in my endeavors.

JohnMajor wrote in post #18291479 (external link)
For several years running I've sat near a grouse drumming log in early May and have been successful in getting the photos I wanted, but at considerable investment in time (my sister says it just proves I have too much time on my hands!), and it would be interesting to leave a trail cam set up this spring to get a more comprehensive idea of just how often and for how long the grouse visits (my sense is that air temperature is an important factor, and the data strip will record this variable).

That is awesome, John!

Ruffed Grouse are one of my very favorite subjects, and each spring I, also, spend considerable time in front of drumming logs, hidden behind blinds. .I have not noticed that temperature or other weather fluctuations have any effect on the timing or duration of drumming stints - except for heavy rain.

During the peak of the drumming season, the males almost always get to the log and start drumming about two hours before sunrise - which can be 3:30 in the morning when we get into late May. .This first drumming stint typically lasts until anywhere between 8am and 10am. .Then he will return to the log to drum at various points throughout the day, but the daytime drumming will be sporadic and half-hearted compared to that first morning activity. .They also drum in the evening, but not reliably, and often half-heartedly.....just like the daytime. .Often they will spend hours during the day there on the log, but just sitting there resting, not drumming.

In my area of Washington state, the urge to drum is strongest from early-mid April through mid-late May. .Prior to early-mid April, and after mid-late May, there will be less activity and less time spent at the drumming log. .Photography is best during the peak drumming (mating) period, because the males are not as cautious as they are during the off-peak period, and they are more determined to drum, even if there are disturbances.

If you set a trail camera up at the log, the information that it provided would undoubtedly be useful from a data-gathering perspective, such as that which a wildlife biologist would use. .But I don't see how that data would help you get more or better photos.......once a human comes to the location and enters a blind, that human presence introduces many variables which would cause a change in the grouse's behavior.

.


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Pondrader
"now I'm no rocket scientist but I do get a shot or two"
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Joined Aug 2012
Minden, Ontario, Canada
Post has been last edited 8 months ago by Pondrader. 3 edits done in total.
Mar 10, 2017 05:57 |  #5

On mine from yesterday morn John.. The trick is getting a shot of this massive dude!! He makes the deer ..full grow doe.... Look small. We have three out my buddy and I

I know it said Feb. I'll change that in the morning when I get out there


look small.


Jeff ........7D Mark II, 7D, 70-300L, 100-400LII
flickr (external link)

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Neilyb
Cream of the Crop
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Joined Sep 2005
Munich
Mar 15, 2017 04:46 |  #6

I absolutely think trail cams are a brilliant help. It is invaluable in learning patterns, especially with wildlife that would otherwise give you a wide birth.


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Pondrader
"now I'm no rocket scientist but I do get a shot or two"
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Joined Aug 2012
Minden, Ontario, Canada
Mar 15, 2017 07:12 |  #7

Neilyb wrote in post #18301411 (external link)
I absolutely think trail cams are a brilliant help. It is invaluable in learning patterns, especially with wildlife that would otherwise give you a wide birth.

I find cam's to be less than ok, lacking in real tech so most of what I want is missed. They don't get the action they get something after the action took place. I have three and for the most part they do nothing more than let me see 1/10 of a glimpse of what is going on. Now snow... Snow is where its at. It tells the entire story and my three cam's all sit there like a bump on a log. The idea is good.. The tech sucks. Just my two cents. Mine leave me wanting every time I use them.


Jeff ........7D Mark II, 7D, 70-300L, 100-400LII
flickr (external link)

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Intheswamp
Goldmember
Joined Sep 2013
South Alabama
Mar 15, 2017 07:15 |  #8

I was having lots of trouble with armadillos digging up the yard so I sat a game camera up to get an idea of what time of night they were making their rounds. Well, as it was, I would walk the area about every two hours until around midnight hoping to take out a few of them. Naturally the camera would capture me walking by..and then about five minutes behind me it would capture a dillo...I think they were stalking me!!!! :eek: :lol:

My conclusion is that dillos don't have set routines.... :rolleyes:

I have the camera set up in the backyard where we have a food scrap bowl. We lost our old bulldog late last fall so we don't own any animals currently. But, we have two possums, two cats, a *very* large bulldog/boxer/pit looking dog, a fox, and a photobombing squirrel. We have a very large coyote population around here but I've yet to catch one of them coming to the scraps. Still letting it run...we're hoping for Sasquatch. :-)

As for photography, I can see where it might be useful...timing, etc.,.

Ed


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Tom ­ Reichner
"I am a little creepy"
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Joined Dec 2008
Omak, in north-central Washington state, USA
Mar 15, 2017 09:34 |  #9

Neilyb wrote in post #18301411 (external link)
I absolutely think trail cams are a brilliant help. It is invaluable in learning patterns, especially with wildlife that would otherwise give you a wide birth.

I find this interesting. Neil, if you have any photographs of wildlife that you were able to capture because of the information gathered by a trail cam, it would be cool if you could post the photo, along with the trail cam images, and then explain how the trail cam info helped you get the photo that you would not have been able to get, otherwise. I'm just not able to envision how it would actually be beneficial, and a real-life example would help me to do so.

.


"Your" and "you're" are different words with completely different meanings - please use the correct one.
"They're", "their", and "there" are different words with completely different meanings - please use the correct one.
"Fare" and "fair" are different words with completely different meanings - please use the correct one. The proper expression is "peace of mind", NOT "piece of mind".

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Pondrader
"now I'm no rocket scientist but I do get a shot or two"
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Joined Aug 2012
Minden, Ontario, Canada
Mar 15, 2017 11:46 |  #10

I just got back from a little look see and I can tell you two cams pointed at a deer out on ice I won't walk on. The cam's got nothing both $300 or so. The deer is completely dismembered and most removed from the site. I could not get the cams within 10 feet so theres nothing. On the other hand wolf tracks all heading out onto the pond.
O and this one ratty fellow still hanging around at well over to many yards. standing on the Beaver hut in bad light.

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Jeff ........7D Mark II, 7D, 70-300L, 100-400LII
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JohnMajor
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Joined Oct 2012
Schenectady NY USA
Mar 15, 2017 19:16 |  #11

Thanks Jeff, Steve, Tom, Neil and Ed for contributing to this thread!

With another 10 days experience under my belt, I can add that the trail cameras are doing a great job documenting the presence of wildlife on family property that no one has yet seen with their own eyes - a peg leg raccoon, a mink, and coyotes. From tracks in the snow, I knew they were present, but we don't always have good snow and with a fair number of free ranging dogs and cats in the area it is sometimes difficult to know if the tracks belong to wildlife or domestic pets.

The cameras have also been very good at documenting activity patterns. Almost all of the captures are at night, though I suspect I'll see more fox daytime activity once the fox pups are born and the parents have to bring food to them. So far, it would have been a colossal waste of time to try to set up on either den site during daylight hours.

After trying both photo and video modes, I've set all cameras up in video mode. While limited to a 10 second clip at night (though it will record successive 10 sec clips with a short pause between them if the animal remains detected), the clarity of the nighttime video is so much better than the stills and it also gives me insight to behavior, such as watching the fox excavating dirt from in front of the den.

One of the other very interesting findings are the number of species visiting a site, and sometimes within only a few minutes of each other. For example, I had a coyote visit a fox den 4 minutes after the fox was recorded leaving the den (I also had a rabbit trace the same route as a red fox only minutes after the fox passed through). I've also seen red and gray squirrels, cottontail rabbit, and woodchuck use a fox den, in addition to deer, skunk, and coyotes passing by but not entering.

I haven't tried measuring the detection range, but have been setting the cameras up within 50 feet or so of where I think the animals will pass. As mentioned in my original post, I don't think the camera is missing anything (snow has been helpful in determining that) and have been surprised to capture a couple of weasels back in the brush at what I would consider maximum range.

Tom - thanks for the info on what you've observed with drumming grouse. It pretty much matches my experience, though my hypothesis that temperature might be an influence is based on my experience last year when we hit the mid-80's by 10 am, and I had very little luck hearing or seeing drumming after that point. In watching a grouse drum earlier, it seemed to me that he had to have generated a lot of heat from the drumming activity and it almost looked like he was panting when he finished!

Jeff - congrats on the wolf and fox shots on the deer carcass!

I am finding the trail cameras a lot of fun in their own right, and will add to this thread if I find they pay off in helping me get some good shots with the 7Dii / 100/400 combination.

Please keep the thoughts and experiences coming! John


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Grizz1
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Northeast Missouri
Mar 15, 2017 23:24 |  #12

IMAGE: https://c1.staticflickr.com/6/5821/30745243775_3c711998c4_o.jpg
[IMAGE'S LINK: https://flic.kr/p/NQRp​PV] (external link)Attachment-1 (external link) by steve findling (external link), on Flickr
This is not a very good photo but these are the guys I'm after when I use trail cams. As far as we know this deer was only seen twice and both times he was trying to sleep under a Cedar tree in my neighbors backyard. He has been caught on trail cams for 4 years, always at night, very close to the same place and only about 3 times each year. He was/ is basically a waste of time to hunt for because he has been so elusive and nocturnal. Other deer almost his size have shown themselves numerous times on trail cams and with correct patterning, weather and time I've been able to see them at a close range.

We had a trail cam set up on a popular licking branch a couple years ago that provided a lot of information. In a 3 month period it captured over 20 different buck deer and many doe with fawns. One small spike buck got his photo taken sometime everyday. Some bucks would show themselves about 3 times a week, normally at night. Most of the pics taken of mature bucks during daylight were in Sept and again in Nov just before the rut. One mature 10 pt was captured almost daily the last week of Oct and first week of Nov, his timing was 7:50 to 7:55 AM for all the pics taken of him. Three other trail cams were set up on this 160 acre farm and they never captured him at any time.

Steve
2 Canon 60D's, 70D 18-135,-55-250, Sigma 150-500 OS,Sigma 50mm 1.4 ,Sigma 120-300 Sport,Sigma 10-20. 580EXII

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Fishbreath
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eastern PA.
Jul 25, 2017 14:49 |  #13

I love my three trail cams. Lets me see whats in an area and if its worth while to hide out with my camera.

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Fishbreath
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eastern PA.
Jul 25, 2017 14:53 |  #14

coyote

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Pondrader
"now I'm no rocket scientist but I do get a shot or two"
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Joined Aug 2012
Minden, Ontario, Canada
Post has been edited 3 months ago by Pondrader.
Jul 25, 2017 15:41 as a reply to Fishbreath's post |  #15

I've had so much bad luck with them. I can read the ground for all the above. I do find them fun and put them out but sometimes a moose could sit on it and it gets nothing. my cheapest cam honestly works the best. The black light cams I have from bass pro spook the game.. I can see that because the cheapo is already running when the more expensive one kicks on.


Jeff ........7D Mark II, 7D, 70-300L, 100-400LII
flickr (external link)

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Are Trail Cams useful to you as a wildlife photographer?
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