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