Knowing how to hang your trail camera can spell the difference between enjoying an awesome hunting season and having less meat in your freezer. It can also mean being able to post amazing hunting photos on your social networking page to rival what your hunting buddies come up with. You might have more than a dozen top trail cams set up in your property, but if you don’t really know how to hang them the perfect way, those investments will all be just a waste. Here’s how to make the most of your trail cam.

Make sure your trail cam has updated software before set up.

Although often overlooked, updating your camera’s software can save you plenty of frustration. Your device runs on software and you need to recognize this early on. Often called firmware, the camera software should be updated to fix issues including bugs. Updating is a fairly easy task by simply going to the manufacturer’s website and checking for any firmware updates. If available, download those updates and use them on all the cameras on the same series. Make sure to follow instructions to the letter.

Label devices accordingly.

If you have a number of cameras setup, be sure to number each of them as well as their chips, and mark their location on your GPS. Avoid swapping chips to prevent any confusion. Some new models enable you to imprint a number or label on the photo itself. It will be good advice to name each camera, chip and software on a consistent basis to have better system organization. Doing GPS of each camera’s location during setup will also ensure not losing any of your devices. Make sure to have an updated map at all times even with just a pair of cameras deployed so you won’t lose track of any of them.

Protect your trail cam investment by making your units theft-proof.

Leaving your trail cameras hanging in the woods opens the possibility of having them stolen. To ensure that what you set up will still be there when you come back, invest in commercial lock or security boxes suitable to the units. Choose high quality lock boxes. Even if no security box will deter a resilient thief, getting a heavy duty lock box will give them a harder time. Investing in a lock box is also a good decision if you live or hunt in an area that has lots of bears. You can choose to make your own lock box or buy a commercially available unit.

Select the perfect location to hang your trail cam.

This process is not so easy, and will often involve a bit of trial and error. Some possible locations where you should set up trail cams include food or water sources, trail junctions and major trails, natural clearings, bait stations, old road beds, forest blind or treestand sites, natural funnels, saddles, wallows, fence crossings, even gut piles or carcasses. Your trail cams may even be useful for some domestic applications such as finding out what or who knocks over your garbage can frequently or who gets to your prized harvests before you do. You can get good footage from small clearings or clearings near bedding cover characterized by multiple trails leading to and from them. Old road beds are also nice setup sites.

Check our Guide: How to pick the perfect spot for your trail camera

Consider good and proper mounting.

Make sure to mount the camera, along with its lock box, if any, to a solid structure such as a post, tree or log. Mounting can be done using small lag bolts that can be attached to the lock or security box. Once you get the device pointed exactly to where you want, make sure it stays stable that way, even when the bears and the playful elk come. This saves you the time and effort of having to re-adjust the aim of the device frequently every time you check the camera. If you don’t want to invest in a lock box, you may utilize a strap and a python lock for mounting, which allows you to simply unlock and check the image capturing device without having to move it.

Oh, and don’t forget to camouflage the trail cam, which will only take a few seconds and can help secure the device against vandals and other people. You can use sword fern rods or moss.

Point the trail cam to the north.

This may not always be possible but it is a very sensible advice. Bring a compass with you so you can pinpoint where the north is. Facing the trail cam to the north can avoid having the glare of the sun ruin your shots. Facing it to the west or east can result in plenty of false positives plus wasted photos. The temperature variations when the sun rises and sets will be complemented by the breeze blowing and the camera system may incorrectly interpret those as indicative of the presence of deer. You don’t want to be wasting precious card space on non-existent bucks. The strong backlight may also result in exposure blowouts when facing the camera to the south.

Observe proper mounting angle and height.

Depending on the prevalent species in your property or the specific target species, the camera should be mounted to the right height and angle to ensure you can get a wider coverage for optimal photo capture. Trail cams for deer should hang about 26 to 30 degrees off the ground, while those for elk can hang 36 to 40 degrees and those for turkey, around 20 degrees or less. Be sure to consider slope when angling so you can make the proper adjustments.

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