Trail cameras are great tools, whether you’re interested in tracking down a big deer or are simply curious about the wildlife that’s walking around in your backyard.

On Jan. 27, Bud Utecht of Game Camera Artistry joined me for “Trail Cam Magic,” a virtual Bangor Daily News seminar that was focused on giving our readers some ideas on how to better utilize their own trail cameras.

Over the course of an hour, Utecht entertained and educated, and many attendees have already reached out and told us they thoroughly enjoyed the program. Here are some of the many tips and tricks that Utecht shared during the event.

Where to set up

Utecht: The biggest thing with game cameras is people will set them either in the trail, so they’re looking right straight down the trail, because they feel they’re going to get the best image that way, or they set it back and it’s perpendicular to the trail. Perpendicular to the trail means every movement is magnified that much more. So you want to stay away from that one, just because your movement is going to cause blur.

I set mine up sort of 45 degrees down any trail, where I think the game is going to come from. And I set it in a location where it’s going to blend in a little bit. I’ve seen game cameras in the woods, and they’re on the tree, exposed, right out in the open. And even though it’s not causing any harm, animals are wary that they don’t like the looks of it, they don’t like the feel of it. So say you have a clump of three trees, you can put it on the middle tree, and there’s stuff around it. It doesn’t stand out as much, and the game doesn’t even pay attention to it a lot of times.

Does flash scare animals?

Utecht: All the cameras today use infrared flash. When they first came out with infrared they said that the animals could not see that, and that proved out to be not true and you can see it on your cameras. When an animal walks by at night they are looking right at the camera. They didn’t see the color of the flash, they saw it as something moved. Something changed, real quick, and that snaps their head around to look at it and now they’re just uneasy about it.

So [manufacturers] came out with black flash. There’s several names for it, but it’s another level of infrared flash, and the wildlife cannot see it. So, which one do you want? You obviously want the one that wildlife can’t see. The downside to the black flash or the no-glow flash is, it’s very tunnel vision, and it doesn’t reach out as far. So your pictures don’t come out as high quality, but the animals aren’t spooked by it.

Where should I put a camera?

Utecht: For anybody that’s trying to get into this and get wildlife [photos] and not specifically antlers, I would [tell people to] find a beaver dam. Beaver dams are great crossing points, and almost everything will walk across a beaver dam. [Set up a camera] around the edges of beaver dams, around the edges of swamps.

Laws and rules

Utecht: You cannot put a game camera in the woods on private property without written permission from the owner. [The law] is very clear, and you also must have your camera labeled with your contact information. So, when you put your cameras out there make sure you follow that.

I follow some, some additional rules for myself. One of them is, I don’t want to put cameras where I’m going to find people. Inevitably, it will happen, but you really want to stay away from capturing people because you don’t want to be in the woods. getting filmed every five seconds on a camera. You’re out there to enjoy yourself, be a little bit free, and you don’t want pictures taken of you. So try to keep away from people, as much as possible.

Why does trigger speed matter?

Utecht: Trigger speed is how long it takes the camera to take a picture from the time the motion is detected. So, everybody’s looking for faster and faster trigger speeds, but most of the cameras today are triggering outside of the area where they take the picture. So if an animal wanders in and is hanging out just outside of the viewing area. They’re still triggering the camera. I’ve got many many pictures of, let’s say, a deer standing right on the edge of where the camera can take pictures, and I’ll get a piece of his nose. A piece of an antler and an ear.

What [fast trigger speeds] do for you is if an animal is walking across, it allows the camera to take the picture before the animal is halfway or all the way through the zone for taking the picture. So, you do want to pretty fast trigger speed if you can get it.

What about ‘burst’ mode?

Utecht: The burst mode is great because you’re going to get multiple pictures … On a Browning camera you can [set it for] rapid fire or standard. I use standard mode because if you use rapid fire you get three pictures and they’re all identical. It takes the pictures so fast. Standard lets a little time go by, in between. Let’s say the animal’s head is moving in the first picture and you got blurry antlers. But the neck next picture, it might be perfect. So it gives you that much opportunity to get at least a great picture out of, out of the three-shot burst.

Avatar photo

John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. He spent 28 years working for the BDN, including 19 years as the paper's outdoors columnist or outdoors editor. While...