By now, many of you have begun trying out the trail camera tips that you learned at a Bangor Daily News event we held last month. Today, we’re happy to share more of those helpful hints.

On Jan. 27, Bud Utecht of Game Camera Artistry joined me for “Trail Cam Magic,” a virtual BDN 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. If you missed it (or need a refresher), here’s another set of tips that I’m sure you’ll find useful.

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Don’t worry about megapixels

Utecht: The cameras have come so far since I started doing this. Even the cheaper cameras take some tremendous daytime pictures. What sets a lot of them apart are the nighttime pictures. So, these cameras, they’re coming out saying [they shoot images that are] 22 megapixels, 24 megapixels. Do not base your purchase on how many megapixels. You probably want to go online and see some pictures that that camera took. No matter how many megapixels they say they are, the camera itself is nowhere near the number of megapixels that they’re advertising.

They use interpolation, which is a fancy word for filling in the dots, using the onboard computer versus having a camera so sophisticated that it takes a 22 megapixel picture. I don’t think Nikon and Canon would be very happy if these game cameras were better than their $4,000 cameras.

So, your picture is being enhanced automatically inside the camera, and a lot of cameras will take very very different pictures from other cameras. Some of them enhance the color so much that they look fake. I have some cameras that if there’s any white in the picture, or the daylight’s just right. It almost looks cartoonish. There’s a whole bunch of things you can look at on these cameras. There are many, many cameras that do a great job so I’m not trying to swing anybody in a direction. I’m just telling you [to] look online and see what people say about them and see some of the pictures for yourself and see what you like, for quality, and that will dictate where you go with it.

Stills, or video?

Utecht: The biggest thing is, where is the camera going [to be] and how long is it going to be between [now and] the next time I go see that camera. If you put a camera out, and you’re in the woods and there’s a chance that there’s going to be a lot of wind detection, video eats batteries. So the more videos you run, the more your batteries are going to run out and the more videos you run at night, it’s doubling the problem because you need the flash to be on to do that. So if I’m leaving my cameras — and I certainly do this — six months at a time out there, I’m probably not setting them on video.

Ideal distance?

Utecht: You’re looking [to get photos of] something moderately close to the camera. So keep that in mind. [The camera] takes a broad view of the area that you’re looking to shoot in. Keep that in mind when you’re setting up because you want the animals to look like they’re actually right there in the camera, where you wanted them to be. So, setting up too far back, obviously, the animal is very small in the picture and setting them too close spooks the animal so it’s something you’ve got to get used to. [About] 20 feet off the trail or so, and you’re probably going to get some great pictures

Beware of the bear

Utecht: A bear will see a camera from 100 yards away and come right to it. They are so curious. You can walk around the woods in Maine, for your whole life and never come in contact with a bear. But if they see a camera, they are going to come investigate it. So, they will play with your cameras and move them around. I’ve had [a bear] spin the camera around the tree, and I’ve got there and said, “h my god somebody must have stolen my camera,” and looked around the backside of the tree and there it is sitting there with some very close-up bear pictures.”

Oh what a feeling

Utecht: You’re going to get these series of pictures that you can’t really describe to people until they see them and you’re so excited about it. And I guarantee you, you can go to the internet and look at pictures of links all day long. [You’ll see] a beautiful animal and everybody loves them. Get one on your game camera, and you will show everybody you’ve ever met in your entire life. So it really is that exciting when you’re out there getting some of these images.

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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...