Trail Camera – Discover What’s Lurking In The Dark!

The Catalyst

Out of nowhere my 7-year old dog suddenly became very wary and skittish when going out into our yard and walking across the property to her usual spot. Along the way she would stop, sniff the air, look around cautiously, repeatedly sniff a particular bush, and then look at me for reassurance. This behavior became quite consistent and had me concerned for her safety and peace of mind. Something must be crossing her path and invading our territory. I had my suspicions, but was determined to find out exactly what was causing her anxiety.

The Solution – A Trail Camera

I knew that there was no way I could be awake 24/7 and keep watch on our entire property. But I knew of something that could — a trail camera. It was then I then started doing my research. There were certain requirements I had on my “Trail Camera Features” list:

  • HD Video with Audio
  • Full Color High-Res Images
  • Day/Night Auto Sensor
  • Infrared Night Vision Flash
  • Fast Trigger Speed
  • Date/Time Image Stamp
  • Sub-zero to 100+ Degrees Tolerance
  • Long-range Motion Sensor
  • Long-range Invisible Flash
  • Long Battery Life
  • Large GB Memory Card Capability
  • Weatherproof and Rugged
  • Programmable
  • Affordable Price

After much research and the reading of numerous customer reviews, I found exactly the trail camera I was looking for — the Bushnell Essential E2 HD Trail Cam.

The Amazon E2 price was very reasonable and I knew it would arrive in two days with my Amazon Prime membership. Perfect timing for both me and the dog!

UPDATE! Newer model now available — the Bushnell Essential E3 HD 16MP Trail Camera. Same great features with a slightly higher megapixel camera — and still at a great price.

Important! I also purchased a SanDisk 32GB Ultra Class 10 SDHC UHS-I Memory Card and an Energizer L91BP-8 Ultimate Lithium AA Batteries pack as this trail camera requires an SD memory card and 8AA batteries. I’ve been very pleased with the performance of both components. The card is fast and the batteries can last an entire year once installed.

Camera Location

Where to install your trail camera for the best images is critical. I started with one single trail camera and tried a variety of different locations around our yard. With the camera’s fixed 48-degree cone of coverage, I discovered that shooting diagonally across the tracking path yielded greater footage and image opportunity than shooting from a 90-degree angle directly at the path. This graphic from QDMA.com gives a great visual explanation of how this difference matters.

Mystery Solved!

With my trail camera mounted to an inexpensive yet durable tripod that I have tethered to my deck railing, and tilted 30-degrees down from the deck height, and positioned to shoot diagonally across the yard, I was able to solve the mystery behind my dog’s skittish behavior. No wonder she kept sniffing that bush nervously! It appears our yard is a pit stop on the route home to their den! Note: The fact that this video captured the first coyote raising its leg and the second coyote squatting over that bush is what helped me determine that this is a male and female couple.

Another Surprising Visitor!

Besides the two coyotes, I was very surprised to discover that I also had a red fox passing through my yard. This video was shot with a SECOND Bushnell trail camera that I purchased and attached to a tree at the far corner of my yard. Note: The flash that you see is actually only visible to the camera, and not to the animal. Hyper Night Vision technology is a great feature of this camera. It sure comes in handy! Note: The other flashes of light you see in the videos is the Hyper Night Vision flash from my other cameras. It is also invisible to the animals. A sweet feature!

Camera Mode or Video Mode?

When I bought the first trail camera, I initially set it to shoot in Camera Mode. While I was pleased with the daylight images of such critters as robins, squirrels, rabbits, etc., nighttime visitors moved through the yard more quickly and, as a result were often more blurry than I liked. Every now and then, however, the camera would capture a good still image when the visitor slowed down.

Gotcha!

This coyote’s image was captured in Camera Mode with my THIRD trail camera that I actually attached to a garden ornament’s cement pedestal. I can move that camera around the yard easily to test out different shooting angles.

Coyote’s distinctive black-tipped tail.

I soon discovered another regular visitor to my yard during the overnight hours…

Late Night Snacking Bunny

Little did I know that in the early morning hours before sunrise a certain group of feathery friends also like to get together for a chat…

Early Morning Gossip Session

File Sizes

This Bushnell trail camera comes with different programmable settings, many of which affect file size. In Camera Mode your image resolution choices are 3MP, 8MP, or 12MP. In Video Mode your video resolution choices are 640 x 480 or 1280 x 720. Higher resolution will produce better quality images in Camera Mode, and better quality videos in Video Mode. However, higher resolution also creates larger files that will fill up the SD Memory Card faster.

I’ve used Camera Mode at both the 8MP and 12MP settings. The JPEG files that were produced ranged in size from 2.3MB to 3.1MB.

In Video Mode I’ve only used the HD 1280 x 720 resolution setting. I’ve shot at both the 15-sec. and 60-sec. recording lengths. The 15-sec. length produced 11.MB videos, while the 60 sec. length produced 44.4MB videos. File size is something you should take into consideration in regard to both your Memory Card size and your Hard Drive space availability.

Trail Camera Mount Options

Both the Bushnell Essential E2 HD Trophy Cam and the Bushnell Essential E3 HD Trophy Cam comes with an adjustable web belt that you can use to attach the camera to a tree trunk, or, like me, to a cement pedestal or deck railing post.

The camera also features two tripod sockets with a standard 1/4″ x 20 thread. As I mentioned, I have my first trail camera mounted on a tripod, my second camera belted to a tree trunk, and my third camera belted to a cement pedestal. All of these methods have served me well during the winter months.

When the ground thaws out, there’s another option worth considering for flexibility and minimal expense. It’s a DIY camera mount that’s very easy to assemble and made from common hardware parts.

I recently made one for a neighbor of mine. Click here for the instructions.

Trail Camera Tips

Since I’ve had a couple of months to test out my three trail cameras independently and also as a group, here are some tips I recommend:

  • Trail cameras can pick up glare from other light sources. This includes a neighbor’s house lights and the infrared flash from another trail camera. Make sure to angle your camera away from these external sources.
  • Pay attention to the sun. Shooting into bright sunlight can also cause glare as well as produce dark images.
  • Make sure to position your camera within the camera’s motion sensor range.
  • Experiment with both Camera Mode and Video Mode.
  • Read the camera’s instruction manual to learn about the specifics of the Setup Menu (pages 17-20). It’s a short section and worth reading!
  • Daylight Savings Time must be manually adjusted through this camera’s Menu system. This is very important if you want to accurately Time Stamp your images.

Wildlife Surprises

These days I find myself greeting each morning with great anticipation as to what I may discover has passed through our yard the night before. The coyotes, a red fox, mallard ducks, a black mink, and rabbits this past winter may just be the beginning. Time will tell what surprises spring and summer have in store for me.

So if you’ve ever wondered what might be lurking around your property, you now know that trail cameras are a great way to find out!

~ Liz Mackney

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