Last Updated on September 29, 2020
Having your trail camera discovered by either other hunters or deer sucks.
There’s nothing more aggravating than watching some trophy buck walk up directly to your trail cam and then disappearing for weeks on end because it’s been spooked away.
Well, maybe getting your camera jacked by some other hunter could be more nerve-racking. After all, trail cameras are often equipped with night vision, thermal imaging, or infrared flash. And they get expensive.
Either way, each scenario proves one thing: you didn’t hide your trail camera well enough.
And in our attempt to prevent anyone else from learning this lesson the hard way, we’ve put together these handy tips to keep your cams hidden from prey and safe from trail cam poachers.
7 Tips for Hiding Your Trail Camera
1. Mount Your Cameras Higher
Look, we understand that lugging a ladder out into the woods doesn’t sound like a good time. But if you’re trying to ensure that your trail cam is hidden properly, you’re going to want to do just that.
Many hunters will mount their trail cams within an arm’s reach as that’s only natural. However, if you can easily reach them, so can a thief or trespasser. Not to mention, it’ll be spotted much easier by the deer or hogs you’re trying to monitor.
And plus, mounting your cameras higher up will let you obtain more of a bird’s eye view. This means you’ll get a wider field of view in order to better analyze your observations and locate ingress and egress points (for both prey and other humans).
Now, if the idea of dragging a ladder out into the woods is too much of a hassle, there is an easier way. Carry along with you some tree steps. Tree steps are little “z” or “s” shaped metal rods that you can screw into a tree trunk in order to give you an elevated height advantage. They’re easy to install and won’t cause you any trouble.
2. Mount Your Cameras with Legitimate Mounting Brackets
This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t use actual braces and brackets when installing their cameras.
The less effort it takes to actually install your trail cam is directly proportional to how easy is it to takedown. So, if you’re not using any tools to set up your trail cam, there’s a good chance a thief isn’t going to need any to rip it off.
But thieves aren’t your only worry. Inclement weather such as high winds or heavy rains can also dislodge your camera. Deer don’t take to well to finding a trail cam dangling from a tree limb or falling from their perch.
Take the time to properly anchor your trail cams, and you’ll be well rewarded for your efforts.
3. Use Stainless Steel Mounting Brackets or Swivels
When it comes to selecting the right mount, you’ll find several options — many of which are nylon straps with buckles that’ll help keep your trail camera where it’s supposed to be.
Now, these straps can work just fine to keep your camera angled in the right position. But there are a few issues with them. First, they’re so much easier to be seen by passers-by or poachers. But the biggest issue with these is the smell.
Game animals have a heightened sense of smell, and they know when something’s off. These straps can collect many different scents and throw off the natural balance in that area. Using stainless steel swivels prevents that issue entirely. Plus, they’re much sturdier and robust than the nylon strapping.
4. Apply Appropriate Camouflage to Your Cameras
Another key step to ensuring that trail cams stay hidden is to apply natural-looking camouflage to them. There are actually many trail cameras that come with camo print on the housing, but for those without, applying it isn’t that tough.
You can opt for Camo Concealment tape such as CAMBUSH 3D, which is specially designed for trail cams, or you can create your own with foliage from the surrounding environment. You’re essentially building a ghillie suit for trail cam.
Another neat option is to place them near bird or owl houses if you have them. Trail cams — especially those in boxed housing can appear to be just a normal part of or extension of a birdhouse.
You do need to be careful when camouflaging your trail cams though. It’s not too difficult to get carried away and cover up the lens or mount your cam to where you can’t get a clear view.
5. Utilize a Boxed Trail Cam or Lockbox
Boxed trail cams can be a very simple way to deter thieves. Granted, they will stand out more than a camouflaged trail cam. But if you’ve got a padlock hanging from it, there’s a good chance a trail cam poacher will just leave it be.
Trail cam theft is much more often than not a crime of opportunity. Criminals will see an unsecured cam and swipe it. They’re probably not traipsing through the forest with tree steps and bolt cutters.
By having a lockbox around your cam, you can pretty much ensure it will be left alone even if spotted.
6. Avoid Mounting Your Cameras in Areas with Heavy Foot Traffic
If you want to best keep your trail cameras out of human hands, don’t put them where people are most likely to find them. While this may seem like common sense, it isn’t always the easiest tip to follow.
There may be increased human traffic in an area simply because there’s more game spotting there as well. And you’d probably want to set up a camera there. Your best bet to monitor the area is to take a creative approach when mounting.
Look for a clear, yet awkward mounting point (high above the ground) that provides a good view. You’ll want to set up your camera in a place that may be a nuisance for people to access. Again, if it’s difficult for you to get there, it’ll be just as deterring for others. And if you’re really trying to be sneaky about it, choose a spot that will conceal your tracks going in and out of the location of your cam.
7. Opt for Black Flash and No Glow Trail Cameras
You’ll find that many trail cameras use infrared clear LEDs. They emit a bright light flash when taking stills or illuminating an area for video. This will immediately give off your camera’s location to any passerby. And it’s almost guaranteed to invoke a negative reaction to any game or wildlife in the area.
The biggest aversion to finding a “black flash” or “no glow” camera is the cost. However, that factor is pretty much negligible nowadays. The cost of quality cameras has come down so much with newer tech advances that these cams generally only cost a few bucks more. And it sounds like a worthy investment to us.
Improving Your Trail Cam Strategy
If you’ve had problems before with getting ripped off or having deer sniff out your trail cams, improving your trail cam strategy should become high on your priority list when it comes to hunting.
Fortunately, it’s not that difficult to do. In order to make this process work, you need to keep in mind a few things:
- Never underestimate a mature buck’s ability to find your trail cam.
These bucks grew up big enough to be a good hunt, so it stands to reason that they’re pretty adept at avoiding danger. And that means sniffing out your trail cams.
- Trail cam theft is a crime of opportunity.
Very few trail cam thieves go out into the woods with the sole purpose of ripping you off. They’re normally completely unprepared to dislodge a well-mounted camera and aren’t willing to go through the trouble to take remove one if they stumble upon it.
- Don’t cut corners when it comes to installing your trail cams.
You’ve probably spent some good money into getting ready for your hunting season. Don’t let it go to waste by setting up sloppy trail cams. Put in the extra effort, and you’re sure to be rewarded.
Header image credit: Todd Cromar, Hill Air Force Base