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Picture This: Critter Cam

Game cameras — keeping watch for wildlife — are smaller and better than ever.


By Earl Nottingham

Optics have become an integral part of the way we view, and enjoy, the outdoors. For the wildlife watcher, binoculars, spotting scopes, magnifying glasses and cameras are the mainstays that allow us to see every feather and count every hair — their high magnification factors allowing us to easily view naturally wary animals at great distances without disturbing them.

However, even with the best optics, the ability to watch animals is usually lost as soon as it gets dark or the animal is spooked. Wouldn’t it be great to watch animals from just a few feet away or see what they do after the sun goes down? Enter the game camera.

Game cameras (also called trail cameras) have been around several years now and have evolved from bulky battery-heavy boxes to smaller, higher quality digital devices. Usually triggered by infrared sensors and utilizing an infrared flash, they work alone, night and day, and offer an alternative method of observing wildlife not possible with traditional cameras and lenses.

The original game cameras relied on regular film and constantly had to be reloaded, meaning the cost of film and processing was an issue when a whole roll was taken of one animal. Thanks to digital sensors, photos and videos are now saved to inexpensive and erasable memory cards — providing thousands of images or hours of video — and have become valuable tools for different viewing purposes.

For game managers, the time, date and weather information recorded along with each image provides valuable population and behavioral information on the various resident species. For the hunter, the game camera affords the ability to passively scout and pattern animals well ahead of the hunt. Even landowners have found that the game camera is a great tool for documenting “two-legged” animals who decide to poach on their property.

I recently attended the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s SHOT Show, a showcase for new outdoor products. One of my goals was to check out the latest and greatest offerings and improvements in game cameras. I was not disappointed!

In a nutshell: Most manufacturers are making smaller, more compact cameras that require smaller and fewer batteries, yet produce higher resolution stills and video. Many offer a separate controller/interface that allows the user to set the camera controls as well as download pictures without having to open the camera. More choices are also available for wider angles of coverage. One impressive find was a model from Bresser that covers 360 degrees.

The newer game cameras make it easier than ever to enjoy wildlife that we wouldn’t normally see.

 

Please send questions and comments to Earl at earl.nottingham@tpwd.state.tx.us.



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