How to Use a Cellular Trail Camera
With cellular technology becoming more widely available, I thought it would be a good time to educate users on how to properly set up a cellular trail camera to maximize its effectiveness. When I first started with a cellular trail camera several years ago, the battery life was poor and the initial cost was staggering, which left a lot of people out of the game in terms of using a cellular game camera. Now, however, there are multiple cellular trail cameras that retail for around $100, so getting into the game is much easier. I want all the new cellular trail cam users to have success, so I’m laying out a step by step process from start to finish, so you can put the latest cellular technology to good use this fall.
- Select a Service Provider
Every cellular trail camera uses a cellular service to acquire signal to transmit the image to you. If you have images sent to your phone, it does not matter what type of phone service to have to receive the images, the service provider only matters for sending images from the trail camera. For instance, Tactacam makes 2 versions of their popular Reveal: One uses AT&T towers and the other uses Verizon for cellular signal. If you are unsure if you will get signal in the area, I suggest going to the spot you plan on putting the camera and looking at the signal your cell phone picks up. If you do not have the ability to go to the location beforehand, you can look at service maps for Verizon and AT&T, but I caution that service maps often have small blind spots that maps do not show.
- Download the App
Most cellular cameras have an App that you can download onto your phone. You can also choose to view App images on a tablet device. Some cameras will send images directly to your e-mail, which bypasses the need for an app, but be careful when images are sent to an e-mail directly, you run the risk of filling up your allotted storage space as images usually take up a fair amount of storage. Most e-mail providers only give you a 2 GB limit on the amount of storage space you can tie up on their e-mail server.
- Install batteries and SD card
This is the same as a non-cellular camera, so I will not expand on this too much. I will say that some cameras have a port (a plug in) where you can attach a solar panel to keep your batteries charged for long periods. If you have the proper setup, your camera can run for several years without having to replace the rechargeable batteries. If you are not hooking up to a solar panel, I suggest using lithium batteries, which are better suited for running in cold temperature than alkaline batteries.
- Program the Camera
When using a cellular camera, how quickly you receive real-time images depends on the quality of the signal and the transmitting delay you have selected within the camera. If you have the camera set to send a picture every time it takes a picture, you will use up battery life quicker than if you set it to send batches of pictures at intervals you select. The detection delay is the amount of time between camera triggers that a picture will be taken by the camera, whereas the transmission interval is the time between batches that it will send images. I usually set mine for 12hour transmission delay and 4-minute detection delay. That is mainly because I do the $5 per month plan from Tactacam which allows me to have 9 pictures sent to me per day on average and not go over my allotted plan. If I were not on a budget, I would most likely do the Pro Plan which allows for unlimited pictures. Refer to your camera’s user manual for model specific camera setup instructions, but Click Here for a video that shows how quick and easy it is to set up the new Tactacam Reveal.
The most important part about setting up your cellular camera is putting a high-quality feed or mineral in front of it, so that you can get great pictures with deer standing still in frame of the camera. In the fall, I like to run a survey of what bucks are using an area by pouring out one 20lb bag of Ani-Supplement GOLD per site.