When it comes to hunting success, scouting is essential. That arduous task has been improved dramatically by the digital scouting camera, which records images and video of game long after the hunter has left the field.
In this article we’ll cover important features of scouting cameras, and then review bestselling models from Primos, Bushnell, Moultrie, and Stealth Cam.
Today’s sleek, high-tech devices have undoubtedly helped many hunters harvest more game. Here are the features to consider.
By definition, all digital scouting cameras take photos. If you know anything about digital cameras, you’re aware that more megapixels are better. Yes, they take more memory, but with 2 GB or 4 GB memory cards, that’s not an issue. So whenever possible, you want 8 megapixels over 5 megapixels. Most scouting cameras let you specify different levels of resolution (e.g. 1.8, 5, or 8 megapixel). Personally, I prefer quality over quantity, so I’d choose the camera with the highest available resolution. You can also usually choose different shooting modes, which take anywhere from 1 to 9 images when triggered. The more options, the better.
For video, it’s all about resolution. I’d say that 640 x 480 is the standard; you can view that comfortably on a laptop. Some of the cameras I review below now include sound recording, and I think that’s awesome. Sound gives you more information about the game, what they’re doing, and how they’re communicating with one another. All critical information for when you go afield. Sound is also very useful feature for many of those who use scouting cameras for non-hunting purposes, such as security.
Taking pictures in low-light situations — when most of our quarry is on the move — is essential, and indeed most scouting cameras claim to have this capability. They achieve it in a few different ways. Some use a traditional flash, though that’s fallen out of favor because a bright flash tends to scare the game. They remember it and may learn to avoid the area. More commonly, scouting cameras take images at night using infrared (IR), which essentially measures slight differences in heat and gives you a pretty sharp black-and-white image.
One camera I review below, the Moultrie Game Spy, has something called Black Flash technology, which essentially sounds like marketing but claims to eliminate any visible LED light to aid concealment.
You want your camera to be well concealed from game, and a camouflage design helps with this. Many game cameras (including my own) are black, and since they’re small I don’t find this to be a big deal. I even added a few strips of camo tape to non-essential areas. Waterproofing and weatherproofing are also essential, since these cameras are fully exposed to the elements.
You also want your camera to still be there, and it’s obvious that theft can be a problem with these cameras. They’re small, valuable, and generally left behind when the hunter leaves the field. Do yourself a favor, and invest in a good locking security cable like the Stealth Cam Python. Use it religiously, and check on your camera on a regular basis.
Most cameras have the option of stamping images with time and date, some even with temperature and moon phase. Turn this option on, and make sure that you set the date and time correctly. Knowing exactly when and under what conditions a buck appeared in your hunting area is critical information.
The memory in a scouting camera is an important consideration. You want as much as possible, and that generally means an SD card slot that can handle 2 GB, 4 GB, or up to 16 GB slot. If it comes with a high-memory SD card, that’s great, but you’ll probably want a second one so that you can swap them out and take one home for viewing whenever you check your camera.
Batteries and battery life are some of the most-commented-upon things in scouting camera reviews. Personally, I prefer AA batteries over C batteries, because AA’s are cheaper and easier to find in rechargeable form. Battery life is something you’ll have to evaluate by reading some reviews.
Digital Scouting Camera Reviews
I looked at the bestselling camera from each of four top manufacturers: Primos, Bushnell, Moultrie, and Stealth Cam. You’d probably be happy with any of these, as they’re favorably reviewed. But I hope to help you find the camera that best meets your needs.
I retrieved my first recordings from the field this morning. I’d set up my camera in dense timber along the river, facing west, where deep water to the north and east likely created a travel route. Turns out I was right.
The Midnight Buck
Here’s the first recording my camera made in the field, triggered just after 1 a.m. the night I installed it.
Doe with Fawn
The frequent stars of my first set of videos were a whitetail doe and fawn that kept to the game trail moving left to right or vice-versa. Altogether they were in 2 videos together; the doe was in another couple of videos at night.