How to Find Trail Cameras in The Woods: A Beginner’s Guide
Adventurers and woodsmen, ahoy! If you are the type of person who loves the great outdoors or long strolls in the woods, you are also probably aware of those nifty devices known as trail cameras. They can be really useful if you are an intrepid hunter trying to study your quarry, or a researcher trying to observe the habits and movements of animals. But since these beauties are usually pretty well hidden, how can you spot them?
If, for some reason, you have ever asked yourself that question, you have stumbled upon just the article for you. Here, we will cover all the usual suspects when it comes to trail cameras, the who, the what, the where, and the why (and sometimes even the how).
By the end of your reading session, you should know how to find trail cameras in the woods and trees. If you are a home invader, please do not read any further. Seriously.
Without further ado, here is how to spot trail cameras when you are out and about.
Why Do People Use Trail Cameras?
Knowing why people make use of trail cameras can give you some insight on where to look for them. We have already briefly covered why some would use trail cameras in the introduction, but let us go into that a bit further.
Perhaps the most common use of trail cameras is as a tool for hunting. Hunters use them to remotely observe any potential prey while they have to focus on other tasks. Knowing this, trail cameras are thus usually hidden away from the eye line of an animal (or, gulp, a human). It is a valid hunting practice, and it is a good thing to keep in mind.
Researchers use them, too, for similar purposes. Of course, the end goal is not to come home with a new moose head to place above the mantle. Instead, researchers use trail cameras as a tool to observe the habits and movements of creatures in a way that is less intrusive (and thus, more effective) than having to stalk those animals physically. Like hunters, they will keep these cameras hidden and above the eye line.
People also make use of trail cameras as added security features. The cameras can remotely monitor any movement going in or out of a specified area. Again, the end goal here is not to get a shiny new pair of deer antlers, nor is it to study the habits of some indigenous species. Rather, the cameras are safeguards against thievery, invasion, or any other criminal activity.
Keep all of these potential uses and purposes in mind. The main point of knowing why people use trail cameras is just to understand what you are looking for and where to look. Luckily, we are covering that next.
Method 1: Look Out for Trees and Shady Areas
As we have already said, hunters and researchers are inclined to hide their trail cameras in places where most people will not notice. But after this, you will not be “most people”. The areas where people hide them often provide natural camouflage due to foliage and bush. This allows them to observe animals discreetly.
Trail cameras are found high up in trees, where natural shade is cast. Look up towards the tree branches, and you may spot a camera. Keep in mind though that hunters will sometimes add some more leaves to hide them even more. Knowing this, keep an eye out for spots that seem to have a bit more foliage than what is natural.
Now, if the trail cameras are being used for security purposes, you will want to look out for vantage points closer to the building being secured.
Again, these will be as hidden as possible to prevent thieves and other dissidents from breaching the area. You should always be looking up as the cameras are often placed out of reach to prevent damage, accidental or otherwise.
Method 2: The Lens and Strap
You may think that these trail cameras are tricky buggers to spot. This can be true if you do not know what to look out for.
Despite all the effort that goes into concealing these nifty devices, one part of the camera that will never be hidden is the lens. Obviously, the lens is what provides hunters, researchers, or security teams with a line of sight, and therefore will not be obscured.
When you are scanning for a trail camera among the trees, look out for the circular optics. If you are lucky, it may be prone to lens flare as well. Regardless, this part of the camera should be easy to spot during the day.
Another part of the trail camera that can be spotted is the strap. Although the trees and foliage may provide some natural camouflage, the strap will still be visible against the branches of the tree.
Of course, any part of the camera may stick out. This can happen if the person setting it up is not as experienced or as knowledgeable as they should be. But we are assuming that you are dealing with people with some degree of expertise. You should not count on a slip-up or human error when trying to detect trail cameras.
Still, if you spot some black piece of equipment eerily sticking out of a tree, you can probably bet on it being part of a trail camera. Tread lightly, adventurer.
Method 3: Look Up
Trail cameras will not be hidden in plain sight. Instead, they will be hidden just above plain sight, or higher. It would make no sense for hunters and security teams to install these cameras in places where you could easily look the lens in the eye and have a stare-off.
Wherever you are, and you happen to suspect that there may be a camera keeping an eye on you, look towards the trees. Scan the trees upwards, then follow the branches.
You can usually spot the strap clinging to them, or the lens cheekily sticking out of the leaves. Hunters will deliberately use vines for an added level of camouflage. With that in mind, be sure to follow the vines too.
In residential or industrial areas, there usually is not much natural camouflage. Home and business owners are forced to make clever use of tricky sight-lines. Still, there is only so much you can do with four walls and an entrance.
The cameras will still be hidden above eye-level, at the top of the corner of a room, usually near main or frequently used entrances. Scan those ceilings, trooper.
Method 4: Get Acquainted with Trail Cameras
It would be difficult for you to spot a camera if you are not familiar with it. While this may take a little more effort on your part, it would be a good idea to do some added research on trail cameras to become properly aware of them.
For starters, get to know the cameras commonly used by hunters and researchers (security cameras are generally more high-end; a little more research for you to do). Even if all you do is find out what they look like, it is an added boon for you.
It is also a good idea to have a bit more background information on these cameras, but it is not necessary. Knowing all you can about these trail cameras will help you in recognizing them while out in the field. You will also know which spots are optimal for certain cameras.
Keep the following in mind when trying to determine the location of the camera(s):
- How easy it is for the user to set it up (the user should not have to be Tarzan in order to place the camera in the desired location)
- The motive of the hunter or researcher
- How much camouflage is readily available in that environment (if there are no vines or dense bushels of leaves, you can keep an eye out for any random explosions of greenery)
- Any additional security purposes (those secret government facilities will have their business monitored closely)
Method 5: Don’t Forget the Food
This next point is specifically related to hunters. (Researchers may make use of it too, but not to the same extent or intention). Hunters will often place their cameras near a food source in an effort to more closely observe their prey.
They can keep an eye out for which times animals choose to feed, as well as what they choose to eat. This aids the hunter in discerning the optimal time at which to pounce on their prey.
Hunters may also plant food in the immediate vicinity of their camera(s). Remember the general locations that a hunter may choose to hide a trail camera. If you spot some food nestled comfortably up against a tree, you can probably make a safe bet that there is a camera in that tree.
If you are trying to remain incognito in your trail camera detecting activities, do not remove the food or approach it too closely. Instead, simply make a note of where it is and scan its surroundings thoroughly.
Another thing to keep in mind is that hunters may also choose to leave food in a grassy area or clearing surrounded by trees. You would probably be able to tell whether or not that food is a natural occurrence or the meddlings of men.
If you spot conveniently placed food in an area strangely devoid of more, you can count on the fact that someone is probably watching. Look towards the trees once more. Take note of any camouflage, or the distinct flare and circular shape of a lens.
Some Things to Always Keep in Mind
No matter the circumstances, there are two things that you should always keep in mind when trying to detect a trail camera when you are out and about in the woods.
Trail cameras need to be placed in an area with an unobstructed line of sight and - preferably - some natural camouflage. In a forest or wooded area, this will pretty much always be in a tree somewhere.
Scan the branches wherever you are, being sure to note any more-than-convenient camouflage or shade. Remember that vines provide excellent camouflage for hunters, trappers, and researchers. Follow those branches and take note of the vines and leaves.
In business and residential areas, the placement of cameras is pretty consistent across the board: in a corner on the ceiling and near an entrance. Now, we do not want to aid and abet any would-be home invaders, intrusive vagabonds, or thieves… but just be sure to spot the cameras before they spot you. Mum’s the word in this case.
Trail cameras serve two purposes, either observation or security. If one day you find yourself strolling through a forest, it is unlikely that any cameras would be used for security reasons (unless, of course, you have accidentally stumbled across some secret government facility).
So with that in mind, always remember the tips we have covered in the article: scan the trees, look for food, look at the corners of ceilings. Knowing everything we have told, you should be able to spot the cameras before they spot you.
We hope that by now you will be able to pick out a trail camera from a bushel of leaves. They are pretty useful devices, and there is a reason that they are so extensively used. But we know that some people value their discretion and privacy.
If you are one of those people, you now know how to subvert the invasive lens of the common trail camera. If, however, you are a prospective burglar, we would appreciate you not citing this article as inspiration for help.
For everyone else, we hope this article has been informative and that you now know how to find trail cameras in woods and trees when you are out and about hiking, hunting, or fishing. Happy trail camera hunting!