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Learn How to Set up a Trail Camera To Watch the Best Wildlife

WriterAcademy Staff
10 min read
Trail camera mounted to tree

Before you head into the woods seeking out big bucks and trophy-worthy prizes during hunting season, you’ll want to start prepping your gear and loading up on supplies. Naturally, there are the essentials:

  • Firearms
  • Extra ammo
  • Spare lithium batteries
  • Instant coffee (of course)

However, one piece of equipment that can be hugely beneficial to new and experienced hunters alike is a trail camera. Trail cameras – also known as game cameras – are constantly at the forefront of hunting innovation to help deer hunters with their scouting efforts, and knowing how to set up a trail camera will be key to a successful deer hunting season.

Trail Camera Strategy and Placement Tips

Accessing consistent, on-demand information on deer habits will help you refine your strategy, since you’ll be able to gather information on changes in deer activity in real time. But even with the most recent technology, improper trail camera placement will produce bad pictures – or, even worse – no images at all. With these trail camera tips in mind, here’s how you can be sure to capture the best-quality images:

Always keep the trail camera hidden

The last thing you want is for your winning buck to see your camera and vacate the area. One way to make sure your camera is well-hidden is to mount it on a tree trunk that is wider than the camera itself to help it blend into the bark. Another way to keep the camera from spooking your deer is to hang the camera from an inconspicuous tree branch.

Deer aren’t the only creatures you’ll want your camera to be invisible to! If you’re worried about camera tampering or theft, then you’ll need to know how to hide your trail camera from humans, too. The best way to keep your trail camera away from potential thieves is to make it difficult to find. You can achieve this by placing it in an unsuspecting area either above or below a pedestrian’s eye level.

Consider holding a consistent upward angle and combating condensation when placing cameras closer to ground level. You can achieve quality shots with the proper angle and a condensation-proofed lens. However, if you’re looking for an easier tried-and-true method for hiding your camera from thieves, keep reading to learn how to hang your deer camera.

Avoid placing the game camera too low or too high

  • If you’re mounting on a t-post, mounting stick, or tree trunk on a trail, place the camera 3-4 feet above ground level. This will be even with where the torso of an adult deer will likely fall on camera.
  • Also ensure there is about 30-35 feet between your camera and the target area. This placement will give your camera’s PIR system the highest probability of picking up a roaming deer, and it will allow any images shot to show the most possible animal surface area while also giving you maximum camera range.
  • If hanging from a tree – which can be ideal for keeping your camera hidden from deer and humans alike – determine the correct angle at which you should mount your camera. Using the 6-feet-high mark as your ideal baseline, angle your camera slightly downward so you have the widest possible view of the target area in-frame.
  • If you’re hanging your camera from an area of the tree higher than 6 feet, you’ll want to add some additional distance between your camera and where you expect the deer to present themselves. We recommend adding 1-2 feet of distance between your camera and target area for every additional foot higher than 6 feet.
  • This additional distance helps so that you don’t have to angle your camera steeply downward in order to get the best view of your target area. Steep downward camera angles limit the surface area your camera is capable of viewing, which will limit the number of deer you catch on camera.

Point your camera in the right direction

Minimize sun flare and ensure crisp golden-hour photos by pointing cameras due north or south. Pointing them east or west will result in capturing blinding images of the sunrise or sunset.

Point your camera at the correct angle

You need to understand the area in which you’ve chosen to hunt as well as the likely behaviors of the deer you plan to capture to find the right angle to point your camera. Doing so can make the difference between great pictures and mediocre ones. Where possible, try not to point your camera directly perpendicular to where you expect a deer to cross in front of your camera.

You’ll want your camera to have multiple opportunities to capture deer as they pass through the area (not just one make-or-break moment to snap an image). One way to do this is to angle your camera slightly sideways onto a known trail in such a way that when a deer walks up the trail. As it gets closer to the camera, it’s able to photograph the length of the path being traveled. Doing this will not only help you capture more close-ups and action shots. It also helps you gather data and familiarize yourself with a deer’s travel patterns.


On food plots, place your camera on a corner or the area where most of the deer will walk out. You will get more pictures of deer passing by. Make sure the camera is pointing to the direction of the food plot to get pictures of how many deer are in the it.

Keep a seasonal approach in mind

Bear in mind that a hotspot where you may have had previous success during warmer temperatures will likely see less deer activity during the chillier months, since food sources and the natural environment change with the season. You’ll want to place your camera at a target location that has proven heavy deer activity this season.

Game cameras are a must-have for your next hunting trip! Correct placement for them is imperative for their overall effectiveness. Once properly placed, trail cameras can provide information about the weather conditions, the best times to hunt, the number of deer in the area, and identifying specific bucks.


Read your instructions manual to know you are using the right set of batteries for your trail camera. That way you get the longest battery life for your camera.

Frequently Asked Questions

Hunter waits for his game with a rifle in hand

Q. What is the Difference Between Trigger Speed and Shutter Speed?

A. Trigger speed is related to device functionality. It measures the amount of time from when the IR sensor initially detects motion and “wakes up” the camera from its sleep mode, triggering it for photo capture.

However, shutter speed is related to the actual image quality. This measures the time it takes for the camera’s mechanical shutter to open and close. Generally, faster shutter speeds are used for daytime shots to avoid overexposure. Slower shutter speeds are frequently used for capturing low light and nighttime images.

Q. How Cellular Technology Changed the Sport of Hunting

A. Cellular trail cameras have been a major revolution in game tracking. Having constant connectivity to your wireless game cameras leads to less pressure on your spots because you don't spend as much time going back and forth.

It takes less effort to check your cards — meaning you won't travel to the lease as often and can spend more time relaxing with your family instead. Accessing consistent information on changing deer habits will also help you refine your strategy. It no longer takes days to learn if a new buck has hit your property or if the deer go nocturnal.

Next Steps

If you’re ready to add a trail camera to your hunting arsenal, you can learn more about their features from the Game Camera Buying Guide or find our top camera picks here. Browse our wide selection of high-quality game cameras and accessories online or in-store at Academy Sports + Outdoors.