Ask Zimo: Position your critter cam correctly for wild wildlife shots

October 24, 2013 

Q: Can you recommend placement height on a backyard wildlife camera?

My husband got me a Moultrie M-880 digital game camera for my birthday and I am ready to set it up and use it.

We have well-used game trail on our property in Garden Valley but I do have concerns about the flash or low glow illumination obstructing their preferred safe travel over a fence.

CASS M., via Facebook

A: I’ve been operating a game camera in my yard for years and one place works best.

It’s a boulder where I can place the camera about 3 feet off the ground.

This position captures photos of small cottontails up close to the rock as well as deer about 10 to 15 yards away.

Of course, the trail I’m monitoring is in Foothills terrain and open with grasses and a little sagebrush. The view is not obstructed by trees.

The camera is just the right height for deer to look right into it, to catch coyotes blasting by or to get quail on the ground about 5 feet.

I’ve changed the camera’s location several times but the boulder seems to be the best spot.

I imagine after some experimenting, you’ll eventually locate the best spot for your camera.

It’s trial and error because you don’t know exactly how the critters will react to the camera or what routes they are traveling.

After years of getting critter cam photos, I know exactly where the deer will be browsing and how far out coyotes, bobcats, and even a mountain lion will pass by.

You’ll get a lot of surprises with your camera. I’ve had several incidents where mule deer licked the camera and knocked it over. A representative with Moultrie told me to use a scent eliminator to get human or any other scent off your camera to keep inquisitive wildlife from damaging it.

Here are other tips I’ve learned over the years:

• Turn the camera off on windy days and nights. You’ll end up with a lot of useless photos.

• Aim the camera away from the direction of the rising or setting sun. Photos will be blown out by the light.

• Moultrie says to position your camera at a 45-degree angle to a game trail to allow for more time for the camera to trigger and get the whole animal.

I don’t know how many times I’ve gotten the tail or back end of animals passing by too quickly.

This was a great disappointment when I only got the tail end of a mountain lion.

• Moultrie also suggests to position the camera at waist high.

• Get a solar panel for the camera. It cuts down on the expense of replacing batteries.

Have fun with your new hobby.

Pete Zimowsky: 377-6445, Twitter: @Zimosoutdoors

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