SNYDER: Trail cameras good investment for deer hunters

ANDY SNYDER, 505-5403/@ydsports
  • Trail cameras have motion detectors which take photos when sensing movement.
  • The prices for trail cameras range from less than $100 to more than $1,000.
  • Most high-end trail cameras snap their photos without making a sound or issuing a flash.

Believe it or not, the chilly mornings of Pennsylvania's deer season are just around the corner.

Before long, we’ll put away our fishing rods and pick up our bows or rifles in anticipation of “the big one.”

Pennsylvania hunters will not be allowed to use semiautomatic rifles to hunt big game, such as the buck pictured above.

Even though the official start of deer season is a couple months away, smart hunters are already in the woods, scouting their territory.

Serious deer hunters use all the technology they can get their hands on. One of their favorite tools is a trail camera.

These rather inexpensive “hidden” cameras allow hunters to keep an eye on their quarry 24 hours per day, seven days a week, without spending any time in the woods.

Trail cameras are nothing more than cameras attached to a motion detector encased in a weather-proof case. They can be inconspicuously strapped to a tree or attached to a post anywhere game animals live.

When a deer or other animal walks by, the camera’s motion detector picks up the action and snaps a picture. The image is automatically time-stamped and is either stored on the camera or, on high-end models, is emailed to the hunter.

Trail cameras are great preseason scouting tools. They allow hunters to pattern and track deer movements without being in the woods for hours on end, potentially spooking nearby deer and ruining a future hunt.

Most of today’s high-end digital cameras can snap a picture without ever making a sound. Even better, infrared technology allows cameras to take a shot in pitch-black conditions without a night-shattering flash of light. Deer never know they are being tracked.

The only time the spot is disturbed is when a hunter occasionally unloads the camera.

Sure, trail cams can get expensive. But if it means the difference between a trophy buck and an unfilled deer tag, most hunters agree they are more than worth it. Each year, some huge deer are harvested thanks to insightful images captured on trail cams.

Like most things, trail cameras come with a wide variety of price tags, from less than a hundred bucks to well more than a grand. Which camera is right for you depends on the type of hunting you do and your budget.

For hunters who only get into the woods a few times a year, a cheaper camera that takes low-resolution photos is fine. For folks who take to the woods full time during hunting season, high-end digital cameras with a cellular connection will offer all the features they could ever dream of.

Many hunting camps are finding the funds to purchase expensive cameras by splitting the cost between their members. With a small outlay of cash from each member, the group can get a feature-packed camera that will prove useful for years down the road.

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Pennsylvania’s deer herd may be smaller than it used to be, but that's surely no reason to put your gun away and give up. Invest in a trail camera and get some technology on your side.

A small investment now will pay huge dividends in just a few months.

Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at