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Learning how to use my Bushnell trail camera


I spent a lot of time in woods looking for deer and other animals. After I broke my leg earlier this year dad came up with the idea that we could go up to the woods for a hour and just sit and wait to see what animals would come. That got me wondering: what waited for a week what would we see ? Obviously you can't wait in a wood for a week, but you can set up a trail camera (Americans call it a trophy camera, no idea why).

So since then I have wanted a trail cam, and decided it would be the first thing I bought with my book money. It is a small camera that you set up in the countyside and it takes a pic, or shoots videos when it detects movement. I asked on Twitter and people generally said Bushnell trail cams are the best, especially the ones with "invisible" lighting at night. So me and dad looked at prices, but the newer models were quite expensive, and I wasn't sure how often I would use it. So we got a older, used Bushnell 119436C cam, with my first book money. This is how it looks !

All trail cameras have three different parts on the front, a sensor (at the bottom) which detects movement or heat, a camera, which records stills or video, and the LED lights at the top which are used at night. The LEDs are infra-red which is a wavelength of light which humans can just about see, but which is really bright for cameras. When they come on, they just look like a grid of tiny red dots. The camera has a nylon strap to fit around trees, and dad also bought a wire cable and padlock so no-one could open it or take it away without the key. After a few tries, I covered the wire in camo tape because otherwise it was too obvious.

Those things are the only things on the outside. The case shuts really tight to keep out water. It runs off 8 AA batteries which are supposed to power it for up to a year. You often have to push the batteries back because they become a bit loose when you open it. 

Here it has a spare memory card taped to the inside, so I can bring one home to download while keeping another one inside it. The other memory card slots up from the bottom. There is a switch to switch it on, some buttons, and a menu screen. Mine doesn't show previews of what has been shot though which is a shame so I just have two memory cards and swap them.

The first test

For the first test I put it outside my back door overnight. My cats and my neighbours cats set it off. One of my neighbour's cats was very interested in it !

I was now dying to do it for real !

Mortuary Wood

The first place I set it up for real was in Mortuary Wood, which was where I did my first "what can you see in an hour" challenge, and also where the badger and buzzard are rotting down.  You can see how obvious the security wire was without camo tape:

But it didn't get set off at all ! I was disappointed. Did I set it up too high or in the wrong place ?

Quoiggs Wood #1

I knew there were lots of roe deer and foxes in Quoiggs wood, so I tried that next. Dad found a track which went underneath this fallen tree, so he set the camera up here:

The only thing that recorded though was dad coming back to the camera !

Quoiggs Wood #2

Dad went to the south edge of the wood and found this gap in a tree which was the only way from one side to the other.

The strap wasn't big enough to go all the way round the tree so it went round the branches instead. We left it for three nights.

I had set the camera up to record 1 minute of video whenever it was triggered. When I downloaded the card I could see what looked like nothing, then I looked closely and I could see that as it was triggered a roe deer was just walking off.

Luckily the roe turned round and walked back the way he came !

Dad remembered that he had seen the same deer before about half a mile away, and remembered the distinctive antlers:

This was the morning of the third day, just ten minutes before dad came back for the camera ! This roe buck was eating grass for five minutes. Here is the last bit of it:

Did you see that the roe buck has the small stubs of antlers ? I think this means that this roe buck's antlers from last have just fallen off and the new ones are growing, which doesn't normally happen for another month. Or he might just have had small stubby antlers for the last year, like George.

Suicides Graves

I definitely wanted to try it out on red deer. Suicides Graves is the red deer forest where I watched them during the rut. I chose a spot which was at the edge of the wood, where there was a distinctive deer path going into the woods.

I hid the trail camera just inside the woods on the path, thinking lots of deer would pass by it. It's hard to see in this picture. I put it very low on the tree.

I left it there for three nights. I expected lots of animals to walk by it, but all the videos I got were of them walking on the main path. This was on the first night. A hind and her fawn stared at the camera because they could see the red lights. That's when I wished I had bought a newer Bushnell model where the lights are invisible to humans and animals !

Watch how she tilts her ear at 13 seconds to make sure there is nothing else in the direction that she runs away in !

I checked on the camera with dad after the first 48 hours when I was out on a walk but left it there. A few hours after we left, this stag walked by !

In the night four deer ran past:

And at 6am the next day, the same stag was back ! It didn't look like Homer or Flanders, the two stags I watched during the rut. It's unusual the stag was still here so late in the rut.

A minute after that this hind and fawn walked past:

Easter Biggs

I wanted to try it on smaller mammals as well, so dad set it up near what looked like either an old badger or a fox hole, but he wasn't sure whether it was still occupied.

The next day I downloaded the card and spotted something completely unexpected down there !

It was a male pheasant looking for food !

So here's what I think so far about my trail cam:

  • I really REALLY like it. It's going to be really useful for tracking animals.
  • It is a good design and the batteries last a long time but the menus are a bit fiddly.
  • It's a shame it doesn't have a preview screen to see what it's shot, but you need a big screen anyway to see some details.
  • You really need to buy a padlock and wire as well to make sure no-one takes it.
  • I asked around a lot (Wildlife Kate was really really helpful, and she is kind of an expert on things like this and she sells them too ) and lots of people like the Bushnell ones. If you can afford the 2013 models with the invisible flash light then I would buy that. I could have afforded it but wasn't sure about spending so much money on something knew. I might buy another one like that later. I'm not worried about animals noticing it, but I am worried about poachers in some of the woods I leave it in who might spot it and break it so they don't get caught
  • The sensor is really good, and triggers from quite a long way away. I only had one time where it triggered when nothing was on the video.
  • I bought a 32Gb card which is probably too big. A 1min video is about 53Mb, so it could fit over 600 of them on one card. For my second card I bought a 8Gb one.
  • Video quality is really good in day time, and a bit blocky at night. I haven't tried the photographs yet. Video seems more useful to me.

Since I have bought it, it has hardly been in the house, because it's been in the woods most nights, and I really excited about where I can leave it next !

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Psydrache said...

So many stags and deers, and even a pheasant! Thats great! To buy such a camera is a wish of mine, too. But I'm afraif that someone would steal it. And a good one is expensive. So I better save money for a lion rug xD
I hope you post some more fotos and/or videos of your camera one time :)

JackN said...

Funny! We have exactly the same one!

Jake said...

It's excellent, isn't it ?

Jake said...

I was worried about mine getting stolen too, which is why I added the wire chain and padlock.

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