Author Archives: Author

Wireless Trail Camera Review – 2020

Among the unquestionable greatest evolutions in the outdoor industry over the last two decades has been the trail camera. Days of struggling to get a 35mm roll of film to start in the film feed, and then rushing to Rite Aid to get the previous roll printed have been replaced by alerts on my phone, taking me to pictures of a deer 600 miles away traversing the well-beaten trail a mere seconds prior.

Remarkable.

While nothing can replace those moments and memories afield, the extended season and treestand-like anticipation of the next photo make trail camera scouting extremely fun.

Where are the Reviews?

I’ve been dabbling in the world of cellular trail cameras for the last seven seasons. I won a pair of Bushnell Wireless Trophy Cam cameras and loved the technology – even those very early iterations. While extremely costly in upfront cost, I didn’t mind paying the monthly fee of $9.99 to check on hunting properties in two different states. It was extremely fun.

As the technology has advanced, with many manufacturers entering the market with their own versions of the wireless technology, the reliable research on the fresh products seems limited. I purchased two SpyPoint cellular cameras before the 2019 season and had decent success with them, but decided to add to the repertoire this offseason.

Simply put, figuring out which camera to get proved to be a taxing exercise.

I decided to create a review post on the different cameras that I have personally used. There are many others out there, but this post is to provide an initial reaction of the multiple cameras that are currently being used on properties I hunt.

I purchased all of the cameras and not one of them comes with any partnership with the manufacturer. I did try to research as much as I could before purchasing and will provide further detail on why I decided on the cameras I did as part of the review.

While I get into some of the specifications, this post is designed to give you the layman’s terms and feelings. I’ve learned that just because one camera has a massive MP image size, doesn’t mean it’s taking high-quality photos than a version that might be half as large images.

All of the photos included in this post are of the lower-resolution photos transmitted from the camera. All of them take higher-resolution photos that are stored on their SD cards.

Oh, and lastly, I’m going to review in the order that I started using them for no other reason than to help me keep up with all those that I’ve tried.

Here goes:

Bushnell Wireless Trophy Cam (the original!)

This baby was expensive for those who purchased it when they first came out.

Bushnell Trophy Cam Image of Camera

The “original” Bushnell Wireless Trophy Cam

If I recall, the camera alone ran $399 on the shelf and, like the lion’s share of cellular cameras, you purchased the monthly package to transmit your photos.

Here’s where it gets interesting. I have not purchased any of the later versions of the Bushnell wireless cameras.

The reason is directly pinned to the poor reviews it gets on multiple trail camera sites. I almost made the purchase of a couple more in the last two seasons, but couldn’t pull myself to do so based solely on those reviews.Bushnell Image

With respect to battery life, I never seemed to have an issue with the longevity with Lithium batteries being used in the camera. They easily outlasted the season of use.

What I can say is the old version, which can still be found on auction sites from time to time, was a winner.

SpyPoint Micro Link (Verizon / AT&T)

I use two of these (one Verizon service, one AT&T service) and have very similar service between the two. Operationally, they are identical. My experience over two seasons has been hit/miss. SpyPoint Micro LTE Cellular LinkI can have the same camera on the same tree, and have different experiences from one month to the next. I attribute a lot of that to the cell coverage on our farm, but also hear similar experiences from hunting buddies who own this camera.

The cost of this camera has trended down a bit over the last year as other cameras have entered the market. You can find them for $99 easily now. As far as setup goes, this is among the easiest to use. You essentially toggle a switch to setup and allow it to get service, then move it to “on”. That’s it. The user interface online is very straightforward. Among the qualms I have with this camera, and more so now that there are so many other options at this price point, are the lack of functions the camera has.

I did have some questions and minor issues when first setting up the camera and needed to work with SpyPoint customer service. SpyPointThis was in the summer of 2019 and I found it extremely tough to work with customer service representatives who had little/no experience afield with the cameras. They worked directly from a FAQ sheet and gave only the answers that were predetermined by the question(s) I asked. I’m not sure if SpyPoint has corrected that.

The battery life with each of the SpyPoints has been average. I started with Alkaline batteries that didn’t last an entire month with roughly 500-600 pictures. After switching to Lithium, I was able to more than double that use to almost three months.

I’m not a fan of any cellular camera plan that will not allow you to link your cameras together (essentially pay one fee for a set number of photos across all your cameras). For every SpyPoint camera purchased, you have to add a new camera to the plan and pay the transmission fees again. It’s a common gripe from a majority of the cameras available.

SpyPoint does have a free plan for all of its cameras, which provides 100 free photos a month. For a lot of hunters, this could be a fantastic and ideal option. It does allow you to turn the plan on/off.

I will say that, for the price point, I was pleased overall with the performance of the camera. Would it be my first choice today? Absolutely not. Was it a great option for around $100 in 2019? Yes.

Moultrie XV 7000i

The Moultrie 7000 became part of the repertoire following recommendations from two hunting buddies. Both have used this model for over a year and liked the quality of pictures and the user interface that Moultrie provided.

7000iI have the trigger set for the low sensitivity but I will tell you that this camera has a lot of false triggers. Whereas, I would venture more than 20 percent of the photos it takes have no wildlife in them. I would expect false triggers in a field edge or someplace where there is more movement, but I have this camera on a well-used trail within the woods.

The picture quality is very good, but the thumbnails it sends are weaker quality than several of the others that I’m currently using. I agree with my hunting buddies that the interface is solid, but we did have a couple days where the service provider was struggling to deliver photos from the camera. To its credit, Moultrie sent multiple alerts and messages informing users of the issue, and when it was resolved.

To this day, though, you can log on to the web hosting site for the Moultrie and your pictures fail to load. You can usually log back in later and find them, but it can be frustrating. 

I have alkaline batteries in this camera and through the first month-plus, and while taking a high-volume of photos a day, the battery bar shows 4/5 remaining, but only 61% of its life according to the Moultrie app. MoultrieAdditionally, it shows a weak signal (0%) but has had no problem sending photos. I’m going to switch this camera to transmit at specified times to, hopefully, support the battery life longevity.

Moultrie is among the cameras that offers an unlimited plan that will allow you to link multiple cameras to the same cost plan. That said, I opted for the $10 / 1000 images per month plan. That price point seems to be the industry standard for that volume of photos per camera.

Stealth Cam Fusion

This one happened quickly. 0081362800060_AWhile shopping at Sam’s Club, a normal swing through the outdoors section proved valuable when I saw a blister pack of the Fusion that included the camera, batteries, SD card and a free three months of service for Sam’s Club members. I was intrigued. The entire package was priced lower than you could find just the camera for at your national outdoors box store.

Fawn Falsh StealthCamAfter doing a quick review on the camera from my phone, I decided to give it a whirl. So far, I’ve been very pleased with it. I would argue its picture quality is akin to the Moultrie camera and I really like the user interface on the phone app. It shows where the camera is, has the obvious photo uploads, but also has an easy-to-follow photo tracker that shows you the tendencies in animal activity at the camera. I’m eager to see how that adjusts as we get nearer to the run.

Since the blister pack came with alkaline batteries, I’ve used them and after four weeks, the battery life is at 75 percent. StealthCam YoteI will definitely (similar to the Moultrie) go with Lithium batteries when it’s time to swap with this camera.

With respect to plans, I’m still on the unlimited free plan that came with it (thanks Sam’s Club) but will move to a plan that falls right into the same price point as all the others when it’s time to reup.

StealthCam 2I have this camera currently set in a location I’ve struggled to get service in the past. It has worked flawlessly with little signal issue. Clearly the coverage has improved in that area. That said, I did try the SpyPoint this year at this location and could not get it to transmit a photo.

Overall, very pleased with the Stealth Cam but recognize its pros and cons.

Tactacam Reveal

Let’s cut to the chase on this one. I am a big fan of this camera. I like the price and it easily outperforms the others when it comes to picture quality. Tactacam RevealWhile quite possibly swayed by my initial opinion, I also have a great deal of confidence in the continued updates Tactacam is making to the user interface (an area where this one started out behind the curve).

I read about the camera and wanted to try it out. In early August it was difficult to find any. A quick search just now showed it’s a little easier than it was a month ago, but it’s still on backorder at a number of places.

IMG_2621I think anyone would be hard pressed to find a $99 camera that outperforms this one! In fact, it outperforms the rest of my fleet.

It’s completely understandable that any camera is going to send a lower resolution thumbnail to save on battery life and ease of transmission. That said, even the thumbnails for this camera arrive looking great.

Nighttime photos for most cameras can be a challenge, but this camera might be the best quality nigh pictures I’ve ever encountered, cellular camera or not.IMG_2623

The first thing that impressed me when setting this camera up was the signal strength where I placed one of them. It’s an area that I’ve tried cellular cameras for several years and had zero luck getting photos to transmit. When I set this camera up, it showed full signal strength. In reading some of the reviews prior to purchase, I remain a little bit skeptical about it being true “full” signal strength, but I can tell you that this camera has not missed a beat in sending photos immediately.

IMG_2622While this camera doesn’t have a true “link” plan for multiple cameras, it does provide discounts when you place multiple cameras on the plan.

As previously noted, this camera’s biggest weakness came it the user interface. Toggling between pictures was difficult and if you’re someone who deletes a lot of photos, it can be more challenging than other cameras.

Tactacam Reveal has a passionate community online and they were quick to make updates and they continue to keep users updated with new iterations of the interface. For me, personally, I think it’s very close to everything I need right now. IMG_2624The recent improvements allowing you to swipe between photos was a welcomed update and I don’t need a whole lot beyond your basic needs.

The interface opens with a homepage that aggregates all of your cameras’ photos in a feed timeline. I like that, but recognize not everyone will. If you want to look at an individual camera feed, you traverse to the cameras and do so.

I outfitted both of my Tactacam cameras with lithium batteries and expect both to outlast the 2020 season.

Overall

Among the areas I didn’t dive into very far was the setup of each camera. I decided not to as I truly thought each of them was easy to get started. If I had to say which was easiest, it’s hard to beat the SpyPoint for startup, but none was difficult whatsoever. I think anyone with any digital/e-commerce experience can set one of these cameras up.

I think purchase habits are a strong testament to informing others on a recommendation. While I don’t like picking winners/losers and can honestly state that all of my cameras have performed well for me overall, if I had to purchase any camera in the market today, I would opt for the Tactacam Reveal. I think that decision would be the same if the camera were 50 percent higher priced than its current $99.

I hope this post helped you and expect the cellular trail camera market to continue its evolution. What has your experience been? Share your comments below!


2018 AHT Holiday Gift Guide

It’s that time of year again! Alright you procrastinating gift giver, get off of your duff and log on to the world wide web and make that purchase of something the outdoorsman in your life is going to be happy about this holiday season.

A friendly reminder to look at the former gift guides done on this site as a number of the gifts are still relevant! Click here to access all that have been on this site in recent years!

Without further ado, here is the 2018 version of the A Hunters Tales Holiday Gift Guide!

Get ‘em a Hooker – Skull Hooker

A couple of skull hookers in use (including the Kansas 11-pointer without his nose!).

This is a gift I was first introduced to by AHT contributor (who owes our readers a piece or two about his hunting success in 2018 … yes, he was successful again!) Greg Johnston. The skull hooker keeps your European mount stable and presents your trophy with artistic flare. Let me tell you what else it does: it keeps your Euro from taking a nose-first dive into a concrete floor after you “have to move it a tad.” Yes, I was the idiot that broke the sinus bones off of a pretty 11-point buck I killed in Kansas several years ago. The skull hooker wasn’t around then, but I’m thankful it is now!

I’ve Got Buck Fever!

This one comes with a story. We were sitting around deer camp last month, swapping stories about seasons gone by, when we found a bottle of doe urine that was, as best as we could recall, at least 12 years old. Of course, we had to open it and see what aroma remained. It was nasty!

The idea of synthetic scents is intriguing to me, primarily to combat that very situation. Conceivably, a synthetic scent should not change its chemical makeup over time and carry its intended scent for the long haul.

Think of it this way, have you ever pulled that bottle of Brut off the dresser from 1987 and seen if the scent remains the same? I have. And it does. But I still resist the urge to wear it the way I did when my hair was feathered and impressing teenage girls was my intent!

Image borrowed from Buck Fever Synthetics

Buck Fever has a long list of products designed for specific uses, all with expected use and shelf lives that exceed their original counterparts. There are a number of elements of the theory behind Buck Fever’s products. I recommend visiting their site to learn more about their products.

They also have scent elimination products!

I’m eager to try some of these scents on a special product I’m working on that I HOPE will make the 2019 Gift Guide (more to come, if my field research works!).

Archery Target

You’d think stopping arrows would have engineering limitations, but believe it or not, the world of layered targets, and more specifically self-healing layered targets, has come a long way in the last decade. The prices are still a little bit high,but most of the newer targets on the market will last a number of years. Essentially, you’re investing in a target that will handle hundreds of thousands of shots.

A number of great options are available from great target makers like Rinehart, Dead Bullseye and Bulldog Targets. A quick search on Google can land you in the right spot to compare sizes and prices!

Head Lamps Always Win

The hunter in your life probably already has one. It doesn’t matter. Buy them another – I promise he or she will not mind. I really like the Cabela’s brand pictured here (it’s actually a Cabela’s licensed product made by Princeton). It has adjustable brightness that allows you to control your beam based on the situation. I’ve never had to change the batteries in mine and, if needed, the brightest beam is very, very bright! It’s a tad pricey, but a great investment.

Deer Tour T-Shirt

Image borrowed from Legendary Whitetails

If your outdoorsman is cool, they know about The Hunting Public. If they’re not cool, tell them about the boys from the newly popular online hunting show (available on YouTube). They also have a “Tour T-Shirt” from Legendary Whitetails that shows the group’s main characters in caricature riding in a car that has created a persona of its own (the Smurf). Sadly, the shirts were designed before Ted became a hit on the show – I’m betting he makes the 2019 Deer Tour T-shirt!

Cooking Thermometer

Cooking wild game is part of the fun of being an outdoorsman, rounding out the whole “field to fork” cycle that hunters enjoy. There are a number of options available, but consider getting your outdoorsman a new digital cooking thermometer. Several now offer Bluetooth technology allowing you to keep track of your temperatures remotely from your mobile device. They’re very handy and make a great gift.

Capture the moment with a Tactacam

Image borrowed from Tactacam.com

Memorializing your hunts, especially the successful ones, has never been more popular. The Tactacam is a video camera that can be mounted onto your weapon, or body, in order to capture the moments that matter most. If you’re considering the camera, also consider the respective mounts your hunter will need to take the camera to the field. Several retailers now sell the Tactacam, including the ever-popular duo of Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops.

Gift Cards

A reminder for 2018!!! Wondering which gift certificates to get for your hunter? A reminder that Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s are now part of the same ownership and gift certificates at either retailer are interchangeable. That stated, a gift card also makes a great gift!


Dear ol’ Deer Camp: 2018 Version

I shot the biggest buck I’ve ever taken off of our family farm this year. He’s not among the largest I’ve ever taken and barely would rest inside the top-10 by looking only at his antler size. But he’s special and will go down as one of the most memorable.

But that’s not what this recap post is about.

IMG_2941

One of the most picturesque deer drags I recall!

Nope.

It’s about spending the opening week of New York’s gun season with my family and seeing the sunrise on the season from a tree on our home farm for the first time in many years.

It’s about the cadre relationship that hunting camp provides.

It’s about cold mornings where the fireplace at camp feels a whole lot better than Mother Nature’s bitter touch on your cheeks.

And it’s about the reverence for a camp diary.

Each fall, many deer publications publish stories about deer camp. I love reading them all. Stories of the brotherhood that exists when families and extended families come together in the big woods of the north country, or in Michigan’s upper peninsula, … or anywhere else … have always caught my attention.

IMG_2933

One of the spectacular views Mother Nature provided

This year was no different. I read an easily relatable story about deer camp, written in first-person by Dan Ladd (“The Joy of Deer Camp”) in New York State Conservationist magazine and got me excited before I even stepped foot into camp.

We weren’t necessarily at full capacity in our deer camp this year, but we had a bigger group than we’ve had in a long time. My brother Doug, uncle Paul, cousin Nicholas and nephew Matthew, represented three generations of family. My young son, Reid, also joined the group for a day of sharing the family woods!

Buck photo

My brother Doug and me sharing in the success!

Once a rookie of the camp himself, uncle Paul now represents the old guard. He married into our family over four decades ago. A “city guy” who married a farm girl in my late aunt, Paul had broad enough shoulders to join her brothers in camp, taking all of the ridicule that comes with being new to the sport of hunting. I’m happy to report he acclimated quite well and became a fixture at camp, to the pleasure of my late father and our family.

Uncle Paul shared stories this year about his first years in camp. Needless to say, he experienced a great deal of ridicule and good-natured hazing that would typically be reserved for a rookie joining a sports team. I’m a few years older than his son, Nicholas, who has been a mainstay at camp since he was a young teenager.

IMG_2772

From (L) to (R): Brother Doug, me, Cousin Nick, Uncle Paul

My nephew, Matthew, came into camp riding a three-year streak of punching his tag (and was able to fill it again this year)!

There were drinks. There were stories. There were fun memories of our family members no longer with us. The pool table, even with its minor off-kilter intricacies, became proving grounds one evening. The poker chips had the dust blown off of them for an evening of cards.

IMG_2936

Another beautiful view afforded by the snow.

Memories of successful hunts that culminated with shoulder mounts in the cabin were bandied about. Our camp diary, an invaluable asset that has 40 years of history documented, was utilized as a reference point a number of times. Uncle Paul has served as the primary scribe of the diary over its entire existence. Others add only when he’s not available to do so.

It’s often discussed, but there is just something cleansing for the soul when it comes to the time at deer camp. Having experienced some semblance of camp across a number of states, there are many common threads that connect the spirit of deer camps everywhere. Those who have experienced it know it and no documentation of deer camp can do it perfect justice.

IMG_2937

My son, Reid, joining in the fun on a cold, cold morning!

Perhaps that’s why I remain a sucker to the stories – to pull those parts that carry a similar look and feel to my own experiences.

I look forward to introducing my own kids to it.

There also were successes. The best part of those during deer camp is the ability for everyone to bask in that feats. In this case, everyone played an important role in the process – especially with over a foot of snow on the ground!

IMG_2780

Cousin Nick and I share a photo before taking to the woods.

Of course, the week culminates with figuring out who won camp’s big buck contest! This year, my buck was fortunate enough to take the honor.

Once the bags are packed and camp is cleaned, departure day comes with its sadness. More than 50 weeks of great anticipation and mental reps have ended with “goodbyes.” The countdown, though, to next season’s deer camp begins.


Failure in Familiarity

It simply hadn’t happened before, the path made by the old, wise doe.

Shooting Lanes

The view from old faithful. Updated travel routes kept the shooters out of archery range.

And with it, came little appreciation for the likelihood that the long-proven patterns of deer in this area of my farm had indeed changed.

It wasn’t until after I saw more deer, including a fine 8-point buck, make the same route from a common bedding area and into the hardwoods, that I realized deer aren’t behaving the same as they had for many years.

Even after briefly scouting the new, well-established trails on this new route well away from my faithful stand, it was hard to consider a change needed to be made. You see, many bucks have passed by this stand over the years, and no fewer than three bucks have been arrowed within 40 yards of this tree. Surely, this was the ideal location to be sitting.

Except it wasn’t. And it played a small role in not filling my 2018 archery tag. So too did my stubbornness to not change the stand location earlier.

Familiarity can be a detriment to an archery hunter. The reams of data that exist within a hunter’s memory from decades of hunting a familiar location can skew his or her decisions. That was reinforced enough in me this year that I’m eager to consider how I’ll change several of my stand locations for 2019.

Deer1

This young buck followed one of the familiar trails.

Upon further pondering the challenges of familiarity, it dawned on me how valuable scouting can be to a new hunting location. These are often the most valuable – and fun – elements of hunting the unfamiliar. Those minutes and hours dedicated to learning about the local deer of a location can often be the primary indicator of success.

And advanced scouting before hunting familiar ground should  be no different.

It sounds simple, and it probably is. But when you’re coming from hundreds of miles away to ground you know as well as your backyard, you try to skip the scouting update portion of the hunt and take advantage of the knowledge you already have.

It’s easy to do, right?

Things change within the terrain (felled trees, food sources, erosion, etc.) that provide enough of a reason to, at minimum, confirm your intuitions.

I should have done that. I’ve learned my lesson. And leave it to those old, wise does to teach me.