Some of the technological advances we have witnessed over the last 10-15 years have proven to be a huge help to us in our hunting endeavors. One such advancement is the use of digital trail cameras to help us scout our hunting areas. Nothing quite like being there, even we can’t be there, to help us learn the animals in our favorite hunting spots, their patterns, their movements and even to learn where we can get away from other hunters on public land.
I have used a number of trail cameras over the past several years to help in my quest for filling those hard to acquire tags. As part of our 2011 hunting season here in New Mexico, we decided to do a series of reviews on a number of cameras in search of the perfect camera for our extreme hunting conditions here in New Mexico. Which camera can go from timberline during elk season to the lowest desert for our sheep hunts and function everywhere in between for lions, bears and deer? One thing is for sure, we learned a lot about a number of different cameras.
In this series, I will do my best to relay to you the strong points and weaknesses we found in each one of the cameras we used over a four month period from July through October to help us scout for elk, deer, bears and lions in the high country of southwest New Mexico. Once I finish these reviews, we will put the cameras back to work out in the desert lowlands scouting for our January deer, sheep and ibex hunts. A second round of reviews will follow for each camera at the conclusion of those hunts.
The first camera we used is the Bushnell Trophy Cam HD Black Flash (Model 119466C). The technical specifications of this camera as advertised are as follows:
• Black and White Text LCD Display
• HD Video (1280X720)
• 8MP High Quality Full Resolution Photos
• 40 “Low-Glow” LED’s with 45’ Range – Black Flash
• Uses 4 to 12 AA Batteries
• Runs up to one year on one set of batteries
• Day/night auto sensor – External power compatible
• Adjustable PIR (Lo/Med/High) with 1-second trigger speed
• Programmable trigger interval: 1 sec. to 60 min.
• Multi-image mode: 1-3 images per trigger
• Video length: 1 second to 60 seconds, programmable
• Field Scan with Simultaneous Live Trigger
• Time-lapse mode takes images at pre-set intervals: 1 minute to 60 minutes
• Temperature range -5° F to 140° F
• PIR sensor is motion activated out to 45 ft.
• SD card slot (up to 32GB)
Now that we know what the technical claims are for this camera, let’s talk about what we found it can really do. All in all, we found this camera to be a top performer. This version of the Trophy Cam (Model 119466C) has been a few years in the making, and it sure appears that Bushnell has done a great job of putting all of the best components possible into this camera.
The Black Flash or “low-glow” LED lights were a great part of this camera. We used this camera complete with a Bear Safe / Security Box in bear country, replacing a Cuddeback that the bears kept ripping apart. The covert Black Flash worked perfectly, and over a three month period we did not have a single bear mess with the camera. In the prior month, we could not get more than a day or two of pictures before the bears would have the Cuddeback turned, twisted, pulled off of the tree or popped open with the batteries squeezed away from the contacts. The Bear Safe also provided a great sense of security for us each time we checked the photos and saw numerous other public land hunters walking right by the camera. Not one two legged or four legged varmint attempted to remove the camera from the tree.
The PIR sensor worked far better than advertised. The specifications on the camera listed the PIR range and the LED range both at 45 feet. We had numerous photos where the subject triggered the camera at over 80 feet at the high sensitivity setting (you can set it for low, medium or high sensitivity)! We also noted that the LED range was extended beyond the advertised 45 feet. Depending on moon light, the range actually reached up to 70 feet within which the subject of the photo was noticeable in the photos. Overall, we would rate the sensor system in the Trophy Cam as excellent.
The trigger speed was awesome. The specifications listed the response time at 1 second, and we captured numerous photos of running animals that clearly proved this to be accurate. The PIR range is also very wide on this camera, wider than the actual field of view, helping to decrease the chances for missed animals. We actually found that animals walking at slow to average speeds would not reach the full field of view prior to the picture being captured. We had many of front half photos, and we all know that the front half is what we want, and not the back half!
We found the recovery time to be as fast as 4 seconds, even with the camera set at the highest resolution of 8 MP. Recovery time was slightly slower at night, yet even with the camera set to record a single photo per trigger, we had numerous multiple shots at night of animals moving at an average rate of speed. Of course, as we decreased the photo quality, the response time increased.
Bushnell has added to the versatility of the Trophy Cam by including a time-lapse capability called Field Scan. The camera can be set at time intervals ranging from 1 minute to 1 hour. You pick the time you want it to start in this mode, set the interval between each picture or video you want, and then select the time you want it to end. The Field Scan capability is independent of the regular operation of the camera. This means that you will get your interval pictures, but also any triggers to the PIR will be recorded as well. This is a great bonus when you are watching a large area wherein animals might pass through or feed and be outside of the PIR range at certain times of the day, especially in food plots or at water holes where you might have a clear line of sight of 100 to 200 yards that obviously would not trigger the PIR.
Overall, the picture quality was excellent. The pictures were clear and sharp with plenty of detail and color. We did find that the night pictures appeared to be a little darker than normal, however, with the advantages the Black Flash offers, this was a minor detail. Pictures can be easily brightened if necessary with any viewing software to see subjects that are at or beyond the limits of the ranges listed in the specifications. Each picture is date and time stamped.
For those that use their trail cameras to record videos, this camera has the ability to record standard VGA or HD videos, complete with audio, up to 1 minute in length. During the elk rut, the audio capability sure adds a lot to the videos taken. This is a great bonus on this camera.
The Trophy Cam will operate on as little as 4 AA batteries. However, the camera is capable of holding 12 AA batteries and that was the way we operated the camera. Battery life was above average to excellent compared with the other cameras we reviewed. After 4 months and hundreds of pictures, the camera is still ready to go right back out in the field with the same set of batteries and plenty of confidence that they won’t fail any time in the near future. All in all, I would say that the camera could easily operate for at least 6 months and quite possibly the full year (as advertised) with one set of high quality batteries. Of course, this is very dependent on the number of pictures the camera takes, and whether they are at day or at night.
The Trophy Cam is extremely easy to program. It is switched between “off”, “on” and “program” with a slide lever and the menus are very easy to use. We found no issues with setup or use.
Overall, we would highly recommend this camera to anyone looking for a camera in the $225-$250 price range. For the price, this is the best covert camera on the market. With the added security of the Bear Safe / Security Box, it is great investment that should provide years of top quality return.
For more go to: Bushnell