If you dig into the rules and regulations of your state, you’ll probably see no clear wording on the usage of cellular-enabled cameras. It’s a gray-area technology in most places right now but could be considered illegal if one of your cameras sent you a picture of a buck and you happened to shoot it a few hours later.
In-season usage in many states is up in the air, so be aware. As far as pre-season usage of cellular cameras, you’ve pretty much got the green light in most regions where whitetails reign supreme.
The question is - are they worth the money? Do they really provide an advantage over traditional cameras? The answer is a resounding - maybe.
Benefits of Cellular Cams
The obvious benefit to using a cellular-enabled camera is that once you’ve set it up, you can leave the woods alone. It allows you to sit back in the comfort of your home without wondering if your batteries are still juiced up, if someone has stolen it, or if it inexplicably went the way of the dodo - all while gathering intel in an undisturbed woods.
Throughout the summer you can gather info on the comings and goings of the local ungulates, and with most cameras, adjust your settings and check battery levels remotely. This means you’re aware and in control, without doing much more than messing with your smartphone.
It’s incredible, really. And this wave of cameras is crashing hard on the industry right now - to the point where pretty much every manufacturer is in the game. That tells you something about demand, which if you’ve ever used one, you probably understand.
These cameras are addictive, and it’s exciting to see new-image notifications showing up on your phone. I honestly believe that if any hunter wants to see his day-to-day productivity at work or home go right off of a cliff, cellular-enabled cameras are the way to do it. They are fun - no doubt about that.
Cons Of Cellular Cams
As mentioned above, the biggest downfall of these cameras might be their legality in your given area. If using one means you’re on the wrong side of the law, then it’s obviously no good.
But there is also the ethical conundrum associated with this level of technology. I can remember when they first hit the scene years ago, and a fellow from one of the camera companies told me how he used it during turkey season to check in on what fields had strutting birds in them.
If they hit the 9am lull, they’d go to where the cameras showed longbeards were at right then. He thought it was amazing, I felt differently.
And I still do. I’ve used celullar cameras for deer and bear on properties that were at least a couple hours from my house. My reasoning was that I couldn’t use real-time intel to try to gain an advantage because, at best, I’d be at least 24 hours behind the most current images if I decided to go hunting.
Eventually, they became something of a novelty for me. I put one or two out each summer and then pull them before the season or switch off the cellular function. I still really enjoy getting images from them during the summer and probably always will.
The Trail-Cam Trap Continues
Now that I’ve laid out my confusing personal strategy for using cellular trail cams, I’ll say this - if you do choose to use them during the season, they might only prove to be marginally more beneficial than non-cellular options.
This is because trail cameras are only a tool, and while it’s nice to know where a deer walked today when we weren’t there, that is far from a sure thing that a deer will walk there tomorrow when we are.
What’s worse is that we often use trail camera intel to not hunt, reasoning that if our cameras are not catching daylight images of bucks, it’s better to wait until they are. That’s dangerous ground. The reality with all trail cameras is they give you a little snapshot into one small place in the woods.
That, theoretically, might be the best place in the woods by your opinion, but even so, the deer simply might not be walking there. If you are off by 20 yards, your intel is bunk. When you’re getting real-time images of squirrels and nothing else, it’s very easy to believe you should wait until the hunting will be better, and trust me when I say this, that’s probably not the best decision.
All that means is that the deer aren’t doing what you expected in one tiny area, nothing else. So be aware that while they are extremely fun to use, cellular trail cameras probably won’t be the ticket to tagging Booners year in and year out, at least not any more than traditional trail cameras were for you.
They are fun, they are addictive, and in the right situations they probably do offer a clear advantage over traditional cams. Cellular cameras promise a lot to the whitetail hunter when used properly, but don’t expect them to be the shortest path from no taxidermy bills to taking out a personal loan for all of your new mounts. At the very least, they are a very enjoyable tool and that’s a good enough reason to deploy one while the bucks are in velvet and you’ve got some time before opening day kicks off.