How long is the minimum recommended time to leave a hunting camera?

Good morning.

I am an animal lover and, for Christmas, I was given a hunting camera allowing me to observe them.

I live in Provence (France) and since, Monday evening, I have left it running in the garden of the family house (which is around one hectare and which is also in Provence) and I was wondering how long a minimum time it is recommended to let it run to maximize the chances of getting results.

There isn’t really a specific answer to your question, but I usually check my camera traps every 1-2 weeks.

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I doubt if there is one correct answer to this question. I know that I check my camera every day. I find that a common problem with motion sensor cameras is that they will record small branches and leaves when they are shaken by the wind. It is quite tedious to find that you have 1000 photos of a small branch, and still have to check each one in case it has captured a really interesting animal shot as well.

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If you put the camera in a relatively accessible spot, you should check it every few hours for the first day or two so you can troubleshoot problems with things like the angle (too far off to one side, too high or low), or vegetation in the way. Once you are happy with the view, start with 24 hours so that you can capture nocturnal animals. Then leave it for several days to a week. If you’re not getting much and/or you notice more animals in a different area, try moving it. Once you find a good location you can leave it for a couple of weeks. But it’s also fun to move it around and see what happens.

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Okay, thanks for the answers.

I would like to take this opportunity to ask another question: At what height from the ground is it recommended to place it?

I ask the question because on the one hand I would like to see the animals being near the camera and on the other hand, a wild boar sniffed it and made it dirty (I don’t particularly want to clean it every time I pick it up).

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This will depend on what size animals are your main targets. In general, 60cm is best for boar, deer, and other relatively large mammals; 30cm is better for foxes, rabbits, and other mid-sized mammals; and 15cm for chipmunks, voles, mice, and other small mammals. If you’re pretty generalist in your interests, 30cm is probably the right height because it will still catch some large and small animals.

As a note, you can check this journal post out if you are interested in looking at small mammals: Camera Trapping Small Mammals.

This is very much a part of camera trapping. Many animals will come right up to the camera to sniff it over. The longer the camera is there, the animals will become more used to it and less curious about it, but you will always have to wipe it down occasionally.

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If you’re pretty generalist in your interests, 30cm is probably the right height because it will still catch some large and small animals.

And will it protect the camera from wild boars who risk dirtying it?

Thanks @swampster, interesting post. Do you know if a Part-II was ever written about constructing a small mammal box?

As someone said above, this is just something natural to expect. Raising the camera off the ground to avoid direct encounters will have trade-offs. Some models do sell metal box frames to provide additional protection. You might check if one is available for your model.

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You can also put the camera higher in a tree and angle it downwards by putting a stick or wedge behind it, which is what I did here. And as you can see, the fox was very much aware of it!

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Bears can do a number on a camera trap either knocking it off a tree or rubbing or chewing on it if it’s set at right height. A camera can be a good back scratcher. But obviously not a threat in many areas if you don’t have bears.

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Once you have a good location, with minimal shots of moving grass or leaves, leave it up as long as the batteries last. 2-3 months, but checking it every 1-2 weeks or so. Rare animals will pass by your camera, well, rarely! You won’t document much if it’s not set up.

But experiment with it first over shorter periods until you get comfortable with the results (again, minimal shots of moving grass or leaves).

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