Trail cameras serve two purposes: tracking and security. The slim options do their best to go unnoticed by humans who might be trespassing on your property, while the larger, higher definition models will extract the most detail from whatever triggers them. Earlier this year, my wife and I obtained an eight-acre property that has stood untouched for nearly a decade. As such, it has become something of a sanctuary for animals that escape from the adjacent state game lands that abut its corner. Ownership of this nature is often desirable as it normally facilitates hunting due to its long vacancy. However, for the same reason, it becomes attractive to those who want to have a private hunting experience without paying for their own land. With that in mind, I searched Browning’s website for affordable cameras that would serve my purposes, and came up with the Strike Force Gen 5 and the Dark Ops HD Max.
The features of both cameras were enough to capture my interest, particularly the diminutive Dark Ops model. Although it is small, it has an 18 MP camera and an infrared flash that can reach 80 feet in total darkness. It also offers a variety of features, such as the ability to adjust the activation time, flash intensity, and the ability to capture still or video images. The Strike Force Gen 5 is packed with all the same features, except its larger casing allows for a 22MP camera that can also record in Full HD 1080p, with a wider range of shooting times. Together, they make a powerful pair to monitor the key points of the property, and I couldn’t wait to set them up.
Before we go any further, it’s worth mentioning that the property is more than five hours from our home. Therefore, I only have the opportunity to visit once a month. Scheduling product evaluations with our land is always a challenge as they need to be submitted early enough to review between trips. Well, I didn’t get that for this one. No, they showed up when we were packing up the car to hit the road, which left me with just a drive to figure out how they worked. Electronics are always fun, so I’ll admit I was a little nervous, but to my surprise, both cameras were easy to set up. Also, nothing too hard to find was required to run them. Along the way, we stopped at a Wal-Mart, picked up two inexpensive SD cards and 12 AA batteries (each camera takes six), and continued setup as we drove to the property. As I scrolled through the options, I set everything to the lowest quality, a move that would allow more images to be stored. I also thought it wouldn’t hurt to get some “worst case” footage to see exactly how far I could stretch things. After all, if a camera is sensitive enough, it could fill a card in a matter of days, leaving me dry between visits.
In the countryside
When we arrived at our place, we set off into the forest to find some points of interest. Not surprisingly, there was a series of trails that wrapped around our mulberry bush. Since any crossing is likely to stop and forage, I placed the Strike Force camera there and set it to capture burst images. This is the way to go when you feel like something will stop or move through an area rather slowly. Sure enough, a spike and a group of hinds activated it just a few hours after it was placed.
Moving to the east side of the property, we found a superhighway that could be traveled by almost anyone in North America, including mankind. Because something is likely to keep moving, I chose the video setting for the Dark Ops camera and set it to a location relatively out of sight. Well, nothing happened on two legs during this testing period, but one doe stopped by to take a look at what Browning cooked up. It seems that same peak also passed. What’s great about this is that I now have an idea of the path the deer take to get in and out of my property and hopefully I’ll be the only hunter there. Now all I have to do is pick a tree somewhere in the middle for a ladder stand and hope someone higher up will chase that baby away. At least I know I’m filling my doe tag, so life is good!
Satisfied with what I learned, I moved the cameras around and tested them for about another week and a half, mainly to see how capable they were. I found both to be exceptionally efficient when it came to battery life, with Dark Ops only going through about 30 percent, despite taking over 900 5-second videos. Strike Force did even better, only dropping a measly 2 percent after taking over 2,800 stills. I had both cameras set to burst mode, so if I narrowed them down to just one, I could easily see a set of batteries last a whole season, at least in stills mode. The other place where I saw efficiency was in the sensitivity of each camera. With nearly 4,000 shots between the two, neither picked up songbirds or squirrels, saving valuable juice and card space. However, he did pick up slow-moving raccoons, so hunters shouldn’t feel left out when their season begins. Dollar for dollar, I can give each of these trail cameras my highest recommendation for a hunter just starting out, or an owner who needs to see what’s going on in his woods. For more information, visit browningtrailcameras.com. MSRP: $129.99; $159.99