Wildgame Innovations Digital Game Scouting Camera ir5D by Kevin Gardner
Trail cam scouting has been the buzz for many years at this point. Cell phone messages with pictures of a big buck that wandered by a buddies trail cam are almost a weekly event this time of year. Being able to see what is going on in the woods 24/7 has whet the appetite of sportsmen across the country. With digital technology that can capture thousands of frames of information using units that can be left for weeks without needing a battery recharge, scouting indeed has a new face.
In late July of this year, the ranch that I do some guiding and website work for took my advice to purchase some game cameras after I set one of my own for a few days and showed them the result. Poor quality images and lacking response time showed how antiquated the unit I owned (which was a pretty high quality unit when it was purchased) really was. While lacking in clarity and accuracy the images were clear in one way, that this was something we needed to invest in as a concept to monitor animals on the ranch and proudly display them on the website.
With that came the purchase of two identical trail cameras from Wildgame Innovations. Staying middle of the road in our selection, the investment was not the highest end and most expensive units on the market, but not the cheapest available either. The IR5D in 5.0 megapixels seemed to have all of the requirements we were seeking, as well as the most important aspect, ease of use. It is no secret that the rancher type folks are not techies, so something that could be easily set up and retrieved, downloaded and shared were important features. The IR5D had all of those qualities without seemingly skimping on image quality.
The cameras were deployed near feeding areas to attempt to capture images of the bucks as they added mass to their velvet covered antlers. The first thing that really jumped off the page to us was that there were bucks in the frames that had either not been seen in a very long time or had ever been seen at all.
Not so surprising was the fact that the majority of activity was during the night and showed many bucks together very benevolently feeding. The value of the purchase was already evident, and the website started to buzz with existing and potential clients looking at the frames.
The folks at Wildgame Innovations really did a fantastic job in their craftsmanship and quality as the frames I have been reviewing have been as good in many cases as they would have been had I shot them with some professional camera equipment used for wildlife photography. The flash is bright enough to illuminate the targeted area adequately out to about 25 feet in our conditions and experience, allowing good review of more than the animal that tripped the response. Wildgame Innovations touts 40 feet as their effective range, but familiarizing yourself with the inverse square law will show that a flash that size would not fall into effective range at 40 feet. Even more impressive has been the fact that these cameras have been deployed since around the 25th of July and we changed the 4 “C” cell batteries for the first time on September 12th, even though they were still showing life.
The images have been very easy to work with as far as importing them, and sizing them for email or website purposes. A bit of correction in the brightness/contrast or color balance area has really made the crown jewels we captured pop. Over the late summer weeks we were capturing a couple thousand frames between two units, making for an awful lot of reviewing, but I guess you could have bigger problems. The ratio of eye popping frames from a batch of 1000 held to around 1 in 58 frames on average. Many frames were deleted because of repetition of the same animals’ exercising extreme complacency and showing up every day about the same time, good to know.
Where we did error in judgment was in the original deployment of the cameras by putting two cameras in the same area looking at the same spot from different angles. This caused problems with lens flare, over exposure and really unnatural looking images, not to mention giving the animals quite a jolt. It would be advisable to spread out cameras as to not intimidate the animals or lessen the quality of your frames. We also tried the movie mode in this scenario with one of the cameras and found that it compounded the problem. While the video quality was more than adequate and just as described, we felt it a waste of resources both in memory and in battery power to justify using it. We may try it on a different ranch where we have elk hunting to try to capture some bugling in high use areas, but we felt the still image results far exceeded what we needed.
Note: We noted a considerable decrease in activity over the first two weeks of September on the game cameras. This is certainly attributed to the acorn crop in this area being very hardy this year. The animals spread out considerably from this point on and will be more readily caught in areas of high traffic game trails using a scouting camera. It’s important information because it indicates how early cameras should be deployed to capture frames over food plots or feeders, and why later deployment may have sketchy results. It would be harder to guess where a buck will show up the hard woods in September when mast crops are abundant than in summer when easier, more condensed food sources are the norm.
Obviously not every shot is going to be great, with some blur from movement or a trip at the far end of the cameras effective flash being pretty common encounters, Wildgame Innovations did an excellent job at trying to keep trip and effective flash ranges very close. We caught much more than big whitetail bucks as well, catching turkey, crows and even a fox, but proudly nothing smaller which is another credit to the design. It is maddening enough to have to flip through 2000 frames, deleting over fifty for every one you keep, let alone having to look at squirrels or chipmunks as well, so great job in that area guys.
The kit came with the following equipment:
Four long life batteries (not rechargeable)
A 2GB SD card (Wildgame Innovations branded)
A USB cable
Bungee type mounting cords (much nicer than straps with plastic clips)
A CD Rom
Here are the specifications per the Wildgame Innovations website: IR5D
Resolution – 5 Megapixel
Infrared Flash Range- 19 Piece, high intensity LED array
Infrared Flash Range- Up to 40 feet
Sensor- Passive Infrared Sensor, Activates when motion or heat is detected.
Sensor Range- Up to 40 feet
Onboard Memory- 64 MB
Format- Jpeg digital still pictures, AVI digital movie clips
External Memory- Can accommodate removable SD memory card up to 8GB
USB Output-5 Pin mini USB style
Image Output- 5 Pin mini USB and SD card
LCD Command Consol- 2.1” wide by 7” height LED display (I think they have that reversed)
Primary Power Supply-“C” cell style batteries X4
Duty Cycle- Approximately 4 weeks on factory default settings
Onboard Power-Built in NIMH battery included to retain date and time settings
Housing- ABS plastic, weather resistant with rubber gasket
Mounting- Bungee cords and tree peg design
The cost of the unit was in the $140-$150 range, which seemed hard to swallow at the point of sale, but the camera quickly showed its worth and value when deployed. In game cameras you certainly get what you pay for and this camera really is a great value. It is understandable that many folks fear theft of their units and try to stay cheaper to lessen exposure, but the camo design really helps make this unit fade into the background during the day and hopefully will help keep it safer for the user.
Wildlgame Innovations has a huge line of game cameras to choose from and a quite informative website. I would certainly call the IR5D the middle of the pack, but a grand slam in the field. These folks are certainly worth a look in your search for a quality trail camera.