Modern technology is great — when it works as intended. That’s especially true when it comes to trail cameras. As a diehard bowhunter and long-time trail-cam user, I could fill a book with horror stories about camera malfunctions. There were units with faulty motion sensors that filled my SD cards with thousands of picture of swaying grass. There were cameras so power hungry they drained brand-new batteries in mere days. There were cameras that took great pictures by day but only captured black rectangles at night. And then there were those cameras that simply stopped working altogether, apparently for no reason at all. I refer to this unpleasant phenomenon as “spontaneous combustion.”
In recent years, trail cameras that incorporate wireless technology have become all the rage. There is good reason for this; after all, being able to review images without actually having to pull camera cards greatly reduces human intrusion into your hunting area, and the convenience and entertainment value of such systems is off the charts. On the other hand, after experimenting with wireless options from numerous manufacturers, I can tell you more technology often only leads to more frustration. After all, a wireless camera that suddenly stops sending photos from the field is annoying and time consuming. Typically, the only way to diagnose and fix the problem is to visit the camera location, which defeats the purpose of having a wireless camera in the first place!
Thankfully, this summer I have had great success using Moultrie Mobile, a system that has impressed me not only with its reliability but also with its ease of use, versatility, affordability and ever-expanding functionality.
Let’s start with the basics. Moultrie Mobile is a cellular scouting system that gives you the option of choosing devices and data plans on the Verizon or AT&T networks — whichever provides better coverage in your hunting area. Images are sent from your cameras to the Moultrie server, and you can access them via the Moultrie Mobile website or the companion app on your smartphone. In addition to reviewing images, the website and app provide functionality such as the ability to change camera settings, monitor battery life, cell signal strength and SD card capacity, activate new devices and change your data plan. But that’s just the start. Before we dive into more detail, however, let’s take a quick look at the hardware (cameras and modems) that makes Moultrie Mobile work.
One of my favorite things about Moultrie Mobile is how many options it offers in terms of cameras. That’s because every camera Moultrie has made over the last several years is Moultrie Mobile compatible, and you can find plenty of Moultrie cameras from retailers under $50. All you need to make them cellular is to plug in an add-on modem available for $59.99 (Verizon and AT&T models available).
Moultrie also offers integrated units with a camera and modem in one. The newest offering is the 6000 Series Cellular Game Camera (again, available in Verizon and AT&T versions) that retails for $119.99 and features 16MP still images, HD video, .9-second trigger speed, 70-foot flash range, up to three-month battery life (12 AAs) and more.
It doesn’t matter whether you choose an integrated unit or an add-on modem, but one potential advantage of using a modem is the ability to purchase several mobile-compatible cameras at a lower cost than the integrated cellular cameras and then rotate the location of your modem as desired.
Once you have a cellular camera or a mobile-compatible camera and modem, simply visit the Moultrie Mobile website or use the app to active the camera or modem, select a data plan and enter your payment information. Plans start as low as $2.99 a month (for 100 images per month, paid annually), but by far the best value is Moultrie’s all-new unlimited data plan that costs $16.99 per month when paid monthly or $12.99 per month when paid annually. For users with three or more cameras and/or modems, Moultrie offers a Pro plan ($34.99 monthly or $22.99/month annually) that provides unlimited data with the ability to add additional devices to the plan for $7.99 per month.
Regardless of the plan you choose, there are never any startup, activation or cancellation fees. There are also no contracts, which means your service can be purchased on a month-to-month basis, with no long-term commitment. Finally, Moultrie offers free, unlimited cloud storage of all your images forever — even if you cancel your plan. That means all your photos remain secure and accessible, even if you when you aren’t running a camera or paying for service!
OK, now that you’ve got a basic understanding of Moultrie Mobile, let’s explore some of the more useful features for bowhunters. As I already mentioned, one of the biggest advantages cellular cameras offer is the ability to significantly reduce the frequency of visits to the field, thus minimizing deer disturbance. You can set your cameras to “managed memory” mode that automatically overwrites the oldest image on your SD cards once they are full. And you can also request high-resolution downloads of any image directly from the website or app. So, about the only time you ever need to actually visit your camera locations is when it is time to change the batteries — and with optional external battery packs and solar chargers, you can just about eliminate that too!
During the pre-season, one of the best ways to maximize battery life is to set your camera or modem to upload images only once or twice per day. However, you also have the option to receive images immediately. The usefulness of such intelligence is obvious, and I’ll leave it to your personal preferences, and any applicable state regulations, to decide how to best take advantage of that once archery season rolls around.
This year, Moultrie has upgraded the system with several new features that make it easier than ever to review photos. One of them is a built-in “smart tag” feature that automatically sorts your images into categories for deer, bucks, does, turkeys, vehicles and people. Each time an image is uploaded to the Moultrie Mobile server, image-recognition technology examines the picture and applies smart tags as applicable. As a Moultrie Mobile user, this means you can literally sort all your photos to see only deer, or only bucks, or only turkeys, etc., with the click of a button. If you are wondering whether the technology works, I can assure you it does, and it makes sorting through thousands of doe and fawn pictures to find the bucks you’re really after completely painless! In addition to smart tags, you can also create custom tags and search and sort for photos based on a variety of other data, such as date and time ranges, weather conditions and moon phase.
Another recently added feature within the Moultrie Mobile app is integrated mapping that allows you to use maps featuring satellite images, street view and hybrid modes to mark the location of 20 different points of interest, from cameras and treestands to mineral sites, feeders, various wildlife sightings and more. You can also use this interactive mapping feature to navigate your way to waypoints in the field.
So, what is it like to use Moultrie Mobile? In a word, simple. Camera setup in the field is a breeze. Just mount the camera and/or modem in your chosen location, turn it on and press the connect button to initiate communication with the server. Since all camera settings can be controlled via the app, there’s no need to mess around with buttons or menus on the cameras. You don’t even need to worry about setting the date and time, since communication with the server does that for you.
This is my second year using Moultrie Mobile to monitor deer activity on several different farms in my area, and I look forward to seeing what pops up on my phone screen the moment I wake up each morning and several times each day.
I’ve found the Moultrie hardware to be very reliable, but if you do run into issues, you’ll be glad to know the cameras and modems come with a three-year warranty and U.S.-based customer support to help you with any problems you may encounter.