Moultrie Game Camera – Scouting, Educational & Just Plain Fun

bull elk

Photo 1: Click photo of Bull Elk for 4.1 megapixel image

Seems like everyone is using trail cams or game cameras for scouting these days. As a wildlife biologist, I have used them as camera traps to get evidence that certain species were present in a specific area.

We set game cameras and left them in the field for months at a time before retrieving and examining the images. This was very valuable as a wildlife management tool, but on a personal level, it was just plain fun to see what species and what behaviors were captured on the photos.

Uses for Trail Cameras/ Game Cams/ Camera Traps

  • Fun
  • Educational
  • Scouting tool – animal quality, movement and timing
  • Management tool – Property owners survey for deer abundance and quality
  • Security Camera – Monitor property for evidence of human, domestic or wildlife pests
  • Scientific tool
    • Photographic evidence of presence of rare or exotic species (there is no evidence for absence)
    • Monitor bird nesting behavior, nesting success and to document nest predators
    • Document previously unknown behaviors or species associations (for example, 8 cougars seen in one photo in Washington)
    • State of Utah Documented a Wolverine on the North Slope of the Unita Mountains

When you purchase products from our links, we earn commissions from qualifying purchases

For our personal game camera, we chose a Moultrie M-880 (since upgraded to 900 series) because it has comparable features and is rated as high as trail cameras that cost much more:

  • Picture Quality: 0.5-8.3 Megapixels
  • Trigger Speed: 0.88 sec.
  • Recovery Time: 2.6 seconds
  • Detection Range: 60 feet
  • Flash Range: 70-80 feet
  • Low Glow infrared nighttime images
  • SD memory card slot: 4 GB to 32 GB
  • Batteries: 8AA – takes approx. 9,500 pictures

Daytime Pictures with the Moultrie Game Camera

I always hunt public land, so I don’t need a cellular or wireless compatible game camera since I can’t get cell service there anyway.

cow elk

Photo 2: Click photo of cow elk for 4.1 megapixel image

The first time we set the camera up on public land was on September 21st, a few days before the muzzleloader buck mule deer season and about two weeks before the spike elk season.

The area I planned to hunt usually has more elk than mule deer, but I just wanted to see what pictures we could get. Any information I could get about animal movements would be a bonus. I left the camera for three days to see what animals it could find.

Moultrie m880 game camera

Photo 3: Moultrie Game Camera secured to tree with Python Cable

I knew of a good area about a quarter mile from the road where few people were likely to go and strapped the camera to a large tree and secured it with a Python cable.

The camera was placed about five feet above the ground and was faced North to prevent pictures from being backlit.

After three days (Sept. 24), we retrieved the camera and found it had taken over 250 pictures.

The first animal captured was a doe mule deer at exactly 17:00 on the 21st, less than an hour after we left the area. The pictures of the deer were not great because she was too short and too close for the five foot camera height, so we could only see the top of her head in some shots and her back in others.

No animal pictures were captured on the 22nd or 23rd, but we were pretty excited to see the 6×6 bull elk (Photo 1) that showed up at 13:21 on the the 24th. The camera took 12 pictures of the bull elk. I will post a video loop in the future.

cow elk smells camera

Photo 4: Click photo to view original 4.1 megapixel photo

A few minutes later a cow elk (Photo 2) walked into view and actually came very close to the camera as if she were smelling it (Photo 4).

As the cow elk was checking out the camera, it gives you an idea how close the camera can focus. The elk’s eye is only about a foot from the camera. That close up picture is not quite in focus, but the other pics were very good. Not too bad for the first time the game camera was put out in the woods.

Taking Photos of Small Animals or Birds

eurasian collared dove

Photo 5: Exotic Eurasian Collared Dove – click on photo for 4.1MP image

I’ve heard that trail cams are not very good for taking pictures of small mammals or birds because they can’t trigger the camera or they are too small for the camera to focus.

Small mammals can be hard to find, but birds are not, so we set the camera up on a tripod near the bird feeder.

Photo 5 is proof that that exotic Eurasian Collared Doves have made it to our area.

We also have some nice photos of smaller birds such as house finches and gold finches. Hummingbirds are proving to be difficult. Taking pictures of birds is where I would recommend using the 8.0 megapixel image size.

Nighttime IR Pictures

proof mule deer eat green tomatos

Photo 6: Click photo to see original 4.1 MP image

We’ve taken a few pics around the house to see what critters come into the yard at night. Most of the pictures so far are mule deer.

Photo 6 is an example and of an IR nighttime shot at close range and is also proof that mule deer eat green tomatoes.

Coming soon, Multi-shot option set to 4-shot fast, captures a deer jumping a fence in 4 pictures.

Moultrie M-880 Specifications

If battery life is about 9,500 pictures, how much memory do we need? The table below shows the approximate number of different quality photos that can be stored on SD memory cards.

Picture Quality and Storage Capability by Megapixel Setting

Megapixel Pixel Approx. Photo Storage
Setting Size  4 GB  8 GB 16 GB 32 GB
    Low 0.5  940  x  560  10,000  20,000  40,000  80,000
    Med 2.0 1920 x 1080   4,000   8,000  16,000  32,000
    High 4.0 2688 x 1512   2,000   4,000   8,000  16,000
Enhanced 8.0 3840 x 2160   1,000   2,000   4,000   8,000

Game trail Accessories

Notice that all the full sized photos in this post are the high quality (4.1 megapixel; 2688 x 1512), not the Enhanced 8.0 megapixel photos. Unless your trying to get a nice photo to blow up like a poster, we don’t really need 8.0 megapixels. That also means we don’t need a 32 GB card unless we use the highest megapixel setting and plan to leave the camera out for a long time, especially since new batteries will take about 9,500 pictures.

The Moultrie M-880 can be set to operate in four different operational modes:

Four Operational Modes

  • Motion Detect – Game camera still photos triggered by IR motion
  • Time Lapse – camera takes photos at specified intervals and creates a Time-lapse video
  • Hybrid Cam – Time Lapse mode by day and Motion Detection mode at night
  • Video – HD or VGA video day and night

 Motion Detect – Still Picture Options

  • Photo Quality – 0.5, 2.0, 4.0 or 8.0 Mega Pixels
  • Photo Delay – 5, 15 or 30 seconds or 1, 5, 10, 30 or 60 minutes – prevents too many pictures of same animal
  • Motion Freeze – limits exposure time to 1/20 sec for night photos –  On or Off – reduces blurring, but may cause photos to be dark
  • Multi-Shot – Off
  • Multi-Shot – 2-shot or 3-shot standard – 3-4 second delay between photos
  • Multi-Shot – 2-shot, 3-shot or 4-shot fast – selected number of photos taken within 1-2 seconds

Video – HD or VGA Video Options

  • Video resolution – HD or VGA
  • Video Length – Maximum nighttime video is 20 seconds.
  • Video sound – On or Off

There are lots of options for Trail Cameras:

If you plan on taking a lot of video, you will need a 32 MB SD card.

Video Quality and Storage Capability in minutes

Video Pixels 4 GB 8 GB 16 GB 32 GB
HD 1280 x 720 45  90 180 360
VGA   848 x 480 75 150 300 600

The Time Lapse Mode is also referred to as Plot mode, where the camera is triggered on a regular timer schedule instead of waiting for animals to trigger the camera. For instance, white-tail hunters might want to use the camera to sample their favorite food plot or hunting area. The game camera could be set to take one picture every two minutes for one -four hours each morning and and the same time  each evening or the camera will take pictures all day long. That would give a very good idea about how many deer were using the plot during those time periods.

Time Lapse – Video Options

  • Time Frequency – time between photos – Motion detect will still take photos between 2 and 5 minute intervals
    • Set to 5, 10, 15, 30, 60 seconds or 2 or 5 minutes
  • Time Duration – limits the time the camera is active –  Intervals start 15 minutes before sunrise and end 15 minutes after sunset
    • Set to All Day, 1 hour, 2 hour, 3 hour or 4 hours twice per day

Time Lapse Video Start and Stop Times Explained

Example for Sunrise = 7:15 AM and Sunset = 7:19 PM

Time Duration AM PM
Setting Start time End Time Start time End Time
1 hour    7:00    8:00     6:34    7:34
2 hour    7:00    9:00     5:34    7:34
3 hour    7:00   10:00     4:34    7:34
4 hour    7:00   11:00     3:34    7:34
All Day    7:00 No stop time, runs continuous    7:34

The camera automatically detects and adjusts for sunrise and sunset. Also remember when using the 2 and 5 minute intervals, the motion detection will still take additional photos if an animal walks within range.

moultrie game camera reviewReasons we chose the Moultrie Digital Game Camera

  • Price (New M-900 less expensive than M-880)
  • Fast trigger speed (0.88 seconds)
  • Wide detection range
  • Great picture quality
  • Low Glow infrared night photos
  • 70-80 foot flash range
  • Too much fun, not to have one

Need SD Cards or Locks for you trail cam?


  1. I just set up a new M-880 and wish I had run across this information before I stumbled my way through the instructions manual or the PDF file I downloaded. This write-up is way more concise and easier to understand than the information Moultrie supplies us with. Thanks for the time and effort!….Mitch

  2. Theuns Coetzee says

    I have a few Moultrie 880i game cameras and can’t get them to take any pictures at night. I’m from Namibia and can’t phone Moultrie tech support.

  3. Lon Davidek says

    I have an 880 Moultrie. I just want to use the motion feature and not the time lapse feature. It took great photos but did not want pics every 5 min. It was set in both the motion feature and time lapse feature. I Only want pics based on motion. Can you help?


    Lon Davidek

  4. I recently purchased the M-550 model for $79.99! The M-550 is similar to the M-880 in terms of features, except it maxes out at 7 megapixels.

    I’m glad I read your article, because I was wanting to use time lapse photos at 5 minute intervals while still capturing any motion triggered events that happen between those 5 minutes. I tried once and gave up, because I only got the time lapse photos. I assumed it would only do motion capture during the hours it wasn’t set to do time lapse…and that may still be the case for the M-550 model.

    At any rate, now that I know from your article that the M-880 definitely does both, I can try it again and see what happens. It’s possible I only set it to Time Lapse the first time when I had intended to set it to do both.

    • I am assuming the Moultrie Game Camera you have is the 2nd generation model (M-550) that is apparently on sale for $79.99
      Strange, but the older M-550 is still available and still costs more.

      Yes, let me know if the M-550 is able to set to both time lapse and motion at the same time. I don’t have that model, but at the current price, I might buy one.

      • I have since tested it again, and can now verify that it will not do both at the same time, at least not at the 5-minute interval I tested. I haven’t tried any of the longer options yet. So, for example, if I have time lapse programmed from 9 AM to 11 AM and again from 4 PM to 6PM, I can only get motion triggered shots the other 20 hours of the day. I installed the latest firmware before testing it.

        As for the model, mine is actually the older one. A local sports store has them marked $99.99 on the box, but they ring up at $79.99. I asked the clerk and she said the price in the computer was right. They have a couple of “end of season” sale signs up for the A8 and another model, so I guess they just didn’t hang up signs for all the other models.

        I chose the M-550, since it uses AA batteries and is a good bit smaller than units that use C cells. I’m planning on setting it up for security at times as well as wildlife, so smaller was better, and I’m not planning on leaving it for weeks at a time anywhere.

        Thanks for the link. I wish I’d known about that Gen2 version before I bought mine, because that newer version makes the LED array less obvious to the eye. Oh well, I may get one of those later if this first one proves to be dependable. It’s getting tested this week with temps dipping below 20 degrees F some nights.

        • I was able to locate the user manual for the Moultrie M-550 Digial Game Camera (Download PDF here).

          The manual clearly shows a mode that allows both time lapse and motion detection at the same time.

          Good Luck with the camera… Low temperatures always test batteries.

          • Yes, I have the same manual. It came with the camera.

            If you’re looking at page 10, it says “Motion + Time Lapse – Uses a combination of Time Lapse and Motion Detect modes at different times of the day.”

            Based on my testing and results so far, I believe “different times of the day” is possibly the key phrase in that sentence.

          • Yes, I see where it says the following on page 6:
            3 MOTION + TIME LAPSE
            The camera operates in Time Lapse Mode during the programmed intervals and Motion Detect Mode for the remainder of the day.

            Let me know if you get any interesting pics.

  5. Terri Clouatre says

    Received he M888 as a Christmas gift. I just want to capture wildlife activity on my home property during the night. Can the camera be programed to just start detecting motion at 7PM and stop at 7AM with out having to physically turn the camera on every evening and off every morning?

    • Terri. The short answer is Yes! But I hate to tell you this, but using electronics usually requires reading the owner’s manual. I know… I hate it too most of the time, there is no other way.
      Here is pdf version of the M-880 owner’s manual). Look at Time Lapse (TL) settings on page 8.
      I also suggest you occasionally check to see what wildlife are moving around during the day, like this little buck I caught at sunrise at my house (time was set wrong).
      The next day he was back in the middle of the day (see pic)

      • I think what Terri is wanting to know is how to have the camera start (motion detection) at a certain time. If it starts Time Lapse it might miss something that is happening between shots. I also want to use this as an option for a security tool for a construction site. Most of the crews leave at 3pm and start at 7am so I don’t want to monitor that those times. It’s when nobody is there that I want to see.
        And from what I see in the manual I can’t find that option.

        • I have never tried to use that option on my camera since I always want to see what walked past the camera. I am not sure I understand what the problem is.

          The owners manual (Time lapse; page 8) seems to be what you and Terri were asking for:
          Time Lapse can be set for 1 or 2 programs per day.
          Both Program 1 and program 2 can be programed with a start and stop time.
          You can also set Time Lapse intervals for everything between 10 seconds and 1 day.

          If the real question is can you use motion detection mode and still have the camera turn off when guys are supposed to be working, the answer is yes.
          See Capture modes on page 6 “The camera operates in Time Lapse Mode during the programmed intervals and Motion Detect Mode for the remainder of the day.”

          So when your guys show up, set the time lapse start when your guys show start showing up to work and have it shut down when they are supposed to be gone. Then set the interval to to take one picture every 2 or 3 hours. That way, motion detection is on all the time when guys are not at work, but you will only take a few pics during the day while guys are working.
          I hope this helps. Good luck.

  6. Can I set it to take one photo per day at noon each day? I want to leave my camera at camp during the off season to watch the changes.

    • Yes. Read the section on Capture Modes in the User’s Manual. (Look at #2; Time Lapse).

      The camera takes photos at specified interval(s) during the day. Time lapse mode can be set with up to two (2) programs and configurable start and stop times for each program. During the set program interval(s), the camera will take photos regularly based on the time lapse interval setting.

      You will have to become familiar with the menu, but make sure to set camera to Time Lapse Only and to set it for Photo Only.

      If you put all the photos together into a video, it will make a very cool time-lapse video. I would like to see it when completed.

Comments, Opinions, Questions?