Getting High With Cellular Cameras - A Test

Discussion in 'General Crossbow Discussion' started by TX_RDXguy, Jul 25, 2019.

  1. TX_RDXguy

    TX_RDXguy Member

    No, this has nothing to do with self medication while placing game cameras in the deep woods of Colorado. ;)

    It's brainstorming......

    I've used the Bushnell's cellular cameras for a couple years and they have worked pretty well. The web site setup wasn't hard, the picture service they offered was pretty good and not expensive. Getting pics sent to my phone, seeing them on the web site, managing your cameras remotely vs going to get pictures, fantastic. The key to all of this working well was having good cellular signal, which for the Bushnell cameras was at least 2 bars of service.

    Today I hunt an area that's very rural and has spotty cell coverage. Often "no-service" or maybe 1 bar. Not a strong enough signal for these Bushnell cameras to work so they are functioning today as typical game cameras.

    I often notice on my phone that my signal is good at 15-30 feet up a tree. I've spoken to Bushnell about an external antenna options and was told that is complicated based on FCC rules for mobile devices so that went nowhere.

    Spypoint cameras have an antenna that can be added but it's only 16', it has mixed reviews and it's $80 so I've not seriously looked at that as a solution.

    Cudde's wireless design has inherent technical needs to deal with geographic obstacles to work well, it's a $500 bill to get started, they have the highest per month charge and they run on Verizon only.

    Enter the Moultrie M4000i camera / MA2 remote modem idea. This is a common cellular ready game camera and Moultrie's modem and they connect together via a common USB cable. If I shop well, I think I can buy both for about $175. Add a USB extension cable that's 32' ($18) and mount the modem high in a tree where the signal is good. I suspect I will expose that cable to rodent consumption but I'll cross that bridge if it happens.

    M4000i Camera
    MA2 Cellular Modem
    USB Cable

    OK, that's the storm and it's just an idea so far.
  2. jacol84

    jacol84 Active Member

    You do have a lot of interesting hunting tools, Rich. Good luck this season.
  3. TX_RDXguy

    TX_RDXguy Member

    I'm an empty-nester Jacol and a little over the top on things of interest. I hope it's a good season as well and I'm counting on them doing more than just entertaining me ;)
    jacol84 likes this.
  4. Bob Missouri

    Bob Missouri Member

    Your camera with antennae idea *seems practicable*.
    Thank you for sharing that.

    * Automotive race car metallic wire looms *
    might shield the antennae coaxial wire from
    rodent consumption or other natural damages.

    Possible sources for wire shield :

    Enjoy the hunt... and * have fun with your electronic toys.

    in Bayou de la Missouri

    TX_RDXguy likes this.
  5. TX_RDXguy

    TX_RDXguy Member

    You're having the same thoughts I am about protecting the USB cable and thanks for the link. I've use3d that shield on some car projects and it may be the trick to keeping the squirrels and coons at bay.

    The USB cable is here, the camera arrives later today or tomorrow and the modem on Thursday. I'll play with the setup here, get the modem registered to Moultrie Mobile and pass on some updates.
  6. robertyb

    robertyb Member

    It would have been a lot cheaper to buy a different brand antenna off amazon with a longer wire that will attach to the spypoint cameras. There are several shown on the threads on other forums.
  7. TX_RDXguy

    TX_RDXguy Member

    The threads I saw as well are talking about using the $80 16' remote antenna setup from SP and unfortunately that's too short for where this camera needs to be. I do see some discussion of a generic antenna setup from Amazon that will come in at about $50/60 with cable and I'll watch those threads to see how that all sorts out. Another approach to get the same results so it may be a viable option.

    I'm all in at $186 so far. The SP Link Dark is a $300+ buy so that plus the remote antenna is no bargain and the new SP Micro that those threads are talking about is getting mixed reviews. From a feature set, it's not quite the camera the M4000i is so even at $106 and $50 for the antenna setup, I'm not far off that price point.
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2019
  8. robertyb

    robertyb Member

    I bailed after seeing the picture quality and not getting enough bars in my hunting area without an external antenna and got a refund on mine. I am having second thoughts after seeing the picture quality posted on the forums. I might break down and buy another one next time I see one on sale (if they do it again).
    I ordered a Stealth G45NGX instead. I hope it is a decent camera as I have never used a Stealth before.
  9. TX_RDXguy

    TX_RDXguy Member

    I think Cabelas is about to have a sale on them. If you have a "trade-in", they are $99.97. August 17 through the 25th.
  10. TX_RDXguy

    TX_RDXguy Member

    OK, all the Moultrie pieces are here. :)

    I've got the camera tested in non-cellular mode snapping back yard pics of my pups and the family. Seems to work fine. I signed up for the Moultrie Mobile program and picked the 850 pics per month as a starting point. The modem is registered and pairs to the camera very easily. More testing in the back yard this afternoon with the supplied 28" USB 2.0 cable that connects the camera and modem goes well also. Pics are getting recorded, messages to my phone are happening and web site functions all work like a champ. We have a baseline..... ;)

    Here's where the fun starts. My $11.99 bargain 32' active extension repeating USB 2.0 cable connects nicely to the 28" Moultrie cable BUT the two Moultrie devices don't seem to like it. I can't get them to communicate correctly. The modem hangs in the pairing process and just repeats the battery-signal strength test. o_O

    A call to Moultrie was not productive. The folks you get are very familiar with how to setup and test the devices but are not well schooled on anything "outside the box". They only offer one cable length which is this nicely shielded 28" cable. Why 28" and not 24", 30", 36" or 39.3701" (1 meter).... Your guess is as good as mine.

    Reading more about USB 2.0 cable performance distances, this repeating cable SHOULD be the ticket but it's not. I have a couple shorter standard USB extension cables and I'll test with them tomorrow. A 15'er and a couple 10'ers. Un-repeated, the 2.0 USB should run to spec. speeds and not drop power to 16' 8" or close to that.

    We'll see what works tomorrow.
    jacol84 likes this.
  11. TX_RDXguy

    TX_RDXguy Member

    Some progress and it's encouraging.

    The two standard 10' USB 2.0 cables don't work..... No idea why as they should.

    BUT, the longer standard 15' USB 2.0 cable does. o_O Which I was pretty sure wouldn't based on USB 2.0 length specifications. I almost didn't test it.

    I've run the camera inside today and it's taken 60-70 pictures and it seems to be performing normally.

    The M4000i camera is on the left, the MA2 modem on the right, braided 28" standard interconnect cable connected to the 15' USB extension cable.


    I'm going to dig around and try to find a cable company that can take the Moultrie cable and see if they can make a repeating cable that would work. 16 to 17' up a tree may be fine but I really would like a 30' cable to go up as high as possible.

    Next week and weekend are very busy but I may find time during following the week to get it out to the woods to set it up and do some testing. I'd be a happy guy if this cable set gets it high enough to get a signal and work.


    Some heat shrink where they join and a little black paint on the braided cable will be the last thing to do for these cables.


    On second thought drop the paint for some camo duck tape!

    Last edited: Aug 2, 2019
    jacol84 likes this.
  12. TX_RDXguy

    TX_RDXguy Member

    I had a break in my plans for the day and took off to the ranch to place this camera (a test) and do some trail cleanup.

    The 94 degrees zaps me pretty quickly so I did the trail work fist, cooled and refueled at the truck, jumped on the Canyon and headed about as far north as the property goes. I just setup a feeder here on the 20th of July so it's a stirred up spot which I think is a perfect place to test to see if this will work.

    I checked signal strength on my iPhone when I got here and it was 1 bar. I turned on the modem and it showed 1 bar as well. From hunting near here last season I was getting 2-3 bars of service on my phone when I was in my climber at about 20', so a test was in order. I mounted the camera where the previous one was and used some creative light rope work to lift and secure the modem upright at about 8 feet. I secured the cables and called it good for testing purposes.


    The Moultrie Mobile App showed that the modem had already synced to the Moultrie server and had a 23% signal, which is pretty low. When I tested at the house I would get 3 bars and a 60-70% signal reading from the modem inside the house and outside. I'm guessing this 23% is about a 2 bar signal.

    I turned on the camera, did a test picture and in about 3 minutes I had notification. Even with only 23% signal it's communicating. We'll see how well it reports over the next few days. If it's spotty, I'll move it just off the food plot in the woods facing an active trail. I'll get the modem up a tree where the signal is better.

    Looking at the Moultrie site I can see that the modem did do a sync at 7:07 pm, about 3 hours after the initial test picture. I would expect the local raccoons to be here some time tonight to have some corn, so we'll see if we get any pictures.
    jacol84 likes this.
  13. MI_Bowhunter

    MI_Bowhunter Member

    I've looked at these types of cameras for years. Aside from the price, the biggesy drawback for me has been the weak to non-existent signal in the areas I hunt.

    I never thought of extending the antenna up higher. Curious to see how this works out.
  14. TX_RDXguy

    TX_RDXguy Member

    Well, so far it's a test in process. Getting the modem high enough for a good signal in marginal coverage areas seems to be the trick. I noticed last year that my cell phone had 2-3 bars in my tree stands and 0-1 at ground level so I thought I'd give this a try.

    Moving the modem up the tree with a longer cable is one approach and the cable may be the deal breaker on this if I can't get it to communicate with the modem consistantly.

    Another option is to find a camera with a screw on antenna and add a tethered antenna and move it up the tree.


    That's plan B if this is a bust.

    The feeder spot I chose above either didn't have enough signal at 8' or the cable wasn't secure at the modem. Moultrie looked at it from the server end and said the modem signal was low but OK and they could see that the modem had checked into their system routinely, which I saw via the on-line app as well. I did only get one picture on initial setup in the 2 days it was out there. Moultrie indicated that the modem wasn't getting camera data well and thought it may be the ** card. I think it may have been the longer cable.

    I retrieved it from the ranch at dawn this morning. Brought it home, swapped the ** card and set it up in the direct sunlight out back. A heat test of sorts and so far it's working like a champ. The signal strength is 73% vs 23-30% at the ranch which may make a difference. The USB cable is also stretched out vs. wound up as it was when I had it at 8' in the tree which also may make a difference and I'll experiment with that.

    The test continues.
    jacol84 likes this.
  15. Bob Missouri

    Bob Missouri Member

    Have you considered some sort of "outdoor grade"
    Cellular REPEATER / RELAY antennae ?

    * These are sometimes called "wireless cellular phone booster antennae".

    *These are Typically mounted to buildings or poles "in fringe areas" to
    improve cellular signal in a small area in and near the building.

    That sort of arrangement might allow multiple cameras to send a
    to a single " mounted high in clear signal area "
    REPEATER / RELAY / Cellular Booster Antennae …
    *without the concerns associated with wires.

    More batteries would become necessary.

    ** This is probably NOT a cheap option.

    Last edited: Aug 6, 2019
  16. TX_RDXguy

    TX_RDXguy Member

    I see they have starting point systems at about $1,000 so that's a cost point only a few could consider. The antenna with longer cable is a $50 option that's very simple and essentially lets you put the antenna where the signal is. The down side is the relatively short 10' - 20' antenna cable.

    Price is always a consideration.
  17. Bob Missouri

    Bob Missouri Member

    Yes, The REPEATER/ BOOSTER is NOT a cheap option...

    Personally... I would look for a LONGER cable or *Multiple Shorter Cables* and plug them together....
    then shield them *as needed* to prevent rodent, weather, wind, falling limb strike,
    and *other naturally occurring damages.

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