Knoxville News Sentinel


Smile, you might be on Casey's camera

February, 18 2001

By Bob Hodge, Knoxville News-Sentinel Outdoors Editor

Of all the topics that have been debated or stirred passions at the Web site, none has generated as much cyber talk as a camera. But this isn't just any camera.

Down in his basement workshop Casey Purcell makes like a Dr. Frankenstein of the photography set. There are wires and batteries and relays and parts all over, but there are also signs of life. Thanks to directions available at, the end result will be an automatic trail camera capable of being left alone and taking pictures by itself.

"Cameras like this cost $300 or $400, but you can build your own for about $80 or $90," Purcell said. "They take good pictures. I'm going to set mine up before turkey season."

Hunters and wildlife fanciers like the cameras because they show what is going on in the woods when humans aren't present. Made by melding a motion detector with a camera, the device can be set up on trails and food plots and it will take pictures of whatever walks by.

The camera generated so much interest at that it was given its own discussion thread. This week the thread went over 1,000 posts.

"I've seen posts from every state except Alaska and Hawaii, and I've seen posts from other countries," Purcell said. "You can print out the step-by-step directions and they'll tell you what tools you need, what supplies you need and even show you where you need to solder the wires."

Although Purcell is a retired engineer, you don't need an advanced degree to put the camera together. He uses a "cheapo" automatic camera, an electrical switch box, a motion detector, a gel cell battery and a variety of relays, sensors and switches that are available at Radio Shack.

The biggest expense is the camera and Purcell buys a model that costs $50 at Wal-Mart. Combined all the other components cost less than that and are easy to find.

The tools needed include wire cutters, a soldering iron, a drill and a few others. At the Web site the detailed instructions not only tell you what you need to do, there are pictures showing you what the camera should look like step-by-step as you work.

"You don't have to know anything about electronics," Purcell said. "The biggest thing is soldering some wires together and if you can't do that, well ... It's like connecting the dots."

Purcell is working on his second camera, with the first completed, tested and ready for the field. It took him approximately 16 hours to complete the first unit, but the second should be finished in about six hours.

After he connects the camera with the motion detector, battery, switches, etc., everything is put in the waterproof box and is ready to use. Purcell camouflages his camera boxes with spray paint, but others who have made the cameras use tape or even real sticks and grass to hide them in the wild.

"One of the things that has been most enjoyable about this is the feedback you get from the other people," Purcell said. "They'll come (to and have different ideas and suggestions and talk about how they are doing. I've never been around total strangers who have bonded like this and that's made it fun."

The Knoxville News Sentinel