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Hunter’s Corner: Trail cams let hunters track their deer

One of the tools deer hunters are currently using before, during and after the hunt is the trail camera.

The key to a better trail camera is in the number of mega-pixels it has. From what I have learned, the magic number is eight. Eight or better makes for a good trail camera; less than eight is of questionable value. From what I have determined, there are currently 13 or more different makers of trail cams. The rating scores to consider are easy set-up, usability, features, value for your money and meets expectations. One of the benefits of doing the research is there seems to be a lack of correlation between user satisfaction and price.

Perhaps the main reason for the expansion of the use of trail cams is the deer hunters’ curiosity as to how many deer, primarily bucks, are frequenting an area where the hunter is hunting. If all the deer being caught on the trail cam are does, then it is time to change locations. If a number of bucks are being caught on the cam, then this can be the starting point.

Bucks travel in a routine route, not always crossing the same point at the same time. Most of the bucks caught on cam are caught at night. So how do you convince a buck to alter his travel route to visit a particular spot in the day? You set up a faux scrape and place a scent dripper above it. There is a membrane in the scent dripper that drips only during daylight hours.

I know of one group that was getting excellent pictures of bucks at night, but for the life of them they could not find where they were bedding down in the daytime. Every night these wily bucks would frequent the same fields and every day they would fade away like ghosts.

The use of trail cams is becoming more popular and will give the deer hunter a slight edge, but there is no certainty in deer hunting. The more information you can gather about what deer are in your area, and then attempting to pattern their movements, the greater the opportunity for hunting success.

There is another deer hunting phenomena that is gaining in hunter acceptance and that is the use of crossbows. Initially, there was some resistance to the use of crossbows as there was a hint that there was something less than ethical about their use. Nothing could be further from the truth. The range of a crossbow is about the same as a compound bow; however, instead of shooting an arrow you are shooting a bolt. The noise of both is about the same.

A hunter skilled in the use of either crossbow or compound will achieve the same degree of accuracy. Two types of hunters are switching to crossbows. The first are archery hunters who, due to a physical reason, can no longer use a compound bow. They bring a doctor’s certificate to Fish and Game and they are allowed to use a crossbow. The second are rifle hunters who want the additional challenge of the crossbow they are not receiving with a rifle. The average distance a typical deer is taken is well within the range of a crossbow.

For most archery hunters, they will be sticking with their compounds. The Mathews compound – The Creed – explains why. The Creed weighs 3.85 pounds, has a draw weight of 50-70 pounds with an 80-percent let-off and an IBO rating of 328 foot pounds per second. My bow is a Mathews Solocam and I won’t be trading up, but I fully understand why others are.

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A new study from scientists at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services raises concerns about the single greatest cause of human-caused mortality to birds and mammals, killing an estimated average of 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion mammals each year in the United States. According to the study, feral cats account for a significant portion of the deaths. In addition to lowering populations of species enjoyed by birdwatchers, cats can depress populations of other species such as ducks, rabbits and hares. To mitigate these effects, biologists in the prairies pothole region of the north-central U.S. post fences around duck nesting areas to exclude cats and other predators from killing the ducklings.

“Cats pose a threat to Vermont’s songbirds, such as robins, bluebirds and cardinals,” Vermont Fish & Wildlife bird biologist John Buck said. “Cats may even restrict the statewide recovery of some rare birds. The whip-poor-will, which is a state threatened species, can easily fall prey to roaming cats during their nesting season.”

“This is more of a pervasive problem for wildlife than many people realize,” Fish and Wildlife biologist Steve Parren said. “It was a wakeup call for my family when our friendly tabby delivered a still struggling baby bunny to our doorstep. We realized the potential consequences of allowing our cat to roam outdoors.”

“The lifespan of an indoor cat is roughly double that of an outdoor cat,” Stowe veterinarian Dr. Richard Levine said. “Infectious disease is almost non-existent in indoor cats, whereas outdoor cats are at risk for things like intestinal parasites, trauma from cars, and bites and scratches from other cats. Keeping an outdoor cat can increase the veterinary costs for pet owners by hundreds or even thousands of dollars over the lifetime of the animal.”

“When you allow your cat to wander freely in nature, your cat becomes a part of the food chain,” Parren added. “Sadly, many people’s pet falls prey themselves to larger predators such as coyotes, fishers and foxes.”

I checked in with New Hampshire Fish and Game to learn the status of feral cats in New Hampshire, only to be informed that they are considered domestic animals subject to the control of local animal control officers and not conservation officers. I don’t know what the ultimate solution is, but as long as there is an expanding feral cat population, wildlife and song birds are at risk and those who are supporting the expansion of the feral cat population are part of the problem and not part of the solution.

(Bob Washburn can be reached at

Legacy Comments8

What's next.... drones to spot these, hapless creatures?? Be a MAN, track them the old fashioned way and level the playing field just a bit at least.... You "sportsmen" use ATVs, high power rifles with scopes, cameras, night vision goggles... the critter never has a chance! Read American Buffalo sometime....

Rinella is a great example of the new breed of hunter. Tovar Cerulli is also a member of this group. But, jayprab, if you expect someone to take you seriously - don't lie. "NIGHT VISION GOGGLES?" REALLY?!?! No one uses night vision goggles to hunt! Unless you're talking coyote hunting in certain states or at certain times of year(which I don't do) then it is ILLEGAL to hunt one half hour before sunrise and one half hour after sunset. People who use night vision goggles to help them kill wildlife aren't hunters - THEY'RE POACHERS! As for the rest, I don't own an ATV so I wouldn't know about them. But do you think your hero Rinella DOESN'T use a high powered rifle or a scope?!?!?! I know for a fact that he does. Sounds like you and Tillie need to both go hunting with me so that you gain an understanding of what it's really all about, instead of the PETA propaganda you've heard. FInally . .. PLEASE tell me you're a vegan, for if you're not . . . SEE BELOW!

You don't give them any chance at all do ya?

tillie, tillie, tillie . . . Have you ever TRIED deer hunting? Do you actually think that all you have to do is place a trail cam in the woods and the deer will magically come to it? And that in placing said trail cam you will be able to ignore all the woodsmanship skills you've learned, the cardinal rule of the wind, etc, etc, and still kill a deer?!?!? This past season was the FIRST ever season where I was positive that I actually saw while hunting a deer that I saw on my trail cams. Last year the deer I managed to kill was a deer I never saw even though I'd been trail camming in the spot where I shot him all summer and fall. Using trail cameras gives you a snapshot of the number, age and sex of deer that are currently using the area around the camera. Because of this, trail camming in summer is a good way to observe the year's fawn production, the antler potential of any bucks in the area, and overall deer density. But summer trail camming doens't really do squat come deer season because their habits, food sources, etc. are likely to have changed drastically. Trail camming during hunting season is a good way to have your trail cam stolen by thieves if you're not careful but if done correctly and covertly it can help to keep you somewhere in the ballpark of where deer are and what types of bucks are still in the area and not in someone's freezer. Trail camming immediately after the season is a good way to assess the post-hunting season health of the herd(how many bucks are left, overall herd numbers going into the winter, etc.) NONE of these ways of using trail cameras are going to fill a tag for you. If you've watched any of those nature shows where they use trail cams to help them locate siberian tigers or other endangered animals, you'd know this. No hunter has enough time, money or energy to invest in the amount of trail camming it would take to do a really scientificly valid study of deer density, sex and age ratios and travel patterns of their hunting areas. Trail camming simply gives you a snapshot of the potential of a hunting area. It can help you rule out unproductive areas and can give you hope in certain areas where you've obtained lots of pics - or pics of decent bucks. That hope is the number one thing that trail camming does for hunters in my opinion - it may keep us out in the woods longer. The memory of those pics you got of that bit 8 pointer may keep you on stand that one extra half hour when you're cold and haven't seen anything all day. And sometimes . . . that is all it takes.

Wow, hit a nerve there. With a name like Hunter Dan you obviously hunt, Just seems you have all the advantages of killing an animal that is only looking to live and eat and roam freely. I know I eat meat etc, but I could not look in the eye of an animal (or person) and make the Godlike decision that I was going to end it's time on earth. Thats just me.

tillie, tillie, tillie . . . as soon as you typed, "I know I eat meat, etc." you lost the argument. You do not have a leg to stand on. You hold a morally and intellectually indefensible position on the topic. Give up while you still have some dignity. The very fact that you "cannot look in the eye of an animal and make the Godlike decision that you are going to end its time on earth" is proof that you should become a vegan. You should not be allowed to eat meat. UNTIL YOU HAVE KILLED, GUTTED, SKINNED, BUTCHERED AND PUT IN THE FREEZER THE FLESH OF ONE ANIMAL YOU SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO BUY A SINGLE OUNCE OF MEAT IN A STORE.

Interesting column. I think that trail cams really go against what should be the sporting nature of hunting deer. It is technology which changes the art of hunting completely and the sport of it. Although it gives a slight advantage, it still provides an advantage. The crossbow issue is a good one. To me, a crossbow is no different than a rifle and the stock resembles that of a rifle. Feral cats? Well live and let live is my motto or live and let get eaten in the food chain. Perhaps a solution is to introduce more fox, fisher cats, etc (anything but more coy dogs) into nature and let it take care of itself.

Excellent column this week, Bob! The real thrill in trail-camming is when you are able to see deer while hunting - and even harvest one - that you have gotten pictures of on your cams. That happened to me several times this year and it's a great way to confirm your suspicions and hunches about a piece of property when you can see the ones with your own two eyes that your trail cams are getting when you're not there. You're spot-on about the feral cat thing too. Thanks for shedding some light on this problem.

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