Cumberland Times-News

Michael A Sawyers - Outdoors

March 16, 2013

SMILE You just might be standing in front of somone’s trail camera

I admit to a little bit of obsessive behavior, though in my mind I am still within the normal range.

For example, I have a relatively new (to me) CD of Bob Seger music and find that I keep playing two cuts “Shame on the moon” and “Wait for me” over and over and over. I like all of Seger’s music, but especially his simple songs that highlight his voice and have his piano background. Love the backup ladies too. Doot, da doot!

I can hear all the young readers now. “Who?”

So, it isn’t surprising that this same sort of behavior has transfered over to my infatuation with trail cameras, a fascinating hobby I got into two years ago because my son Ryan bought me one for Christmas.

Speaking of Ryan and trail cameras and deer, he has a very practical overview of those animals. He considers live deer to be in the pre-jerky phase of their life cycle. He has a point.

Trail cameras allow me to hunt throughout the year. I’ve never been a trapper, but I’m guessing that the giddiness I experience when going to check a camera for images is akin to what the trapper feels on his or her way to check the trapline for furbearers.

Thing is, I don’t have to tag, transport and skin any critters. I just transfer the images to my computer.

Just as there are various ways to hunt deer, there are various ways to photograph them. I may have used this line before, but I like it so I’ll use it again.

Trail cameras are so sly, so sneaky, so unobtrusively accurate in gathering information about unsuspecting citizens of the woods that they must have been invented by the research and development team of the Cheney/Bush administration.

Most folks I know throw out some bait and put the camera where it will take photos of anything that comes to that bait.

I like to use trail cameras the same way I hunt most of the time, that is put them on trails and see what comes by. By doing so, I have been able to photograph nice bucks using certain trails at a frequency that flabbergasted me.

I quickly learned that if you aim a camera perpendicular to a trail you will photograph the back ends of deer that pass by because of the 1-point-something second delay from activation to image capture.

Thus, by setting the camera up so that it shoots the length of the trail or nearly so you are able to capture more full-body images either coming toward the camera or walking away.

I find that cameras set in this manner should be geared to shoot images as quickly as possible.

The shortest delay on my cameras is one of 30 seconds and I keep it set that way. So far I’ve gotten photos of deer, bear, coyotes, turkeys and one bobcat, not to mention small game such as squirrels. I feel like a sylvan Allen Funt.

After Oct. 10 or so, the photos of big bucks are usually at night.

I have one photo I don’t even like to think about — taken of a hunting companion — and which I will not attempt to describe to readers.

It was Satchel Paige, wasn’t it, who said, “Don’t look back, something might be gaining on you.”

If you look at the two photos accompanying this column, you see that Satchel was a wise man as well as a legendary baseball pitcher.

The 6 a.m. photo of me walking to a deer stand on Sept. 14 is followed by a 7:14 a.m. photo of a decent-sized bear at the same location. I don’t know where that bear went after the photo, but it wasn’t toward my stand or I surely would have seen it.

In February 2012, I put a camera where it would capture images of anything that came near a small deer recently killed by predators. What followed were hundreds of daylight shots of black vultures on the carcass.

Those birds are very good at what they do.

Contact Outdoor Editor Mike Sawyers at msawyers@times-news.com.

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Michael A Sawyers - Outdoors
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