Trail Cameras: A Whole New Hunting Frontier

One day I will tell my grandkids something along the lines of “When I was a kid, we didn’t have any fancy trail cameras like y’all do nowadays. When I was growing up, we had to go out there before dark and just guess where and when the deer moved!” I’ll tell them that because it’s true.

As a kid hunting with my dad, I learned the unique art of learning deer behavior from trails and tracks. When you found a lot of both, you built a treestand out of 2×4’s and hunted there forever. And it worked. I shot my first deer out of a stand we called “Old Faithful” – a double-decker permanent platform stand in an old Oak tree. I sat on the first floor and my dad sat on the second. The “ladder” was actually long spike nails driven into the tree that got shorter as the tree grew older. We saw a lot of deer out of that stand and my dad shot several big bucks from the second floor (actually both floors – the second was added to accommodate me after he’d been hunting there for several years). But you know what we didn’t have? A trail camera.

Trail cameras have evolved over the last 15 years or so. I remember the bulky 35 mm cameras that used a half dozen “C” batteries. How you had to take the film out of the camera, take it to a photo developing center and wait AT LEAST an hour to see what walked by your stand a week ago. Think about that for a second – you carried around a roll of film in your hunting pants to swap the rolls in your camera after (or before) sitting in the deer stand. Then, as technology does, the cameras got smaller and more sophisticated. The 35 mm rolls of film were replaced by memory cards that you carry around in your hunting pants to swap in your camera after (or before) sitting in the deer stand. The photo developing problem had been solved – no longer would you pay for 35 pictures of raccoons eating your corn. Now, you pop the SD card into the computer and quickly scroll past anything that doesn’t have horns. One problem the digital trail cameras didn’t solve however? The outdated data.

When you are looking at trail camera pictures from last week, you are really just enjoying pictures of deer on your property. The amount of usable data is really slim – unless you check your cameras every day or so, identifying a usable pattern is tough. But, like technology often does, trail cameras have evolved.

I was recently gifted something I invented in my mind 5 years ago – a trail camera that will send you pictures in real time. My invention used the idea of “polling” the camera via the internet – dialing into the camera and downloading the data. Whoever actually invented them was even smarter – now these cameras use a cell signal to send YOU the pictures in real time. I put it in the woods as soon as possible and guess what? Just a few short hours later, I’m looking at pictures of deer feeding. The information I’m gathering is solidifying what I already know (that deer feed all night during a full moon), but I actually already feel better prepared for my next hunt. Ironically, without the cell camera, I wouldn’t have that verification data until AFTER my next hunt. With it, I have the data BEFORE. That makes a difference, if only in my confidence levels.

Hunting has evolved leaps and bounds since the original hunters fed their families using rocks and sticks. These days we have high powered rifles and scent killing camo. They found deer using tracks and trails and we watch them in real time on our cell phones. The thing that’s still the same? I hung my cell camera where several trails meet in an area that’s full of deer tracks. I guess not much has changed after all.

Dustin Dowdy

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