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Trail cameras catch the action

November 12, 2011
By GARRY BRANDENBURG , Times-Republican

TRAIL CAMERAS are popular items for hunters. The camera allows for surveillance of an area, trail system or crossing points while the hunter is elsewhere. Images captured on a memory card tell who was there, and when. Deer hunters in particular like to know how many and what size buck deer may be crossing in front of the camera. It has been this scribe's experience that lots of photos are snapped of squirrels, passing raccoons and many times, just the wind blowing nearby bushes that set off the camera. Oh yes, deer do get their images captured too, but not as many as I'd hope. I'm still waiting for one of those 'dream bucks' that magazine advertisements like to use. I know it can happen. It just has not happened for me.

It has also been my experience that knowing a big buck deer may be in the vicinity is absolutely no guarantee it will ever pass close enough to me during a time I'm occupying a tree stand. One can only dedicate lots and lots of time to the right location and then trust that fate or other circumstances will come together.

The BuckEye Cam designed by an Athens, Ga. firm has taken their own love of hunting to develop camera technologies for other uses with a continual eye on the future. Wireless products are able to take video and still photos and send the images to a central monitoring location. The systems are used law enforcement, homeland security, or for military operations. Even businesses may find the need to watch over properties day and night.

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A thief in the night was captured by a trail camera. It was a test by this author before the camera was taken to the forest. Well, the camera worked, and the evidence was proof enough of who was doing late night snacking at the bird feeder.  Hunters use trail cameras to watch over specific areas 24/7 so they can review the photos later to see what transpired. Increasingly trail camera systems are also being used by businesses and security firms to do the watching at all hours of the day and night.

Beyond hunting, trail cameras are used for research. They can be set up to observe wildflowers whereby the camera can observe and record details of time when seed dispersal is optimum. Even visiting birds or mammals at the flower seed head tell a story of which animal takes the seed and how it is dispersed.

Other research projects let the camera record action, or inaction, in places as diverse as Amazon rain forests, African deserts, Australian Outback sites or for Antarctic glacier monitoring.

A wide variety of trail cameras fill several pages of every outdoor catalog sent to a sportsman's mailbox. Of course the manufacture includes little inset photos of big deer, elk, sheep or other critter to entice the would-be purchaser of the results possible with camera X, Y or Z. Whatever your choice, a trail camera is fun to use. It can catch the action.


From the archives of history, we should take note that our prehistoric ancestors were hunters. If they wanted to survive, they had to eat. To eat they had to kill something. To them animals were as sacred as life itself. Cave paintings discovered in Europe expressed early man's reverence and gratitude for the animals that sustained life. It is believed that such animal art symbolized assurance of the success of a hunt.

The famous Lascaux caves of southern France are a sanctuary of paintings that have endured for over 17,000 years. The paintings depict the vital grace of deer, bulls, horses and the figures of ancestral hunters relying on intelligence and tools of wood, stone and bone to conquer the animals they revered. The paintings tell the story of how cooperating during the hunt helped shape our basic societies. Back them hunters and the game they sought were inseparable. Human existence and hunting were one.

Today few of us hunt to survive. But the instinct to do so runs deep. As modern hunters, our role is to ensure the survival of wildlife. We have properly assumed responsibility for our natural heritage and strive to practice an ethical standard similar to our ancestors. Even if our modern day tools for the hunt are light years ahead of caveman's sticks and stones, ethical application of standards of fair chase have made their way into laws and regulations set out by natural resource departments. Ethical standards help preserve the challenge of the hunt. We honor the majesty of wildlife. We honor the wilderness habitats it takes to sustain wildlife. We understand the difference between right and wrong to behave accordingly. It is a continuation of a legacy today brought forward from the illustrations of cave paintings of long ago.


Iowa Furbearer season began Nov. 5. Over 14,000 license holders will make the effort to take raccoon, otter, muskrat, beaver, fox or bobcat. Wildlife surveys indicate a larger population of most fur-bearing animals. Bobcats can be taken in southern Iowa counties. For this animal as well as otters, they must be reported to DNR officers within 24 hours of taking. Bobcat quotas increased this year to 350 from last years 250. A limit of one per fur harvester is in place. River Otter quotas are 650, up from 500 and is open statewide. A limit of three otters is in force. The seasons for these animals ends when the quota is reached. The DNR website monitors bobcat and otter takings.


I had fun with it, and so did some of my column readers. They correctly noted my nuthatch photo of last week was not a chickadee. Sorry and oops! I goofed.


Garry Brandenburg is a graduate of Iowa State University with BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology. He is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. Contact him at PO Box 96, Albion, IA 50005.



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