The Exciting Sport Of Game Camming

The sun was just peeking over Eastern Utah’s high Uintas as I clamored along the mountainside game trail, crossed a thick clearcut, and began my descent into a small gulch. My destination was a treestand at a tiny, spring-fed mud hole halfway down the ravine. The small wallow by itself might have seemed insignificant, but the sign surrounding it showd it wasn’t. As the only water source within a mile, it attracted elk by the droves!

With the sky lightening I was tempted to hurry, but I noted the wind was perfect, the timing right, and I went into stalk mode, knowing the site might be occupied. A few minutes later, I caught a tawny glimpse through the pines, the dull flash of branched antlers, and the game was on!

Plans An Ambush
I scurried ahead a few yards, snuggled up to a small pine, and fished out my rangefinder. The big deadfall, straight ahead of the bull grazing steadily toward me, was 31 yards.

Set cameras so animals approach the camera, not across it, or this is what you’re likely to get!

Then alarm; I instinctively knew something was wrong even before it registered on my brain: The wind had faltered. With the elk obscured by an evergreen, I did a quick duck-walk a few yards farther, trying to get a shooting angle before everything fell apart. Now the breeze was steady against the back of my neck.

The bull, which hadn’t once stopped to glance around, suddenly jerked bolt upright. As he did, the crease behind his shoulder became framed in a perfect shooting lane. I was at full draw instantly, settling a wavering pin and putting pressure on the trigger, when powerful muscles exploded, hooves churned, and the bull was gone!

I stared in shock, disbelief, denial. Mixed emotions cascaded over me. How could I have been so close and come out of it with nothing? I’d had the trigger halfway home! What a thrilling encounter. What an incredible disappointment. I quivered my arrow and, crestfallen, made my way toward the treestand.

Photo Softens Disappointment
It was hard to sit there that last morning of the hunt. When I left I stopped to pick up the game camera I had set at the main waterhole. That’s when it finally occurred to me that I had probably intercepted the bull leaving the wallow, and might have a picture of him. A quick check revealed … an awesome broadside photo of the bull!

One might think that would add insult to injury, rubbing it in as it were, but it is quite the opposite. With that photo, I wasn’t left with nothing. It’s like having a piece of the bull, a remembrance of the encounter, without the packing out and taxidermy bills. It reminds me of my muskie fishing adventures: precious pictures serving as the take-away, our esteemed quarry alive to thrill another day. The photo, framed on my office wall, attests to catch and release elk hunting!

Sure, I wish I’d gotten the elk, but the point is there is a new way to make time in the field exponentially more rewarding than it was before. It’s about game cameras.

Here’s a little advice from what I’ve learned. Trail cameras (or game cameras or "camera traps," if you prefer), have come on huge as a tool for specific deer or other game monitoring that can be not only very effective, but fun! They are used mostly for getting an idea of the individual deer on a property and patterning them for hunting, but they can be used for more advanced deer management functions as well.

Game cams can tell you what kind of bucks are in your area.

Check Out Many Cameras
My advice for purchasing trail cameras is to familiarize yourself with a variety of them before buying, because they all have different features and ways of operating that appeal to different users. Some are more reliable, some are more complicated, and some are faster-triggering, which can make the difference between getting a picture of the deer or a picture of the empty place he was a few seconds ago. Then pick a model you like and stick to it, because it can be mind-boggling to memorize the different operating procedures for different brands.

I haven’t tried them all, but a few brands I’ve had good luck with include the Stealth Cam, Bushnell, and Moultrie. They range in price from $100 to $400. A good place to learn the basics and begin comparison shopping is here at Sportsmensguide.com.

For a fine selection of Trail Cameras, click here.

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