Buck Espionage

Some brands of cellular trail cams offer a smart a phone app for photo viewing, while others simply deliver photos via text messaging. (Jeremy Flinn image)

Cutting-edge technology for spying on your deer herd

By far the most engaging part of hunting a particular buck for me is the chase. Not the “chase” that we tend to think of during the rut, but the overall pursuit of a specific deer. It was about ten years ago when I first got my hands on a trail camera. You hear people talk about having an “epiphany” when they encounter something that may be life changing. Although trail cameras probably didn’t directly change my life, they did change the way I hunt. And because hunting is such a huge part of my life, you might say it was my minor “epiphany.”

Though many think trail cameras replace or dull traditional scouting skills, those who ignore the primitive methods will often find themselves with both an empty trail camera and tag. The camera doesn’t find the deer for you, you have to find the deer for the camera. With a limited field of detection, trail cameras have much less visual coverage than a hunter in a stand. That said, the advantages are much greater, like limited human presence and 24/7 observation, which make trail cameras one of the most important tools in any deer hunter’s arsenal.

The rise in popularity of trail cameras really exploded in the mid-2000s, and it’s tough to find a serious deer hunter who doesn’t own one. But for those relatively new to the game of trail cameras, it may surprise you to know that it wasn’t that long ago that we didn’t have infrared (IR) cameras. They were all flash and, more importantly, you only got 24 or 36 pictures on your camera before it needed to be checked.

Wait, what? Exactly, the technology in trail cameras has evolved greatly. From the days of 35mm-film flash cameras, to the reveal of cameras that would save thousands of photographs on a small memory card to the ability to record video. The progression of trail cameras has been amazing.

But for any of us self-proclaimed “camera junkies,” the wait for a new game-changing technology was over when the first cellular trail cameras were released. Many consumers that jumped on new technology ended up frustrated; the technology was not that reliable. In fact, I think you actually saw a lull in the cellular camera market until just a couple years ago.

Much of this also might have revolved around the lack of understanding how revolutionary cellular cameras could be for deer hunters. After using cellular trail cameras frequently for the last couple years, I can undoubtedly say that cellular trail cameras have once again given me the feel of an “epiphany.”

Information in the Moment

During this time of the year, it seems like a constant. The swirling of “what ifs” in our head when we are not in the stand. That’s why we use trail cameras, to capture information when we aren’t there. But there is still a time lag between the camera collecting data and it being usable to us. So let’s say the next time you check your trail camera is when you are hunting. This lag can be the difference between getting “blanked” on the stand and adjusting your strategy to be where deer are most active for your hunt.

During this time of year (November), it is never more critical to have the most recent information. Although it can be one of the most successful times in the woods, it is probably the least predictable. Patterns may last only hours, let alone days, so by the time you check a traditional trail camera, the deer behavior and location are likely to have completely changed. A cellular camera can feed you the information you need to make real-time decisions.

I’ll be the first to admit this can be extremely evil. As I sit here typing this article my cellular camera on my hunting lease five hours away is sending me pictures of bucks cruising. Yes, and I am sitting in my office. So as cool as it is to see this in real-time, knowing I am not there right now definitely messes with my “work production.”

But even though I am not there, I have eyes on my lease. This isn’t just for watching deer and turkeys, but also for things that shouldn’t be there, such as trespassers. It’s a very bad feeling getting to a property to find out that stands and/or cameras are missing, gates are destroyed, and deer have been poached.

Far too often trespassers get away unscathed. It’s a very satisfying feeling catching a crook red-handed. I have caught several trespassers on cellular cameras by notifying the local authorities or by paying them a visit on the property myself. You want to talk about making someone so paranoid they wouldn’t think of coming close to your property again. Show up within 15 minutes of them walking past your camera, and then show them the picture of themselves. The cellular camera pays for itself right then.

covert cell
Previewing deer photos on a smart phone makes for some great conversation at the breakfast table. (Jeremy Flinn photo)

Picking the Right Brand

I am not sponsored or endorsed by a trail camera company, let’s put that out there first. I have worked with many of them and have a great, non-bias relationship with some of the top manufacturers. Most of which now carry a cellular trail camera. Reconyx, Bushnell, Covert, and Wildgame Innovations all sell cellular-enabled trail cameras with a wide range of prices.

If you are an absentee landowner or lessee, or you just can’t get enough of trail camera and what is going on around the property, a cellular camera is probably needed in your future. These cameras are without a doubt an investment, but they will save you time, help protect your property and increase you opportunities for success.

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