In the Larry McMurtry classic book Lonesome Dove, Texas Ranger Woodrow Call tells his contrary friend Gus McCrae “Gus you’d argue with a ‘possum.” Sad to say this is how I feel sometimes with today’s hunters and sportsman. The favorite topics for arguing lately are the use of crossbows, (I can’t believe we are still beating that dead horse) the presence (or not) of mountain lions, and maybe aging bucks on the hoof and whether you should shoot or not. A new and wonderful thing to fight about at the barber shop, hardware store, and online is the trail camera.
Now just to make things even better we now have two categories in the trail camera realm. For years we have had what me may term “regular” trail cams. The camera is set up in the area the hunter wishes to hunt, sometimes with a feeder, sometimes not. The camera is motion activated and it takes multiple pictures or videos of animals as they pass by or linger in front of the camera. The hunter returns periodically to check the camera, removes the SD card and takes it home to look at on a computer, or looks it over on a small card reader device in the woods. In this way the hunter is keeping tabs as to what is going on in his hunting area, what animals are around, and if he has any big bucks present.
In the past few years technology has given us a new trail cam which gives us results even faster. Linking the cell phone technology with the trail cam, you can now get pictures from your camera immediately, in real time. You can be at the park with the kids, at work, or on a dinner date and your phone dings and there is a picture of the buck you have been hoping for. Now, here comes what all the hubbub is about. Is it ethical or fair (there is that fair word again) to use these devices to pursue game? I don’t know, you tell me.
On the Outdoor Life website editor Alex Robinson published a story recently about the cell cam dilemma, “Is Hunting with Cellular Trail Cameras Fair Chase or Cheating?” (www.outdooorlife.com) Robinson’s article is a well thought out review of the various considerations of using trail cameras as a help for the deer hunter, or any other hunter, and the ethical or fair chase questions.
Now first remember we are talking about two different cameras, the older version where the hunter must go and get the card to see the pictures, there is less controversy about this type of camera, but some purists say they don’t like the use of these cameras as well. The cellular trail camera is the one that is generating most of the controversy. Some states, including Utah, New Hampshire, Alaska, Montana, Nevada and Arizona have full or partial bans on using trail cams, some with stiffer prohibitions on the cell cam variety.
Most people’s problem seems to be with the cell cams in that they think the hunter can see the animal on his hunting ground in real time. Some have said it is not fair, or ethical that the hunter can then go out and take that animal, like right away. Well, my brothers and sisters in camo, I do not agree with that, but I decided to hear from some of my hunting fraternity out there.
John Trull is Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Trijicon, the optics company, and is a lifelong hunter. “Just because you see a big buck on the camera doesn’t mean he’s as good as on the wall,” John said. “Even deer that seem to pattern well on the camera suddenly become very hard to kill when you try and “slip in on him.” I also would contend that the advent of the trail camera and specifically the cellular camera has actually contributed to better deer management practices. Case in point, of the 12 folks in my lease, no one has taken a buck the past two years. We see what we have on the property and everyone to a person is letting the young deer walk. I think this is happening more than we realize.”
John makes a couple points here that I don’t think a lot of us consider. Part of what he is saying is with the use of the trail cam we can see many of the deer that are around, if the hunter knows a couple monster bucks are present, he may very well wait on these deer to show and not take any smaller bucks. (He may not take the bigger deer either if they don’t show up) I also need to go back there where I mentioned some hunters claim they don’t like trail cams, especially the cell variety because they will see when the deer is present and can go to the area and take the deer. Friends if you think you can regularly see a deer on your cell phone trail cam, jump in the truck and drive to the hunting spot, and then sneak in there and plug that deer, you are way more hunter than most of us. In fact, I doubt you could do that one in a hundred times. Just my not so humble opinion.
Well folks, as usual we are out of time and space here, guess we will have to bring this trail camera deal up again sometime. Keep your discussions with other hunters civil, even when you think they would argue with a slick tailed marsupial.