Does the trail camera give an unfair advantage, or is it a tool that's here to stay?
Here are four names you may recognize: Saxton Pope, Arthur Young, Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett. These people are the epitome of what each of us as hunters strive to be. Now what do these fine hunters have in common? They were all exemplary hunters who never used trail cameras.
It may be silly to even say it since the technology wasn't available. But, the fact remains that some of our most legendary hunters found their game using only their owns wits and finely tuned outdoor senses. Would they have used a trail camera if they could have? I'll leave that for you to argue amongst yourselves.
Nowadays, you'll find the phrase "trail cam" is as synonymous with hunting as "rifle" or "shotgun." You'll also find there are two sides to the argument, neither of which convince everyone with their merit. Some states, such as Montana, now ban them during the various open seasons as a deterrent to over-harvesting.
There are surely two strong sides of the stealth cam argument, though. See which side you can hang your hat on.
First, the bad:
1. Some states are starting to oppose their use.
As stated, Montana has come right out and declared the trail cam off limits saying, "It is illegal for a person to possess or use in the field any electronic or camera device whose purpose is to scout the location of game animals or relay the information on a game animal's location or movement during any Commission-adopted hunting season."
Other western states such as Nevada, Arizona and Idaho are lining up on this side of the issue, too. Live-action cameras with a large memory card and night vision capable of transmitting images to the user offer a very nifty tool. But, they cause the next issue as well:
2. They're making us lazy.
First of all, for those hunting remote and mountainous regions--particularly the guides--having a system in place that can give them the information they need without having to go 100 miles to get it makes sense. Now, think back to the beginning of the article about Pope & Young and Boone & Crockett and how they had success by getting out in the woods. Does it make you cringe to consider that a buzz on your phone tells you where a deer is?
By the way, some of us are old enough to remember surviving long before the cell phone or tablet came along.
3. The Boone and Crockett Club doesn't recognize trophy animals taken by use of live-action trail cameras.
"Trophies taken with the use of trail cameras, including scouting, are eligible for entry in B&C, but only if the hunter has to manually remove film and/or a card from the trail camera itself to retrieve the images," B&C President Tony Schoonen told Outdoor Life. "Trophies taken with the use of trail cameras, including scouting, that transmit images to a computer/base station for viewing are not eligible for entry in B&C."
I've said it many times: as hunters, we have a responsibility to self-regulate what we do in the outdoors. Are you ready to walk up with a trophy buck and say--attached to a lie detector--that you didn't use a live-action camera?
4. They just plain tell us where the animals are.
And yet, that's the whole point, right? But hold on. Many veteran hunters, such as myself, shot a lot of game by scouting the fields and skies with our naked eyes, putting our time in traveling to likely areas and physically walking into them. We got skunked many times, yes, but we put the work in.
Well, you don't have to get skunked as often anymore.
Here's why trail cameras are a good thing:
It's amazing to see how much we didn't know about deer until we began to put all that trigger speed in the woods. Thanks to no-glow settings and long battery life, we were able to see animals we never saw before, the beginning of fawn sightings, bucks in velvet and shooters we may have never known were even there.
And, one of the most valuable things you can find is a card devoid of anything, as it tells us that we just need to put the camera somewhere else!
2. Sheer fun
Is there anything that makes us feel more like a kid than opening a present? Checking the SD card on a hunting camera does just that and more. Since we began using them, the scouting camera has exploded and exceeded our wildest expectations. Sometimes we even get more than we bargained for!
3. They create much more interest, especially for kids.
For new hunters and kids ready to hunt, the trail camera is just what the doctor ordered. Having one of these systems in the woods will drive up the desire of those new to the game. Additionally, veterans who've never seen one in action will likely also take interest. Placing treestands has never been easier and with the high-quality images, it can be lights out for that big buck!
4. Science can benefit.
When you can manage animals knowing their age, distribution, male-to-female ratios and even predator populations, you'll be more effective.
As you can see, the game camera is quite beneficial to the hunter. But, listening to our scientific community can be of the utmost importance when it comes to hunting.
Cover photo via YouTube