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Hook and bullet club

I was looking at the website for the Minnesota Deer Hunters and noticed that they include “camera hunters” in their credo. Count me in. No, I don’t plan on taking my Canon EOS Rebel with me up in the deer stand, but I have been out hunting for the past two weeks with a trail camera and I admit, it’s a lot of fun. After doing my research on the different options and scrimping and saving, I decided on a digital unit made by Trailsense Engineering. There was an initial problem with the unit I bought but the company quickly resolved the issue without question, a rarity these days. From the moment I ordered the unit I knew exactly where I wanted to put it. There’s a spot where bucks have made scrapes every year and it’s just a natural deer area in my mind. So I set up the camera and let it sit. The first result was what I believe was a doe and fawn walking by. They walked right in front of the camera, and when it flashed only their backs were visible. The next visit was much more exciting. This time I changed the settings slightly, upping the sensitivity to take pictures sooner. Three photos captured wildlife and there were a couple of shots of the forest with nothing else. Two shots were of an eight point buck walking by, both taken an hour or so before sunrise. In one he’s broadside to the camera and the other he’s walking away, with…ahem, something hanging out his backside. Apparently this area also serves as a designated rest stop. The third photo was taken at 12:55 a.m. and is of a coyote or small wolf chewing on a mineral block I had set along the trail. Cool. After that I decided to move the camera to a different location. We call it the sandbox and it’s usually got scrapes and animal tracks in the sand.I ran to check the camera during the week and had to restrain from jumping up and down when I previewed the pictures on the camera. It’s a good thing I didn’t jump because I would have impaled a pine branch in my head. Right in front of the camera a cow moose had stopped and had her picture taken. This one was at 2:45 p.m. the day before and the moose is so close it’s almost startling. Maybe I should have picked a tree further back.No matter what, hunting for photos with a trail camera is really great fun. Popping open the weatherproof box and pulling out the camera is like opening a present each time - you never know what you’re going to get. I’m sure there will be plenty of openings that resemble getting underwear at Christmas, but that’s all part of the deal.I still have plenty to learn about this new sport, but I can pass on the limited knowledge I’ve picked up to date.First and foremost, buy a good camera and make sure you spend the extra money and get the digital version. Tom Rusch, the DNR guy in Tower, has a film version and would gladly trade for a digital model. You get to see the pictures right away and if you do have prints made you can limit your expenses by only printing the good ones. Second, make sure you buy the Masterlock Python lock to secure your camera to the tree. Maybe it’s just peace of mind, but knowing that someone can’t unhook your bungee cord and walk away with your investment is a good feeling. The Python lock is a neat unit, with the ability to lock the cable at any length and a cinch feature to tighten the cable before you lock it. Third, set your camera around three feet off the ground and clear out any brush in front of it. The trail camera shoots with a pretty wide range and that height has worked well for me.And, make sure whatever camera you buy shoots good night photos. Other than the moose, the deer and wolf photos were all taken at night. A good flash and a good battery system are key here. Trailsense has a system where you can hook up any type of battery, even a 12-volt car battery if you want. I haven’t figured that out yet, but I will be bringing out a new set of batteries the next trip out.I have to throw the other benefit out since we live in a digital age now. Each time I bring the chip from the camera into town, I get a set of prints made at Norex and then download the photos on to my computer. From there I can attach them to an email and make the boys in Twin Cities even more anxious to get up here for deer season. All around the trail camera is good clean fun and you don’t even need any gutting gloves.

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