The trail camera man offers advice
Whether you are a hunter or just an outdoor person with a fascination for wildlife in its natural surroundings, a trail camera is a useful device that allows you to not only get some great photos of wildlife, but figure out which animals are moving and at what time of the day.
Bud Utecht, who writes a column for the Northwoods Sporting Journal about trail cameras called “What’s in Your Woods?,” is about as experienced and knowledgeable as anyone gets in the acquisition and effective use of trail cameras. Bud, a former trapper, has been smitten with the trail-cam bug for years. He is one of those rare people among us who find a niche for which they have a passion and pursue it with single-minded devotion.
Bud’s candid photographs of Maine’s wilderness fauna are extraordinary! There is an artistry to them which may explain the name of his business, operated by Bud and his wife Katy: Game Camera Artistry.
His recent trail-cam photo of two coyotes making their way across a beaver dam alongside a flowage brings you into the scene much like a piece of high quality sporting art. It grabbed me like no other.
A guest on my Sunday night radio program recently, Bud’s enthusiasm for what he does was infectious as he explained what he has learned over the years in placing his more than 100 trail cams in various wilderness locations about the state. “Of all the wild animals,” he said, “that I have captured on my trail cams, coyotes are by far the most alert.” He explained how, no matter how well you place a trail cam, a coyote seems to detect that cam the moment they step into the scene, and from surprising distances. Deer seem more curious. Bears, he says, are quite aggressive when they spot a trail cam on a tree. “They will come right up to the cam and lick it or bat it around.”
Concerned that today’s young people are too caught up in I-phones and miss the wonders of the natural world, Bud points out that the trail camera is one electronic device that has the potential to get kids back to nature. “The anticipation and sense of expectation of getting that special photo of an animal in its habitat can be an attraction for young people, too,” he said.
“What about scent control when placing trail cams?” I asked Bud. He does not concern himself with trying to eliminate or reduce human scent on his trail cams. He is far more careful and deliberate as to how and where he places his trail cams. “There is no way to totally hide a trail cam from an animal,” he says. On a game trail he will place his cam looking down the trail at an angle and place the device on a tree a fair distance from the line of travel.
Apparent to me is the fact that my ten-year old trail cams are Model A Fords in the march of trail-cam technology. The newer trail cameras will take night photos of passing animals without the telltale flash, and the photo resolution (quality) is light years ahead of the cams of a decade ago.
When asked “what is a good state-of-the-art trail cam that won’t break the bank,” Bud without hesitation recommended a trail cam made by Browning called “Black Ops.” The cam retails for about $139.95. This unit photographs at 16 megapixels and utilizes LED black flash technology for night photos. When we last checked, Amazon was running a special on these particular trail cams for less than the average retail price.
The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine guide and host of a weekly radio program, “Maine Outdoors,” heard at 7 p.m. Sundays on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. He has authored three books; online purchase information is available at www.maineoutdoorpublications.net.