August 9, 2007

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

The first time it happened, I was embarrassed. The following failures only added to my frustrations and self-doubt started to set in as my confidence was definitely rattled. I have a confession to make Ė I have been diagnosed with a common male problem Ė Trail Camera Failure.

Now I am not totally unable to get the job done, so I challenge that prognosis, preferring to say I am Trail Camera Challenged. In the several years that I have been utilizing the automated photographic equipment in the woods to try to track the deer populations, I have occasionally been able to get a photo or two. Sure those pictures usually were of me either putting up the camera, or standing dumbfounded in front of the lens trying to discern why the camera wasnít working.

My problem got so bad last year that I swore off trail camera usage. Donít get me wrong, I love seeing the images of the animals that are wandering near my deer stands. When these instruments work, they are wonderful tools for scouting to prepare for deer season. But I can only take so much rejection.

Three or four workdays on the trails, without any results, can cause a man to quit. Iím just lucky I didnít toss the silly camera into the canal. My wife is really lucky my frustration didnít get the best of me.

She uncovered my camera in the garage, and decided it might be fun to install it out at the farm to see what was traveling a few of the bigger trails we uncovered while mushroom hunting.

Sure enough, she brings the camera home after the first week, and has dozens of photos of deer.

My father-in-law regularly e-mails pictures of the deer taken by his trail camera. We even have photos of the deer my wife harvested last year. The big buck looks pretty impressive on the wall, so you can imagine what it looked like in velvet as it stared down the camera.

Me, all I got to show from the hours I spent packing in the mineral blocks and liquid attractants, is a sore back. I have more mosquito bites than I have deer pictures.

Yet I am stubborn. Instead of just accepting my diagnosis and moving on, I blamed the camera. Again my wife prospered from my decision. I bought a new, improved camera and gave her the old one. My declaration that the piece of junk should be thrown away, was ignored, and now the camera is regularly providing her with images and direction on where she will need to hunt this year. Iím sure the photos will help her make it three years in a row that she has visited a taxidermist while her husband sulks at home empty-handed.

It got so bad, I had her follow all of the steps, pressing each button just as the directions called for, setting my camera up before I left home to place it in the woods. Sure, it was a pain in the rear, as the camera flashed in my face every two or three minutes as I hiked toward my destination, but it was proof it was working. Okay, I had to wait several minutes to regain my normal eyesight, but I got the camera in place and was almost giddy as I walked back to my ride envisioning plenty of pictures to come.

After two visits to my camera site without any pictures, I nearly snapped. Instead, I swallowed my pride, finally giving in and asking for help. It was nearly as tough as stopping and asking for directions, but I simply could not understand what I was doing wrong.

Hopefully we have remedied some of the issues. The expert seemed to think that my camera was too far away from target. We moved the device much closer to the newly forming ravine where the deer have dug up the earth in search of the liquid attractant. I assume it is deer, based on the number of tracks leading to and from the spot, but then again that is only a guess since I havenít a single photo of the animal excavators.

It is too early for me to tell if I am cured, but maybe next week Iíll have a success story to share about all of my photos.

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