Got this thought-provoking post from our friend Danny, read and tell me what you think:
The first time I got to go hunting was with my uncle when I was 12 years old (1990). No one I knew had trail cameras. In fact, I don’t remember hearing about trail cameras until I was in my 20’s.
My uncle shot a small buck that day and I was instantly hooked. Fast forward to when I was 16 years old and shot my first deer, a one-horned spike. It was the first buck I had seen while I had a rifle in my hands. I didn’t know what other deer might be in the area, and it didn’t matter. I got my first buck.
I remember shaking for what seemed like an hour afterwards. It was the best feeling in the world. You know, the “fever” that keeps us coming back every year. Now, fast forward 20 years to present day.
I keep 3 trail cameras running on our property. I collect the cards every Friday afternoon and my daughter and I look through the pictures together that evening. We name the deer. We keep track of what times the deer are showing up at different spots. We can pretty much recognize every single deer on our property.
The week leading up to opening day this year, there was a small spike still in velvet that was showing up like clockwork at the stand where my daughter, Lexi, and I were going to be sitting on opening day. The more and more she saw pictures of him the more “attached” she became to him. She started to call him “Cutie.” I didn’t think too much of it until opening day came.
Sure enough, this little spike showed up the first evening. I told her to get ready and tried to help her calm her breathing. When he gave the perfect broadside shot I told her to shoot when she was ready. I kept waiting and waiting, but no shot. I looked over to see what she was doing and I could see tears in her eyes. I asked what was wrong and she replied, “I can’t shoot Cutie. I just saw 100 pictures of him and he is just too cute.”
I assured her that it was fine and I wasn’t going to force her to shoot anything. She then replied, “But if Junior, Lollilop or The Freak (other larger bucks on the farm) shows up, I’m shooting.”
I was glad to hear her say this, but at the same time I thought, “What the heck have I done?” On one hand I was happy to see her pass on a young buck in hopes of a bigger one. But at the same time, when I started hunting my first several deer were spikes. I didn’t think twice about pulling the trigger. It didn’t matter if it was only 10 minutes into the season, if it was a legal buck, I was shooting.
Would that have been different if we had had trail cameras back then, because I’d studied pictures of the young deer and “gotten to know them?” Would I have held off on shooting those young bucks because I had a few pictures of a bigger buck in the area? Maybe.
Then I think of all the memories that I wouldn’t have now. I can look at every little set and big set of horns that I’ve gotten over the years and remember almost everything about those days…the weather, the smells, the hard drags out…
Am I robbing my daughter of memories like this by showing her all the trail cam pictures of our deer? If she hadn’t just looked at 100 pictures of that spike, would she have shot Cutie? Would that have been a memory for the rest of her life and mine? If she didn’t know that there are bigger deer on the property would she have pulled the trigger?
Or, maybe I shouldn’t compare my 10 year old princess to that 16 year old boy I was? Maybe she just isn’t ready to shoot a deer yet? Maybe she just likes spending time on stand with her dad? I guess only time will tell.—Danny from Maryland
Very well written post my friend, and good timing. Ironically, just last week I hunted on a well-managed property down in South Carolina where the hunters did not use trail cameras. Very unusual since I don’t go many places to hunt whitetails these days where they are not running dozens of cameras, and showing me hundreds of buck pictures when I get there.
“I used to run a few cameras, put I got to feeling like it was affecting the way I hunt and more importantly why I hunt,” Freddy told me. “Nowadays I don’t want to know beforehand every buck that lives on our property. I want to hunt, and see what I see. If it’s a big buck, I want to feel that excitement and surprise.”
I climbed into a stand that first evening not knowing what bucks if any were around. I’ve got to admit it felt good. I was surprised and excited when I spotted the first big 8-pointer. I did not feel the pressure to look and wait for “a big shooter on camera in the area,” like I do in all the other places I hunt.
Don’t get me wrong, I remain a big fan of cameras. No doubt in terms of hunters finding and killing big, mature bucks, they are by far the biggest innovation of the last 20 years in the hunting world.
But as Danny alludes to in his post, is that really what deer hunting is all about, especially for the kids? What you think?
EPILOGUE: Danny sent this picture and reports that Lexi passed the little spike up again the other night. Hope you get one of the bigger bucks girl!
I just got home from the mountains today 10/7 where I was actually doing some scouting sans the cameras…old school ,shoe leather scouting.
I’ve used cameras in the past may even do so again in the future but I’m the hunter not the camera. I do not name deer cause they are not pets. They are either the nice spike, 4, 6,8,10 etc. or the “Big” one.
I use cams for many reasons, my wife and I enjoy riding our UTV together checking trail cams all year long. We are fortunate that we can chose to wait for a big buck or shoot a small one. Having or not having cams out has no part of our decision to shoot or not to shoot any deer. We enjoy the family time together both hunting and being in the woods checking game cams. Last year I shot a 6pt, an 8pt and a dandy of a 10pt. (All legal in VA) my wife took her first nice buck as well.
We did have pictures of all of em, some we named, some we did not. Both my brothers also shot decent bucks. Pics or no pics, names or no names, we would have shot the same deer we did. if its legal and you enjoy it I say do it, if it’s not your cup of tea, that’s ok too, just leave my right to do so alone. Kclap
Hanback quote “No doubt in terms of hunters finding and killing big, mature bucks, they are by far the biggest innovation of the last 20 years in the hunting world.”
I agree 100% and when you factor in “real time” cameras and now drones, I wonder when/if the DNRs are going to step in and say..enough is enough?
Well stated Dean and Greg. Completely agree. Do wish the “real time” ones were not allowed during season.
Not sure trail cameras are ruining hunting but I do believe trail cameras save more Deer/Bucks then they kill.
I believe most folks hold out shooting just any deer when they know for sure better deer are in there hunting area.
I’m torn on this one. I think that cameras are a really neat innovation and I love to get pictures of wildlife, but on the other hand I feel like some guys rely solely on these cameras and don’t do as much real scouting anymore. One friend of mine acts like he can tell me every buck in an area because he had a camera on the water source there, but I can go out in that same area and spend time in person there glassing up bucks that he’s never seen before. I think that it creates a different view of an animal when you watch “YOUR” deer grow up from a fawn till whenever compared to if you just went out in the field and shot an animal for the love of the hunt and the meat provided. I could see how a little girl would feel like she couldn’t shoot a young spike if she’s given it a name and thinks it’s a cutie. However if she had never seen it before I bet there would have been much less hesitation in shooting him. It’s just part of the human emotion that we become attached to certain animals and when a kid is young it probably just doesn’t feel right. Hope she can smack one of the big boys!
I personally use cameras from June 1 to Sept 10.and over a bait pile in the late season. I place the summer cameras over mineral sites, and by sept usually have a good idea of number of bucks and how big. Late season allows me to more or less inventory what is left and decide whether or not to hunt the remaining archery season. In our area the deer herd into no hunting areas by late season so cameras really let you know whether or not any deer are leaving the sanctuaries. Cameras are a tool like anything else. Personally I had bad experiences leaving them up during hunting season. seemed like bucks were more nocturnal than normal. just my observations
Took my daughter out for her first experience youth hunting 4 years ago. First morning a nice spike comes down the ridge top and presents a nice opportunity for a shot. I tell her to go ahead. She declines and tells me she wants a “real” deer like we’ve been seeing on the camera. I reassure her that it’s okay to take the spike. She still said no. We didn’t see any “real” deer the rest of the weekend. We didn’t see any the following youth season either. She’s no longer interested in hunting with dad. I’ll probably never stop wondering if things would have been different if she had taken (and made) the shot on the spike.
I’m probably one of the few people who will willingly admit that I’m not a fan of cameras. I see the advantage of using them. And using them before or after the season to do an inventory on what is around makes sense to me. But using them during the season, I feel provides an advantage that seems more about deer “surveillance” and less about deer hunting. This is especially true when you start talking about using “real time” cameras that send images to your phone. I know of a guy who was hunting a certain stand when he got a call with an image of a buck that was on his “hit list” (a term that drives me crazy). He immediately got down and made his way to another stand on the property that was near where it appeared the buck was headed. A short time later he killed the buck. Do I think that is sporting or do I consider it fair chase? No…I don’t.
I guess I would rather enjoy the anticipation of what might show up instead of worrying about what didn’t.
We dont use cameras on our club hunting ground. Our neighbor does though. I want to go out and experience the thrill of the surprise with no definite expectations. On the other hand, if we have nothing but scrub bucks within 10 miles of our area I dont want to know that either. I like settling down in the stand with no preconceived notions other than perhaps expectations based on sign in the area or maybe an in person sighting or encounter I have had. Its tempting to put up a camera and see what is out there but I’m happier doing it the way we do it.
I personally don’t view trail cameras as a strategy to hunt, and/or kill bucks. I personally just use them to see what is out there, keep track on bucks I might be interested in, and to just have fun with them and have it/them enhance my hunting experience. I really wouldn’t want to have a camera out there monitoring 24/7 with the thought of trying to pin point the exact whereabouts of a specific buck. To me it’s like any other tool out there. It could be used in different ways I suppose.