4 Top Trail Camera Tips

va spartan 2

Dave Skinner, pro-staff for Spartan Camera and Go Cam, offers some great tips for setting and positioning your cameras:

I like to position my cameras approximately waist high, or about eye level for deer, for the best photo quality and the best angle for judging their age, and antler score.

For the absolute best photo quality, you want to set the camera 15’ or so from the target, about waist high pointing north or south so the camera is not looking directly into the rising or setting sun.

A nice wall of vegetation behind the target will reflect the infrared flash and result in better quality photos.

If it’s a trail set, angle the camera up or down the trail for a better centered image rather than putting the camera on the edge of the trail looking directly across it. Better yet, attempt to locate the camera at a spot where 2 trails intersect, increasing your odds of photographing bucks.



Here’s What Happens When A Buck Injures A Velvet Antler

antler injurySpring through September the antler-growing cycle for whitetails is approximately 170 days. This gives a buck many opportunities to catch a velvet antler on a fence, smash it against a tree as he flees danger, etc.  

Antlers grow fast—up to an inch per day in the summer! They have a complex system of blood vessels that carry nutrients through the velvet and down into the core.

When a growing antler is broken, it bleeds profusely, and blood can pool and fill the inside of the velvet. When the hardening of the bone process occurs in September the pooled blood can create a heavy, swollen, club-like antler.

If the injury is to the pedicle (the base of an antler) then the deformity could persist for several sets of antlers or even for the rest of the buck’s life, making him a permanent non-typical. Interesting!

4 Unusual Deer Mounts

Lately some different and unusual mounts have been popping up on social media:

deer mount backpack









This is the first backpack mount I saw, and to my surprise there were many variations of the pack mount on Google images. I suspect these are most popular out West; few hunters in the East pack out a caped buck, though I’m sure it happens when guys hunt deep on a big public area.

deer mount rub tree









Then there is the buck rub mount. I have seen versions of this over the years, but it seems to be making a comeback and is more popular than ever. Again, lots of variations on Google images.

deer mount lick coat








The buck licking his coat—deer groom themselves regularly—is different and unique, if not a little weird. But to each his own.

deer mount tailgate







The tailgate is my top pick of off-the-wall mounts. Different, but for some reason I kind of like it. I don’t like the 12-pack of regular Miller as an accessory; I’d have made it Miller Lite.

What do you think, which is your favorite? Me, I’ll probably just stick to boring old shoulder mounts.

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) 2019 Update

cwd map 2019

On this just released CWD tracking map focus on the light-gray blocks, which show the current confirmation of the disease in wild populations of deer. Cases in north Mississippi and west Tennessee are relatively new, as is the gray block in north-central Virginia (Culpeper County), 20 miles from where I hunt.

There are CWD deniers in the hunting industry, but I am not one of them. The scientists and organizations I work with and believe in regard CWD as a real threat with the real potential to disrupt if not decimate deer populations and hunting in the future.

Every year that I look at an updated CWD map, I see the expansion of the nasty disease, and we all must take the threat seriously.

Some of the latest development you need to know:

The Quality Deer Management Association supports ending all transportation of live deer to lower the risk of spreading CWD. This includes deer breeders (no more shipping live deer from one state or region to another) and state wildlife agencies (no more capturing deer, say, in an urban area and moving them to more rural counties).

All states have enacted some version of this law: If you kill a deer in or around a known CWD area, you cannot transport the whole carcass across state lines. At a minimum you must de-bone the meat, and saw off the antlers and clean the skull cap of brain matter before you take it home.

Basically, know that the days of loading a deer in your pickup and driving home will soon be gone. The new normal will be quartering and de-boning your deer, so plan on that.

All health professionals and deer scientists say that if you shoot a deer in or near a known CWD area, have the meat tested before you eat it. Gut and clean the deer, bone out the meat, freeze it and send a sample to a lab as recommended by your state wildlife agency. Don’t consume until you get the word back that it’s CDW free.

Go online and get CWD testing info specific to your state/region and know how to have the meat tested before the 2019 season.

Decline In Hunter Numbers Traced To Baby Boomers

baby boomers

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service studies show that nationwide, participation in hunting has dropped from 14 million hunters several years ago to 11.5 million today. In 2019, only 5% of Americans hunt, about half as many as 50 years ago.

My home state of Virginia, for example, has lost one-third of its deer hunters in the last 25 years, from 300,000 in the 1990s down to 200,000 today. Experts with the Virginia Dept. Of Game and Inland Fisheries say the decline in licensed hunters is the #1 deer management issue in the Commonwealth.

There are myriad reasons for the decline–family/work obligations; more people living in urban areas; lack of access to hunting land; too many people glued to iPhones, Netflix, etc.—but the Number 1 reason is that Baby Boomers are quitting hunting at an alarming rate, and it’s only going to get worse.

As this NPR article (a must read for all hunter) states:

Sixty-five. That’s when the average hunter stops buying licenses and picking up their rifle….

For many hunters…around the U.S., that wall is rapidly approaching.

Nearly a third of all hunters in the U.S. are Baby Boomers. They hunted like no other generation since. But the oldest Boomers are already aging out of the sport and the youngest, at 54, are only about a decade away from joining them.

Some Boomers have health issues (bad back, shoulder, knee) that force them to quit, and that’s understandable.

Others are pretty healthy, but say that hunting is not as easy as it used to be. No doubt that hiking, climbing and dragging/lifting/processing a deer is good hard work.

But this is most disturbing to me: I interact with a lot of Boomers who tell me they have just lost interest in hunting and have turned to other hobbies.

Due largely to Boomers quitting, annual expenditures by hunters, which provide almost 80% of dollars spent for conservation, declined by 29% from 2011 to 2016, from $36.3 billion to $25.6 billion. That means less money for state fish and wildlife agencies, and as more Boomers hang it up over the next 10 years, significantly less revenue for conservation and hunting programs.

We’re going to reach a tipping point sooner than later, a crisis I fear.

The National Wildlife Federation says that current funding levels for wildlife conservation are “less than 5 percent of what is necessary.”

And this as more and more states are forced to spend significant portions of their revenue on Chronic Wasting Disease research, testing and control efforts.

What can be done?

There is a national movement underway called “The 3 Rs” to not only recruit new hunters, but also to retain and reactivate older hunters and Boomers.The motives are fine, but I’m skeptical. Through well-intentioned movements and programs, we can retain and re-engage some hunters, but it will be a drop in the bucket as to what’s needed for future conservation, and to keep hunting strong.

You can’t stop the aging demographic of hunters.

But please join me in hunting for long as you can.

And if and when give it up by either necessity or choice, continue to purchase a state hunting license each year to help fund conservation and to sustain our way of life.