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Using a scouting camera

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Technology can be put to good use when scouting a hunting area. A very useful tool is a scouting camera of which there are a variety of makes on the market.

Hunters nowadays in the hurly-burly rat race of what we call life have one thing in short supply of which in bygone days there was an ample supply of and that is the precious commodity of time.

In yesteryear, hunting was not a pastime it was a way of life and hunters were very familiar with the areas they hunted in as they lived in them. When you live in a place you get to know it well. You know its different moods, how it changes from season to season and what creatures inhabit it.

You also become familiar with natural rhythms and patterns – where animals can be found at different times of the day or night, when they drink where they take shelter and where they establish home ranges.

When your permanent job requires that you are mostly office or city bound, your occasional hunts are confined to a couple of days every now and again and you do not have the time to familiarize yourself with an area or to scout it out to find out what animals occur there or to establish their patterns of movement.

Most of your hunt can be wasted just looking for something worthwhile shooting and before you know it the time you have so eagerly waited for passes and you find yourself heading home again.

This is where a scouting camera can be very useful. You can find a likely looking spot such as an active game path, put the camera up and leave it to be collected at some later time. It will then take a photographic record of any animal passing that way as well as the date and time.

Well it all sounds OK but does it actually work?

A friend loaned me a scouting camera and after having read through the instructions which were pretty straight forward I headed off into the bush to put it to the test. I decided to set it up at a waterhole not too far from my house that is frequented by a large variety of game.

My wife and I headed down to the waterhole and I decided on a spot that I thought would be a good place to set up the camera.

I started by trimming off some small branches so that the lens and infra red sensor would not be obstructed. Suddenly there was an urgent whisper in my ear – one word only: "Elephant!" I had been so absorbed with what I was doing that I had not noticed four elephants coming down to drink.

They were not more than about 40m away when my wife spotted them. We beat a hasty retreat and flattened ourselves behind a termite mound a short distance from where the elephant stopped to drink

We enjoyed the sighting but as the elephant appeared to be in no hurry to move off we backed away for another 30m or so and I taped and wired the camera to a convenient tree next to what appeared to be a well used game path.

I thought it expedient to wire the camera to the tree in case a baboon took an active interest in it and decided to carry it off.

In hindsight I should have set it up higher than what I did as it would be a likely object for a hyaena to chew on. Fortunately it survived and when I returned two days later it was still where I left it. I was interested to see if anything had been recorded. Sure enough when I pressed the "Image" button it indicated that eleven photographs had been recorded. I hurried off home and plugged the camera into my computer and sure enough there they were. One or two were of my wife and myself putting the camera up, there were a number of photographs of impala all recorded during daylight hours and one of a buffalo in the early hours of the morning.

 The quality of the images is not photograph quality (3 Megapixels by day and 1.3 at night) but is more than adequate to establish what animal it is, trophy size and of course what time it passed that way which is helpful in establishing movement patterns. Figures 7-9 show some more examples, recorded by my friend who loaned me the camera, on a recent nyala hunt.

The camera is activated by a movement sensor and by an infra red beam at night. It does not have a flash as this "spooks" animals and sends them running. Daylight photos are in colour and nighttime photos in black and white.

This can be a very useful tool as up to 800 images can be recorded on the memory card in warm weather and up to 500 during very cold weather. The drain on the battery is very low so the camera can be left in situ for quite extended periods.

The camera can also be used to record the presence of different types of species – especially those that are nocturnally active and are seldom seen. This camera would therefore have useful applications in taking inventories on reserves and game ranches. I also think it could be put to use in anti-poaching operations.

Cleve Cheney holds a bachelor of science degree in zoology and a master’s degree in animal physiology. He is a wilderness trail leader, rated field guide instructor and the author of many leading articles on the subjects of tracking, guiding, bowhunting and survival. Cleve has unrivalled experience in wildlife management, game capture and hunting, both with bow and rifle.
Click here to visit his site

On bowhunting farms where animals are shot from hides these cameras could be put into place to not only establish the patterns of movements of animals but can also record what animals are shot by hunters.

Well, generally I am impressed and I look forward to experimenting with this device.

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