Along The Trail 8-2-12

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Editor’s Note: This is a column written by Switzerland County’s David Hewitt. The articles center on all things ‘outdoors’, from hunting and fishing to woodsmanship.

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I wade through the waist high soybeans, sweat running in my eyes, as I make my way to the edge of the trees. I step in and sneak along the deer trail, quietly as I can, but the dry leave litter under foot gives me away to every creature in the woods. A few steps at a time, then stop, look and listen…a few more steps. I’m almost to my destination when I hear crashing and running, then catch a glimpse of a white tail as a sleek doe in her summer orange coat speeds off through the thicket. My excitement builds as I anticipate what I’ll find…

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What am I doing out here in the woods in 90 degree heat?

It’s hot.

It’s sticky.

It’s humid.

It’s just plain miserable.

It’s July in the Ohio River Valley.

Archery season is still months away and the crisp Autumn mornings seem a distant dream. Too early for me to be chasing squirrels through the hickories – so, what am I doing out here swatting bugs and fighting poison ivy?

Two words: ‘trail cameras’.

Now I’m not the most tech savvy guy around. I can manage my way through the Internet and social networking and I can almost use my smartphone, but for the most part, I resist technology. I like things simple, uncomplicated. Especially when it comes to hunting and the outdoors.

In today’s world of hunting, technology is quickly replacing woodsmanship and skill. Most of the time, I fight advancement tooth and nail when it comes to the outdoors and my passion for it. I don’t like shortcuts. But, I have to admit, I’ve fallen for the allure of trail cameras.

If you’re not familiar with the concept, basically, a trail camera is a digital camera that you leave in a likely looking spot in your woods and when a deer or other critter passes through it’s infrared beam, it will snap a photo and store on an SD card. It all seems like magic and voodoo to me, but that’s my simple understanding of how they work. All I really know is that the use of them can become addictive for a deer hunter.

For me, each time I sweat my way to the summer woods, I’m like a kid on Christmas Eve, full of excitement when I check my cameras. Will there be some new, monster buck or maybe the profile of a coyote on film? Maybe a flock of turkeys will visit in my absence.

Who knows? Maybe one of the cameras will capture a photo of my old bobcat friend.

Using the cameras has extended my hunting season in a sense. They give me a chance to “inventory” the deer that are around my hunting spots and if I pay close attention, I can pattern their movement and use that to my advantage come the fall when I’ll be sitting in my hiding spot, recurve bow in hand. Their use has given me another reason to get out and off the couch and tromp around in the woods during what would normally be down time. The photos taken give me fodder for conversations with hunting buddies and help build my imagination for the upcoming season. They give me an opportunity to see the animals without disturbing them. They give me a chance to build some history with the deer, maybe a certain scar on an old buck’s nose, a tear in his ear from a sparring match. A white patch on a particular doe’s belly or a dark stripe down her back or a new pair of twin fawns.

The camera’s help build my connection to the outdoors and the animals I pursue.

So fellow hunters, if you’re not using cameras yet, I highly recommend them. Besides, a guy can only fish so much this time of year! Just be prepared to buy plenty of batteries, “OFF!” and calamine lotion!

– David Hewitt