Trail cameras are one of the least-expensive ways to monitor the human and animal activity on your property. I did my seminar schedule in 2012 on using trail cameras during the off season. Using my DLC Covert Cameras in the off season, I not only can watch my buck’s antlers grow, see what kind of fawn crop I’m having, determine the buck-to-doe ratio and monitor the general health of my deer herd, but also catch shed poachers. We have problems with people trespassing onto our property to take shed antlers. I was talking with a friend the other day, and we both believe shed poaching has gotten worse than deer poaching. I think people believe no one cares if you go onto their property to find and take shed antlers.
On the farms where I hunt, we watch our deer grow up. Every year, we try to find the shed antlers of individual bucks we’re planning to harvest later when they’re 4- or 5-years old. For many people, finding shed antlers is a passion. When someone else comes onto our land and steals those antlers, they’ve stolen a valuable part of our record-keeping. I know there’s a market for shed antlers, but I don’t think most shed poachers are trying to make money with them. I think most of them just enjoy getting out in the woods and walking on a sunny day, and if they can find sheds, that makes the walk more interesting. But if people want to hunt for sheds, they need to go to public lands where they can do it as much as they want, rather than poach on private lands where landowners and hunting clubs are trying to keep records on the bucks they’re raising.
I live 230-miles away from the farm where I hunt, and I have gates on every road. I go there as often as I can to check my cameras. After a fresh snow, I’ll find footprints where other people have been walking around in the woods on my land. So, running the trail cameras in the off season not only allows you to inventory your herd, but also helps you inventory people who are trespassing. I also put the cameras outside my gates to get pictures of vehicles being driven onto my property. Last year, about a week before prime rut in the deer season, I got pictures of a poacher carrying out the head and cape of a 165-inch whitetail he’d poached. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of his face. What was really frustrating was that he’d left the rest of that buck in the woods to rot.
I also use my cameras to help me survey my property for turkey hunting. Many hunters don’t realize you can help yourself in turkey season by using your trail cameras to see when and where gobblers are feeding, coming into fields, strutting and moving with hens. Using those trail cameras before and during turkey season can make as big a difference in your turkey-hunting success as it does for deer hunting.
by Andy Weichers, host of the “Campfire Stories” TV show on the Pursuit Channel that starts the last week of June, 2013.