A Case Against Trail Cameras

trail cameras

Why you might want to consider forgetting about trail cameras for a while.

OK, OK. Hear me out. I realize this may sound like sacrilege. Especially from a guy who’s last article included tips for using trail cameras. Check out those tips here.

They’re one of the most powerful tools in a hunter’s arsenal. No one will refute that. Trail cameras allow us to identify and pattern the key deer we want to pursue each year. And who doesn’t love pictures of a big old bruiser right below their tree stand? So why on earth would we not want to use trail cameras? Here’s a couple ideas, but first, some background.

I’ve been deer hunting regularly each year for as long as I can remember. My wife might actually use the term religiously instead of regularly. It’s hands down my greatest single passion in life aside from my family. If I’m not actually out hunting, I’m probably talking about it with someone. If I’m not talking about it, I’m likely writing about it. (Check out Wide Open Spaces for more of my work.) If I’m not writing about hunting, I’m thinking about it. If I’m not thinking about it… Well, that never happens.

But this year?

This year, though, was different for me. In the past I’ve put so much effort into taking buck inventory that it practically became a job all on its own. I have files and folder systems for each property as well as every camera’s GPS position and tree stand placement on each property. Beyond that, there are sub folders for each mature buck and even some attempt at genealogy for which deer belong to which genetic lineup, etc.. I’m sure it’s not the most sophisticated, but it is intense.

There are also apps that I’ve explored to help with the process. I’ve edited, saved, and started new spreadsheets it seems like a few times a year. These are all helpful, for sure, but usually just end up adding another system and yet another location to consult and track data. So what happened? What does all this mean? You could call it burnout. Maybe you’d call it exhaustion. You might even call it tired.

Frankly, I got bored. The whole process felt empty. I simply got jaded.

I had to hit pause. Refresh. Ctrl. Alt. Delete. I needed a hard reset.

Reset Time

Over time, my desire to find, track, and identify big bucks got in the way of actually enjoying the hunt. These processes eventually came to the point where my passion and fun turned into work. There was very little surprise left in the process. Rarely was I able to sit in the tree stand and just wonder who or what would show up?

The bucks that were at the top of my list were so patterned that it was simply a matter of sitting in the right place and waiting. Its safe to say the entire idea of hunting and harvesting these giant deer lost some luster. How you ask? That’s a great question, and one I had to ask myself. Eventually it came down to how I’d eliminated my favorite part of hunting. The wonder and curiosity. Have you ever felt that way?

Now I probably need to clarify a few things. I’m in no way suggesting we should all just stop using trail cameras for a while. More than anything, I want to give you permission. (Not that you need any from me!) It seems that today’s hunter has some sort of obligation to be part operator-outfitter. If you’re not doing all you can to inventory deer and maximize your odds, you’re just not the real deal. I disagree. And that’s why most of my trail cameras have been sitting on the shelf this year.

Notice I said most. I do have one property that’s still new enough I’m trying to get a good understanding of what’s working and what sort of deer inventory I have to work with. But my primary hunting grounds have been untouched by trail cameras and human interaction almost all year. And I love that. This season is going to be fun.

Want to join me in the adventure? See you in the woods, friends!

Like what you see here? If so, click here to read more great hunting, outdoor, and shooting articles by Reid Vander Veen.  Also, check out his writer page, Tree Stand Diaries, on TwitterFacebook and Instagram

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