Game Camera Photography
by Jerry Dupree
Photography really became fun when it went digital. Images could be cropped, color adjusted, things added and deleted, poor lighting could be adjusted, and there was no film to process. Photography went wild with video, miniature, under water, drones, Go Pro cameras on helmets, worn on chests, attached to rockets and parachutes.
Digital cameras got better, cheaper, and smarter by the year, Upscale digital cameras used to cost $25,000. Now anyone can be taking excellent photographs for a small fraction of that and achieve better results.
Now fast forward to game cameras that can be set for still or video with sound, and are motion sensor operated. Now we can find out what our cat does at night, or what goes on in the back yard with rodents, owls, raccoons, opossums, and other things that go bump in the night.
I have always loved the outdoors and take a lot of photos of various birds and animals. One day I decided to buy a game camera and leave it in place to see what happens when there are no people around. I discovered there is a definite learning curve when using any specialized camera. Game cameras are not very expensive when considering what their capabilities are. They take stills, videos, and night photos of anything that walks in front of them. Early on I wanted to photograph in nature preserves, but found out they don’t like to give permission to walking off of approved trails and of course there are people who will steal them if they find them. I decided to go places where no one or at least very few people go. There are parts of national parks which are wilderness with no roads. I look for wheel and foot prints so I can place cameras where they are not likely to be found. I have learned to point the cameras north so the lens is not directly pointed toward the sun at any time. I began experimenting with bait to attract certain animals. I began with dry dog food and learned how to disguise it behind rocks or branches to make the scenes appear as natural as possible. I thought that if I used dry dog food and mixed in rabbit food and bird seed, that rabbits, birds, and rodents would attract owls, hawks, and other predators. I tried canned cat food for the strong scent plus inviting bobcats and hopefully a mountain lion or two. So far the cat food has been effective. I keep the cameras in the shade and clear the area in front of them between the camera and the bait and in the background. I have had problems with ravens stealing the bait. For some reason the raven population is much smaller than in past years. At least they are not eating all of my bait.
Foxes are pesky and knock over my cameras and chew on the straps. One time a fox drug one of my cameras a good distance away and it was a good thing I found it. Game cameras come with straps to fasten to trees. There are not many straight, tall trees in the desert, so I place them on the ground and level them. I leave the straps off after a few fox attacks.
At this time of the year I am hoping to attract animals with their newborn litters. Coyotes usually have their pups in May, so they should be up and around with their eyes open and learning to find food for themselves. My wife and I followed a trail one time which led to a den with baby coyotes. I got some photos of a quail family with nine babies. carry a hiking stick and poke around bushes, logs, and grass, before I step in or over them in case I find a rattlesnake. I have found several of them over the years.
Game camera photography has become an interesting hobby and is a little like fishing. Sometimes I get a good catch and am always trying new bait, areas to set up cameras.
I always carry a GPS and record the coordinates or I might not find my cameras. It is easy to become disoriented when hiking around the desert canyons or mountains. I am careful to bring emergency equipment including a satellite phone and a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon). ~ Jerry