Three Months and 183 Videos Later

One of the benefits of being unemployed is that I can check my trail camera at 9:00 AM on a weekday when everyone whose backyard I have to walk past is at work, preventing any awkward answers to the question, “What are you doing back there?” “Oh, I’m just taking a stroll in the swamp…”

On Tuesday, July 16, I finally had a chance to get to my camera for the first time since April 13. So I headed out after gathering all of the necessary tools and clothing, including:

  • Long pants due to all the thorns, mosquitoes, and poison ivy
  • Long-sleeved shirt for all of the same reasons
  • Hat (same reasons)
  • My brand new knee-high Muck rubber boots for all the mud that I knew I’d encounter in the swamp
  • Pruners to prune out all the vines and branches that have grown over the trail
  • Key to unlock the camera
  • SD card to swap with the one in the camera (I made sure that it was empty first in case I don’t get back there again until hunting season in October.)
  • A dozen AA batteries in case the ones in the camera were dead or dangerously low

Surprising things:

  • My trip started off well enough when, still within sight of my house, a deer snorted at me and bounded off in the direction of my camera. It’s so thick in that area that I never had a prayer of actually seeing the deer.
  • There were fresh coyote tracks going in both directions on the trail.
  • The three streams that I have to cross to get to my camera were nearly dry, but they were muddy. I hardly needed my new rubber boots. Considering the number of recent days of light rain and the downpours accompanying the thunderstorms that we’ve had, that was surprising indeed.
  • Even though I pulled this card on July 16, and there was still one bar on the battery indicator, the last video was taken on June 4. Normally when the batteries are that low, the camera won’t take nighttime videos, but it usually continues to take daytime videos. Not this time. There was plenty of fresh track in front of the camera, but no videos after June 4.
Deer Track in Front of the Camera

Deer Track in Front of the Camera

About those videos…

Why did the batteries die, even though they should last anywhere from six months to one year? At noon on June 3, it got very windy. I then got 34 videos on June 3 of wind, and the camera died at 2:30 PM on June 4. Really windy days will kill trail camera batteries every time. Here’s just one of the roughly 50 videos in which the wind was strong enough to set off the camera:

Wind videos made up the majority of the 183 videos. Here are the totals:

  • 69 of Wind or Nothing
  • 33 of Deer
  • 25 of Raccoons
  • 23 of Sounds (mostly animals walking nearby)
  • 14 of Gray Squirrels
  • 11 of Cottontail Rabbits
  • 3 of Coyotes
  • 2 of me checking the camera back in April
  • 1 of Turkeys
  • 1 of Canada Geese with Goslings
  • 1 of Robins

I’m surprised that there were no videos of the following this time:

  • Muskrat
  • Fisher
  • Red Fox
  • Gray Fox
  • Owls

I’ve caught videos of each of those, especially red foxes, previously. I’m also surprised that in three years, I’ve never caught a beaver on this camera. I see lots of sign of them nearby, including half a dozen roadkills every year.

Now for the reason you’ve all read this far; the videos:

Turkeys in the mud on April 14:


Raccoon Eyes at Night on April 20:

Three Coyotes in the dark on May 11:

Four bucks in velvet traveling together at 10:00 AM on May 13:

Canada geese with goslings on May 21:

A male coyote pooping in front of the camera, and a female coming by and sniffing it on May 28:

A doe sniffing the coyote poop on May 29:

Until next time,

~ Tony

Advertisements

Deer Spooks Turkey, Two Raccoons Walk Into a Bar

Saturday, April 13 was the first chance I had to try to get to my camera since February 15 (read about it here). I hoped that the three streams I had to cross would be shallow enough that I could cross them in my knee-high boots, despite the fact that it was raining.

The rain is actually why I decided to make the trek that day. With there not being any leaves on the trees yet, I thought it would be good on rainy morning when the neighbors wouldn’t be in their backyards. The water level was surprisingly low in all the streams, but I still just made it through the last stream closest to my stand and the camera.

Enough background; let’s get to the videos. Here are the stats:

167 total videos

51 of Deer
33 of sounds (animals walking)
31 of Raccoons
14 of Squirrels
13 of Rabbits
11 of Turkeys
4 of Fishers, maybe?
3 of Red Fox
3 of Robins
2 of Coyote
1 of a Muskrat
1 of me

One of the first videos was of six deer walking nose-to-tail.

The most surprising animal by far was the muskrat. When I told my dad about all the beaver sign and roadkill beavers I see in this area, he had asked me whether I’d ever seen any muskrats. The answer was a definitive “no,” but here’s proof that they are around.

The funniest is this video of a doe spooking a gobbler.

The most R-rated video is this one of two raccoons mating.

The prettiest video is this red fox in the snow.

There are two entries to file under the “winter weakens, spring kills.” The first is one of several showing deer feeding in a storm.

The second is one showing them walking through some fairly deep snow for these parts.

Also surprising, given how flooded this area has been for so long, were robins feeding on worms in the mud.

The turkeys and deer seem to be living harmoniously, at least in this video.

I never considered this stand to be in a good spring turkey hunting spot, but these videos are making me reconsider.

Until next time.

~ Tony

I’ll Bet You 10 Bucks

On Friday, February 15, 2019 I finally had a chance to try to get to my camera for the first time since the last day that I hunted—October 13, 2018. I hoped that the three streams I had to cross would either be frozen enough that I could walk over them or shallow enough that I could cross them in knee-high boots.

My first challenge came before I even reached the first stream. There was a flooded part of the path that was too deep in November and December for me to get through.

Iced-Over Path

Iced-Over Path

As you can see in the photo, it was iced over. If the ice was thick enough, I could walk on top of it, but that might prove to be precarious in rubber boots.

My first thought was, “I should have brought my wading staff…and maybe my waders.” I found a good, sturdy stick, pressed it firmly onto the ice, took a deep breath, and stepped carefully onto the ice. At first the ice held me, I started to slip, and then, the ice gave way. I braced myself for icy water to run over the top of my boots, but it didn’t happen—just barely. I continued on, breaking through the ice, step by step. I made way to the river bank, hung on to the overhanging branches, and made my way to dry ground.

The first two streams weren’t bad at all to cross, and there were lots of beaver tracks around them.

Beaver Tracks Around  Stream #2

Beaver Tracks Around Stream #2

I knew the third stream by my stand (and the camera) would be the deepest, widest, and trickiest to cross. It was. The hardest part was when I would break through the ice and the pieces of ice would be under my feet on the bottom of the stream. Again, the water was just below the top of my boots. Again, I used overhanging branches to make my way across.

To my surprise, the lock on the camera popped open easily. It was 45 degrees outside, but there was sign of rust around the lock, and it hadn’t been opened in four months. Also to my surprise, the batteries in the camera were still good. In fact, they appeared to be at full power for an instant, but then the camera died.

Full Batteries?

Full Batteries?

I switched it back from OFF to SETUP a couple of times, and it showed the batteries at one bar (almost dead). They were powerful enough for me to correct the time for daylight savings. I brought new batteries with me, and I switched them a few at a time (as my dad taught me), hoping that the camera wouldn’t go back to all the default settings. Luckily, it worked. I swapped the SD card, locked up the camera, and headed back home.

Just after going through the flooded area (and while I was within sight of my house), I saw a huge rub. That’s my boot for perspective in the photo, but notice the old telephone pole; that’ll tell you how thick that tree is. Next year, that buck will be big enough to rub the pole!

My Boot Next to a Rub

My Boot Next to a Rub

I hoped that this giant buck went by the camera at some point over the past four months. Luckily, he did, and he had bark from that tree in his antlers, as you can see in this video.

To my surprise, he was just one of 10 bucks that went by my camera. I think. Here are videos of the 10 bucks. Watch them, and let me know whether you think that they are 10 different deer.

Spike:


Tall 3:

Half 8:

Tall 7:

Standard 8:

Great 8:

Tall 9:

Standard 9:

Mangled 9:

Split-Tine 10:

This was stunning to me since I had hardly gotten a single buck on the camera around the time that I was hunting in September and October.

Seven of those 10 videos were taken between October 17 and November 8. The other three were taken between November 11 and November 17. In some cases, two bucks would pass the camera within an hour or two of each other.

Last year, I consistently got two 9-pointers on camera, even after hunting season was over. The only questions were:

  • Was either one hit by a car?
  • Would they survive the winter?

Based on what I see above, they both survived. Split-Tine 10 is clearly one of them. The other is likely one of the three 9-pointers.

I only hunted this stand twice in 2018 for several reasons:

  • I would have needed my chest waders to get to my stand with all the rain we got in October and November.
  • The only deer I got on the camera was a doe with two skippers and that yearling doe with no tail. I did have a doe permit (two permits, in fact), but the deer only came by about once per week. Unlike 2017, they seemed to be avoiding this flooded area.
  • I mistakenly assumed that all of the deer would avoid this area during the rut too.
  • Like nine other eastern states, there is no Sunday hunting in Massachusetts! There were many Sundays that I had a chance to hunt, but I couldn’t legally do it. A couple of the daytime videos above were taken on Sundays in which I was hunting in New Hampshire.

Other highlights from the trail camera include:

A gray fox (which is rare in these parts) carrying a rabbit (which are not rare at all):

That tall 7-pointer grunting:

As I expected with such weak batteries, the infrared didn’t work in the last few videos, but I still got a couple of cool, if not dark videos of raccoons standing, running, and yelping in ways that I’ve never heard.

Raccoons yelping:


Raccoons standing:

I also caught a clip of six deer yarding up on December 11:

I’ll guess I’ll spending a little more time hunting this area during the rut this year; even if it requires chest waders!

In the meantime, who wants to go shed hunting with me?

~ Tony

Spring Is in the Air

The weather is always crazy this time of year in New England. Some days feel like summer, some days feel like winter, but few days actually feel like spring.

The animals start acting crazy too, and that’s how you know it’s spring. Examples that I’ve seen in just the past week include:

  • Two chickadees fighting

  • Two cottontail rabbits fighting 
  • Two different gobblers strutting for hens

On my trail camera, I caught two raccoons getting frisky.

Then one of the raccoons then went after the camera.

Dad has his bears attacking his cameras, and I have raccoons attacking mine. I guess that’s the difference between rural hunting and suburban hunting.

Something about the camera spooked this button buck.

His mom has a sizable scar, but she seems no worse for the wear.

After a long, cold winter (and a cold spring!), I go a little crazy too. To cope, I start preparing my hunting gear. I started by hand-washing, drying, and waterproofing (with Camp Dry) my camo rain jackets.

Hand Wash Only

Hand Wash Only

Let’s hope we get enough spring-like weather to get in some archery practice and fishing soon!

~ Tony

Suburban Menagerie

I finally got around to checking the camera on Saturday, and there was quite a variety of life to be seen in those 93 30-second videos.

The first video was of me dropping a dead mouse on the log in front of the camera at 4:30 PM on March 26. (I had found the mouse in the woods on the way to the camera.) Less than 12 hours later, a red fox came by to snatch up the snack. Notice how he shakes it, even though it is already dead. Old habits die hard, I guess.

And, of course, there were deer videos, but surprisingly only three. The best one is of this doe, who showed up just four hours after the fox. She’s displaying typical nervous deer behavior, including a twitching tail.

There were also, the ever-present cottontail rabbit videos. I’ve never posted one here before because they’re typically quite boring. Mostly, the rabbits just sit still. This time, we got two videos that show a rabbit browsing several of the newly formed buds, which makes for slightly more interesting viewing.

Spread out over the two weeks were five raccoon videos. One cleaning its tail.

Another video that I can only assume is a raccoon, is one where the camera is being molested.

Because the camera is now pointed at the river, we were also able to catch a drake mallard on video. Unfortunately, he’s out of frame in just a couple of seconds, which makes the video not worth sharing here.

We also had 37 squirrel videos, eight mouse videos, seven videos of rain, two videos of blue jays, and one of some fog.

Finally, we caught our resident wild turkeys on the camera. We got three of the four in this 30-second clip. As usual, the hen leads the pack, and her three poults follow.

~ Tony

Back in Business

As you’ll remember from my Storm’s a Comin’ post, I snapped off the latch lock on my trail camera, which I thought might be a problem later this year when I move the camera closer to my stand site. Well, as I mentioned in All Talk, No Action, I took the camera to  my dad’s house to see whether he could help me repair it, and he did.

Gluing the Latch Lock

Gluing the Latch Lock

Given how bitterly cold it’s been so far, I’m being very careful with it.

Lousy Smarch Weather

Lousy Smarch Weather

But at least it looks good enough to deter someone who doesn’t realize that you could snap it off with the slightest tug, especially in cold weather.

Looks Can Be Deceiving

Looks Can Be Deceiving

As promised at the end of my last post, I set the camera to point down the trail instead of perpendicular to it, in hopes of getting longer videos of animals walking toward the camera (or away from it) instead of passing quickly in front of it.

So how did it work? Not as well as I would have hoped, but not too badly. In one week, I got 32 videos, including one of raccoon walking perpendicular to the camera. He’s coming up from the river.

Again, I’m surprised by how few of those 32 videos were just of blowing leaves and branches, given that we’ve had ridiculously windy conditions of late. Here’s the breakdown:

  • 3 videos of me and Bear pruning branches in front of the camera
  • 1 raccoon
  • 3 rabbit videos, including a lengthy one of him hopping away from the camera
  • 7 squirrel videos (“They’re baaaack…”)
  • 6 videos of the leaves blowing in the wind
  • 2 videos of blue jays squawking
  • 5 videos where the camera was triggered by the sound of deer walking nearby, which were taken just before or after the…
  • 5 videos of that doe and skipper, but the skipper is at least a button buck. Based the size of his nubs, it looks like he’ll have at least big spikes by summer’s end.
    Judge for yourself:

As you can see, the camera didn’t trigger until the deer were right in front of it. I’m not sure why that is. Its sensitivity setting is set to Normal. I’m afraid that if I set it to High, it will take 1,000 videos of leaves blowing in the wind.

Like the video of the rabbit, I did get one lengthy  video of the button buck walking away from the camera down the trail.

All the deer videos were taken around 4:00 AM; some on Tuesday and some on Thursday, which is in line with Thursday’s moon phase; first quarter-3. It’s also an hour before I walk the dog, which puts Bear and me about 75 yards away from the camera. That’s within sight of it this time of year.

Side note: Michelle and I have heard the great horned owl calling on many of the calmer nights in the past week, but still no sign of him hunting those rabbits on the camera.

~ Tony