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


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

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

All Talk, No Action

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks weather-wise and wildlife-wise.

  • A few nights ago, a great horned owl was hooting behind our garage. I told my wife that they eat skunks, which would mean fewer skunks in the area to spray our dog. Also, our trail camera has picked up two cottontail rabbits regularly. I was hopeful that the owl would make an attempt for one of those rabbits within sight of the camera.
  • A few days ago, a small hawk (cooper’s? sharp-shinned?) swooped overhead twice while I was walking the dog.
  • Last week, I treed six turkeys while walking the dog. In the past, they’ve gone in the direction of our trail camera.
  • Two nights ago, a pack of coyotes woke us up howling at 2:30 AM. The sound was coming from the direction of our trail camera. We were hopeful that they would happen by it. I was at least hopeful that their howling would trigger the camera to record the sound.
  • Every day, we hear a red tailed hawk screech multiple times.

As I approached the camera this morning, the trail was loaded with fresh track and droppings. So imagine my surprise when I checked the camera and found only 17 videos even though it had been 12 days since I last checked it and we had seen and heard so much wildlife.

What were the videos?

  • A skunk! So much for that hopes for the owl. I didn’t both posting the video because it’s not a good one. He’s only on screen for about three seconds.
  • The sound of blue jays squawking set off the camera twice. This happens about once per week.
  • One video from when the sounds of a few song birds triggered the camera.
  • The wind.
  • A couple of videos where the animal that set off the camera had just walked by. This is a valuable lesson for me. I need take a page out of my dad’s playbook and position the camera to point down the main trail rather than being perpendicular to it. That way I’ll catch animals walking toward or away from the camera for a much longer time.
  • A few deer videos, but mostly just of a doe and a skipper, and they were all from Thursday.

That’s it. No coyote videos. No rabbit videos! No squirrel videos (I usually have several, but with the deep snow we had, it’s not too surprising that they weren’t near the camera.) No turkey videos (a little surprising) or owl videos (not surprising). I’m stunned that there were no rabbit videos. There are usually about four of those per week.

Here’s the only decent video. It’s of a doe and skipper walking away from our house just before sunset on Thursday; minutes before Michelle walked the dog.

I decided to pull the camera to take it to my dad’s house so he could look at that broken latch lock (which I surprisingly found on the ground) that I wrote about in my last post. When I come back from his house, I’ll put the camera back up pointing down the trail.

~ Tony

Herd Mentality

As I promised in last week’s post, I am reporting back with any good videos from the trail camera I set up about 75 yards from my house. I set up the camera at sunset on Sunday, January 21. I picked it up around sunset today, Friday, January 27.

Despite all the wind and rain that we had this week, including a nor’easter that lasted two of those days (Monday and Tuesday), there were only 23 videos on the camera. I thought for sure that there would be dozens of videos where the wind and rain set off the camera.

Well, as usual, Bushnell served us well. Only seven videos were caused by wind and rain. One was of me pruning the brush in front of the camera. One was of a gray squirrel. Three were of a cottontail rabbit. All the rest were caused by deer either walking in front of the camera or setting it off by sound by walking near it.

Not surprisingly, all of the videos are from right after the nor’easter cleared out. There are four videos from 3:06 PM to 3:10 PM on Tuesday. It takes more than the length of these four 30-second videos plus the between-video buffer time for the herd to walk eastward (that is, from my stand area toward my house). Therefore, it’s impossible to count how many deer are in this herd from those videos. It could be as many as eight animals.

At 3:00 AM on Wednesday, there’s a video of them walking westward (that is, from my house towards my stand site).

Take a look for yourself. Click the image below to watch all five videos in order.

After checking the camera, I took the dog for a walk around the neighborhood. Immediately, I noticed a turkey’s breast feather in my front yard. That surprised me because it’s been more than a month since I’d seen the flock of 14 turkeys that haunted our yard during last hunting season. It had been even longer since I saw the four birds that roosted next to our garage.

I had hoped that I’d get the turkeys on the trail camera, but I had no such luck. However, as I walked the dog along the opposite bank of the river just after sunset, something caught my eye. The whole flock, now down to twelve birds by my count, were roosted just across the river from my across-the-street neighbor. I snapped a quick photo with my phone.

Roosted Turkeys

Roosted Turkeys

It’s too bad Mass. bow season doesn’t start until October. Until then, I’ll be dreaming of ways to cull the herds.

~ Tony