Trail cameras are like a lot of things in the hunting world, some people believe in them very much while others put little to no stock in their effectiveness. I'd say my beliefs fall somewhere in between these two extremes. While I do believe they can help you identify the animals living in your hunting area and even help you determine their general movement patterns and home areas, I don't think they're the magic solution to patterning and harvesting trophy animals. More than anything, I enjoy using my cameras to see what types of bucks are moving through my hunting areas after dark and when I'm not around and keeping a record of them throughout the seasons, when possible.
One such buck appeared on my trail camera almost one year ago to the day. I had my camera set up near a creek crossing on a travel route between a bedding area and a hay field serving as a late season food source. Although I didn't get any photos of the mature bucks I knew were in the area, I did get this really nice 1 1/2 year old buck with what appeared to be a large wound on his side. I couldn't tell from the photo what had caused the wound; possibly a coyote attack, a collision with a car, a run-in with a barbed wire fence, or some other unforseen danger in the whitetail woods. In any case, the buck appeared to escape with his life and appeared to be alive and well. I hoped that the buck was able to heal and survive the hard Illinois winter we had last year, and although a thorough scouring of this farm didn't produce his antlers it didn't produce a carcass either.
The first photo of Scar, taken November 27, 2007.
The summer of 2008 brought renewed hope for the upcoming season as we had seen several good bucks on this farm the previous year that nobody had knowingly harvested. Around the middle of August my trail cameras went back out into the woods in search of these elusive whitetail bucks. Once again the mature deer eluded my cameras but the photogenic "Scar" buck started showing up rather regularly. In fact, over the course of the next 3 months I was able to gather over 2 dozen images of this buck at all corners of the farm. Again, he appeared no worse for the wear despite the telltale scar on his side. At least he was easy to recognize! I knew this deer was only 2 1/2 years old and looked forward to watching him blossom into a great 3 year old next year.
During the peak of the rut in Illinois, Scar is out cruising for does during daylight.
The last known photo of Scar, taken 12 days before we found him dead several hundred yards from this location.
Unfortunately during a mid-day walk into an untouched area of this farm last weekend, we came upon Scar's body as he layed dead where he had bedded down. No visible wounds showed on his body and no outward signs of death were apparent. It looked as though he had bedded down next to a large oak tree and simply never got up. Judging from the condition of the body, which was noticably stinky and had the nose and tongue eaten away, he had only been there for a few days at the very most. Why the coyotes hadn't gotten to him yet, I do not now. Perhaps he died of some disease and they could tell the meat was contaminated? Nobody may ever know what happened to Scar, but I must admit I am sad to see him go this way. I enjoyed the photos I was able to gather of him, and it always brought a smile to my face to see the survivor as he no doubt patrolled this farm chasing does, fighting with rival bucks, and living the life that we all love to observe so much.
An unfortunate fine, Scar's body where it was found on November 29, 2008.