I have never owned nor operated a trail camera. Three reasons: One is philosophic: The use of digital technology has always seemed antithetical to the deeper pleasures of hunting – to the act of immersing yourself in the landscape to the point that, in writer Barry Lopez’s wonderful description, you “have the land around you like clothing.” One is practical: I hunt almost exclusively in places where a trail camera would likely be stolen within hours of being placed. One is technical: I have a greater chance of being named president-for-life of Uzbekistan than I do in figuring out the damn things. Anything involving the words “download” or “user-friendly computer interface,” I have decided, is code for “everybody can do it but you.”
What I do have is a rake, or sometimes the edge of my shoe. Any time I’m particularly interested in the deer traffic on a given trail, I simply rake or scrape away the leaves down to the dirt along a short section. When I next return, I’ll inspect that section for prints. No batteries, and both the rake and the human foot are widely available.
Okay, this is where it gets complicated. Small prints, I have reason to believe, indicate small deer. Larger prints, by the same token (see previous sentence) indicate larger deer, which may or may not include bucks. Really big prints mean what passed was almost certainly a buck. I know this is going out on a limb, especially since I have no digital images to document my theory. But I shall hold to it until proven wrong.
If you have trail cam images of large bucks attempting to pass their prints off as tiny ones by wearing special footgear, please post them here.