« Whitetail News: Teenage Girl Wins Ohio Youth Big-Buck Contest | Main | BuckTracker: Would You Sell Your Rack? »

December 31, 2007

This page has been moved to http://www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/whitetail-365

If your browser doesn’t redirect you to the new location, please visit The Whitetail 365 at its new location: www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/whitetail-365.

Bill Heavey: Why I Don't Use Trail Cameras

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.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Bill Heavey: Why I Don't Use Trail Cameras:



Not that I am one who advocates loin cloths, bare feet and wood spears, but it seems to me that trail cameras take the "hunt" out of "hunting". And where's the exhiliration in going out for a day of "ing"?

Happy New Year Bill - and remember, keep moving forward: "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past...I am making a way in the desert, and streams in the wasteland." (some guy named Isaiah)


I don't use the cameras either. For the reason listed above and for a couple of others. One, I don't want to spend money on a camera to hang in the woods and two, I don't want to stink up my areas by checking my camera.

I know many folks use them, love them and will say the camera is a great way to know if you are hunting a toady buck or a giant. I would rather let fate tell me that.

Happy 2008 to all.



For me, hunting is about connecting with God's big wild scheme. The more intimate the connection, the better. Meaning, I love getting to know the deer on my property by name, finding their sheds, learning their core areas and killing them when the time is right. Trail cameras are awesome management tools, and offer a rare look inside the world for which we get up at 3am, work and practice all off-season, spend thousands of dollars and damage relationship within our lives to be apart of.


John's quote:
.....spend thousands of dollars and damage relationship within our lives to be apart of.


More power to you big guy, but as for me, I'll just hunt to enjoy the experience, not take it to the extreme.



I've always admired those with some degree of moderation. Good for you Jim.

 G J

Happy New Year Bill. I enjoy reading your articles more than any other F & S writer since Ted Trueblood. My question for you is: how do you prepare your articles for F & S if you do not use your PC? You must have to download or interface with the magazines computers to meet your deadlines for publication. Anyway, keep up the good articles on deer hunting.

Overly Hackled

"Cameras, Cameras? " We don't need no stinking cameras!"

Mike O.


First off, I loved-and I mean loved- the book, it took me all of a day and a half to speed through it since I enjoyed it so much. Secondly I agree with you about the use or lack there of, of trail cameras. I just feel like it takes a bit more of the "hunt" out of the hunt. I am a self confessed gear maniac and I recently realized that I was selling my self short on the true joy of hunting. I was so worried about checking my GPS, looking for gear in my new fancy pack, making up reasons to use my multi tool and so on, that I was missing out on the full experience of the hunt. I decided I would only be carrying essentials in my pack or on my person from here on out so that I could reconnect with the way hunting should be. It should be about getting out there, "wherever" there is as log as it is "out", and really just letting everything else life boggs us down with and enjoying hunting these beautiful amazing creatures. I think we as hunters are too focused on harvesting the deer at almost any legal cost. Now I am not that naive that I don't realize that the goal of hunting is to kill an animal, but we shouldn't be blinded by that single gaol when there is so much more in hunting than just hunting.

That being said, I do not fault anyone for using the cameras, it is after all your right and choice to do so. And I don't want people that do use cameras to feel that I think they don't enjoy hunting as much as people that don't use them. I only hope more people realize how great the sport of hunting is for all it has to offer and I think the use of trail cameras prevent, as Bill put it, "immersing yourself in the landscape".

Anyway, I am off the soapbox and I've put back under my staircase. Happy New Year to all and may 2008 bring us all more time outside of doors.

Paul J. Lewis

I always liked the idea of trail cameras. I just never had the money to throw away on one of those things. I have several friends at the shop who do have them, And they show some remarkable success on bagging a deer. All of them have trail cameras & show some pretty bid bucks taken with those cameras. I do not spend a tenth of the time the spend in the woods. I always seam to be putting in overtime. So that is what I think dose it for them, but you bet they think that is the trail camera working for them.


Best to you in the new year Bill! I recently bought a trailcam off EBay, put it on some likely trails and voila! I probably have twelve unique pictures of myself checking to see if it works and one possible deer score, have to send the film in now too see how dorky I look. Anyway trailcams should be a great way to make new friends, whenever you find one in the woods you should be sure to pose several times in front of said camera as a way of informal introduction. Keep on writing.


I made the mistake of purchasing a Trail Camera, actually against my better judgement at the time. It was a expensive name brand model, before the digitals and used film. Worked great for just outside the waranty period and then bling it stopped. Got a few pictures of deer, turkey etc. Took away from some of the excitement of the upcoming hunts anyway. 2 other hunters in my group bought them. Worked only a short time and stopped. Decided to get back to the basics and hunt without a Camera as it should be .


I don't use trail cams for a different reason. It is that one morning I almost fell out of my stand when I was startled by the flash on a trail cam I'd forgotten about.


I absolutely love trail cams. I have one 35mm camera that I got to work one time and got several pictures of some does and several feral hogs! I wanted one of the digital models but can't figure out how to down load and all that other stuff!
I'm not necessarily trying to track down a big buck, I just really enjoyed the photos of the game! Even if you get a shot of a big buck, that don't mean he'll be "there". Had a friend set several cams in Sept. Had photos of some fantastic bucks. Come season, all he and his two sons killed was spikes and forkhorns up to 6-7 points. Never saw the "Monsta Buks".


bill heavey

good discussion, folks. the funds required to purchase a trail cam were so central to my reasoning that i forgot to mention it altogether.

your comments, especially john's, remind me of my own bias: that it's easy to dismiss trail cams as not "true" to the spirit of hunting (without ever having tried one) while really just being reluctant to learn the technology.

george carlin maintains there are two kinds of drivers on the road. "morons" are the ones who drive slower than he does. "idiots" are the ones who drive faster. so it is with many of us - me included - when it comes to styles of hunting. bh

Rusty In Missouri

I'm an old guy still trying to master new gear (note the blank post)I purchased a trail cam to find out who else was hunting the backside of my place, and I did have picture proof.
I also use a manufactured stand rather than one I nailed up in a tree, a scope rather than iron sights, so I am advancing into the age of technology, but slowly.


Get 'em Rusty In Missouri

Technology is great. Some of us find some of the new stuff as useless as the proverbial "mammary glands on a male swine"! Other stuff, I wondered how I did without it back in 1965 or why hadn't somebody already done that!
Don't like it? Don't buy it or use it!
You like? You buy and use! Don't let nobody tell ya different!



Hey Bill,

I recently read, "Lessons From a Farm Boy, Rule No. 1: Don’t bring home skunks in a gunnysack."
May, 2005

The story was about one Mr. Hodgen O. Patrick Jr. who tells a story about bringing home the skunks in a gunnysack and learning lessons about hunting from being in the woods, not from someone teaching you everything, learning it for yourself. I loved the story and was curious to know if the now 93 year was still alive and kicking. I love to hear stories like his from men like him about getting his first .22 at age 10 and soon being able to shoot rabbits on the run on a regular basis. Any chance you know how to get ahold of him so I can beg some of those flys from him or at least hear some cool stories? If so please email me back with the info [email protected] If not thats ok. Guess I'll have to put up with your stories. Happy New Year!



If fear of technology/programming woes and cost are keeping you from using a trail cam, let me send you a Bushnell Trail Scout. All you have to do is flip a few switches and it's ready to roll. Comes with a lock and cable. I have friends within, and they'd probably love for you to try one. Let me know.

dave c

send me one john ill give it a real work out

dave c

it isnt like them cameras got to be checked so often that you scare deer away they do do take more then one picture so why check them every day


Ihave trail cameras and the joy i get, is seeing all types of game i wouldnt by just being in the outdoors.At night coons fighting over food deer running from coyotes, and some of the actions that we outdoorsman never see after dark.I enjoy the photos as much as hunting. or a owl swooping down to catch a mouse. try the trail cameras not as a tool to give you the advantage but see what you been missing. god bless and happy hunting

Tattoo Contest

Send us a photo of your deer tattoo. Our pick wins this Leatherman, worth $80!

Name: Email Address: Attach photo here:
Tell us why you got this tattoo!

100 Top Public Lands
Field & Stream reporter Steven Hill spent two months interviewing state game agency officials, deer biologists, and whitetail experts to identify the absolute best public whitetail hunting grounds in the nation.

Choose a state below:

Our Blogs