Updated March 28
Knowing one’s quarry is key to being a successful hunter.
Bow hunter Andy Hutchinson has an intimate understanding of local deer, as well as coyotes, bear, elk and other animals, because he shoots them regularly – with a camera.
Hutchinson is something of a wildlife photographer. Not in the traditional sense, where one stands in the wilderness, camera mounted on tripod, waiting for that perfect moment to release the shutter. No, like many hunters and outdoors enthusiasts, Hutchinson has adopted digital camera technology to compliment his bow hunting. He uses a variety of small, weather-sealed digital camera devices, contained in small boxes that are intended to be attached to trees. The devices run on a timed motion sensor, and when an animal, or anything, passes in front, the camera is triggered to take stills or video.
Hutchinson says he’s been shooting this way for about five years, and over that time he has acquired thousands of pictures and video clips of various animals undisturbed in their natural environment. Although, he says sometimes the animals are curious about the cameras and, on the odd occasion, put on more of a show than bargained for. One example is a series of video clips of a bear discovering, and subsequently eating the camera.
An elk wanders through the grass, unaware of Andy Hutchinson’s camera capturing its progress.
“He chomped right through the lens,” says Hutchinson. “But it’s an interesting shot because the bear comes up, the next shot you see is his breath on the camera, it goes fuzzy as he breakes the lens, and the next shot is kind of up in the trees where he’s knocked the camera down.”
The cameras, says Hutchinson, are mainly used for tracking game. They give him a visual record of what’s in the area and, in the case of deer, of their size and maturity.
“For archery, you really have to know deer, understand them to get close enough to shoot them. So this is a real useful tool,” says Hutchinson. “ And when you target specific deer… It makes it quite a bit more challenging, interesting and personal.”
The camera devices range from around $70 and up, and offer a variety of options for image capture, including infrared for nighttime pictures and video, flash photography and time-lapse video. From a photographic standpoint, Hutchinson says he’s been highly impressed by the image quality he’s obtained from these little outdoors cameras.
“I’ve had some really nice pictures where people have said, you can’t get pictures like that from a cheap camera. Well, it did,” laughs Hutchinson.
While the cameras have proven a useful tool for Hutchinson, there is a downside to leaving such gear unwatched in the woods: theft. Hutchinson says he’s had people take his memory card and turn the cameras off. More recently, an entire camera was jacked from a tree near Bud Sherlock’s property. This time it wasn’t a bear. Hutchinson knows this because of the two-camera method he was using, where one camera was in view of the other.
“What’s interesting about this instance is I actually had a camera close to where the other camera was and they didn’t notice the one, they took one and left the other one,” says Hutchinson, who has a video of a quadder pulling up by the tree and the rider getting off. He says he isn’t interested in taking the video to the police, but asks that the person who took the camera simply call the phone number written on it, and see that it’s returned – no questions asked. Hutchinson can also be called at home at 250-836-3059.
Despite such incidents, Hutchinson remains very enthusiastic about this type of photography and recommends it to anyone seeking a different view of the natural world, uninhibited by man.
“It’s a great hobby for anybody that’s interested in photography or wildlife, other than your cameras going missing from time to time, it’s lots of fun, and it gets you out in the woods and you really get a feel for what’s around,” says Hutchinson.