Since the 1930s, beginning with our great-grandfather’s clan, family members have heard wolves howl, grouse drum, deer blow, coyotes yip and bark, owls hoot, frogs croak.
Then, there are the frequent, mysterious and sometimes scary unidentified critters who scream or moan or bray worse than almost all of our impressive presidential candidates.
Most of the time we hear the sounds at night, and we always ask in a frightened tone: “What the hell was that?”
The question usually comes as we sit around the fire pit with eyes wide, goosebumps crawling and whatever hair we have left standing stiff on neck or arm. Sometimes, when our flashlights pierce the black woods, we might catch a glimpse of a shape. Typically, we just hear the beasts, go to bed and then look for evidence of their presence the next morning. You see, we just need to know what shares the woods.
Critters deposit proof they exist all over the woods, you know. We all enjoy attempting to decipher the size, sex, weight and other characteristics of animals while examining tracks and scat or other markings.
These days, however, the evidence we find on the ground takes a distant second place when compared with an animal’s image caught on camera. In fact, our trail camera images are the next best thing to actually witnessing the ultimate ― usually explosive ― close encounter.
Humans have tried to capture wildlife on camera for more than 100 years. I know a few people who’ve gotten really good at shooting critters with a camera, but photographers such as Steve Foss in Ely, Minn., are the rare specimens who are patient, lucky and woods wise ― qualities most humans in 2016 don’t possess, especially those who live in New York or California or any community with a population of more than 368 souls. That’s just the way it is, right?
These days, technology, for better or usually worse, allows humans to capture wildlife with a digital camera. And get this — some trail cameras (aka game cameras) contain Wi-Fi capability that can send photos directly to your cell phone. Wow. Isn’t high tech grand?
I can vouch that trail cam technology has advanced quite a bit the last dozen or so years. For example, my first two trail cams, if memory serves, required at least 62 D-cell batteries to operate; it captured photos on black-and-white film ― film ― remember film? The crappy cameras were a hassle to use, ate those 62 D-cell batteries daily for breakfast and generally were nothing but frustration, which is why I burned them both in the fire pit.
But things change, thank God.
A month or so ago, my brother and I were discussing where to place his new trail camera, a camouflaged box of digital wonder. Its 40 passive infra-red LEDS gives the thing an insect kind of quality. Its sensor won’t spook critters at night at a distance of 50 feet. And, amazingly, it detects movement so subtle even snowflakes can’t hide from the lens.
But wait, there’s more! The camera contains a time-lapse mode, will shoot video at 30 fps and a ton of other stuff we haven’t figured out because the contraption requires someone younger than 16 to program the thing.
We retrieved the SD card a week ago. As you can see by the images (some are fuzzy, others are crisp), man does the camera work. Brett paid $80 for it in a half-price deal. Nephew Cale has a similar trail cam. (His captured an image of a lynx last winter that will knock your socks off. Maybe he’ll let me publish it some day.)
I intend to get one soon. We’re already discussing where to place them, a pretty fun puzzle in itself.
Who knows what animals, birds and other creatures we will capture?
As everybody knows, there have been quite a few Sasquatch sightings in the area south of Effie. I’m not making this up. Perhaps … who knows … we can catch one on a trail cam. Don’t snicker. Anything is possible with high technology. The truth is out there.