Set up a trail camera on a carcass or gut pile to see all the critters wandering your property
The question has been posed before – "If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" But here's a similar thought to ponder: "If an animal resides on your property, but you've never seen it, how do you truly know it's there?"
I found myself contemplating this question while cutting up this season's deer harvest in the luxury of my makeshift home butcher shop – the same one in which my wife otherwise enjoys parking her vehicle and calling our "garage."
As I deboned the venison, throwing the undesirables into the scrap bucket, I was reminded of a wildlife photo survey conducted at Tuscarora State Forest a few years ago by the Pennsylvania Game Commission. They placed road killed deer carcasses on a pile and monitored the bait with trail cameras, capturing great images of golden eagles, bears, coyotes and other unique critters.
Knowing I would have to dispose of the scrap pile somewhere on my property anyway, I thought it might be interesting to rig up one of my new BC-40 trail cameras and conduct a mini photo experiment of my own.
It's important to note that I only own a few semi-suburban acres, so I anticipated a possum or two, maybe a neighborhood cat, but nothing more than that.
To my surprise, I got some amazing daytime photos and videos of two red-tailed hawks scavenging on the fresh pickings the very next day. A possum was a nighttime visitor, as was a rabbit and what appeared to be a muskrat – the latter two likely traveling through by coincidence, or perhaps nibbling on the bones for calcium – who knows?
A few weeks later, the cleaned-out carcasses from a successful waterfowl hunt were added to the pile. Two hours after dropping them off, a large male mink showed up to investigate. He spent the next few days trying to drag away bits and pieces, succeeding with the remains of two mallard drakes, which I followed to a den hole not far from my barn.
Had I not rigged up the photo set, I never would've known a mink was living so close to my chicken coop. It's amazing he hasn't tried to get after them yet. Since the Pennsylvania mink trapping season closed on Jan. 11, I guess I'll have to hope he behaves himself until next year.