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Initial investment pays off, for once

I enjoy using the trail cameras to spy on what is going on when I am not around.

The first trail cam I had used 35-millimeter film to capture activity in the area. This worked, but a person had to remove the film, go to town, get it developed and pay for the service. I hated to wait for a couple of days to see the wildlife on film but I even more hated to pay for every picture developed, especially if the roll contained twenty-four pictures of a leaf blowing too close to the motion sensor. It is not that I am cheap, but paying ten dollars for pictures of a leaf gently blowing in the breeze is painful.

Digital technology has changed all that. With memory cards of two or more gigabites of memory, hundreds of high quality pictures can be stored at one time. Sometimes, a person may have 50 pictures of a leaf blowing in the breeze, but the 51st picture could be of the big buck that prowls the area. All one needs to do is delete the first 50, and you have one picture to print and save.

The cost is basically nothing after the initial investment. Like most outdoorsmen, I prefer to not think about "initial investments." While talking to my wife about the savings in eating deer meat rather than beef, she happened to mention that annoying "initial investment" thing. If a person does not count the cost of the gun, four-wheeler, licenses, shells, pick-up truck, and specialty clothing, deer meat is almost free. If you make the mistake of adding in these costs, a deer will cost about $300 per pound.

Saturday, my wife and I went out to check the cameras. The first camera said it had 280 pictures on it. I thought to myself, this had to be either very good or very bad. It could be the old leaf blowing in the wind thing, but we have no leaves on the trees. Perhaps it was really good. Maybe all the wildlife in the neighborhood stopped by to get their pictures taken.

The other camera said it had 123 pictures. With over 400 pictures, we had to have at least a few photos of something good.

We hurried home with the memory cards, anxious to run them on the computer. The slide show started with a picture of the deer block in the antler trap with a PVC pipe in the corner that slowly releases corn. The next few pictures were of bluejays eating corn. A flock of turkeys then moved into the area.

The next 50-some pictures, taken one minute apart, were of the turkeys as they ate shelled corn out of the feeder. We then went back to bluejays, a random squirrel, and finally a raccoon. An occasional deer would get its picture taken over the next few days. The raccoon would get his picture taken about every night.

Saturday morning, just before we came to pick up the memory card, the turkeys returned again. They stayed in the area for quite some time, again getting their picture taken once each minute. We do have some great turkey pictures.

The other camera had mostly deer pictures. There were a few turkeys, and a few song birds, but lots of deer. We have deer coming and deer going. We have large groups of deer and solitary bucks. We have enough pictures; one would think we would be satisfied. I can still get excited as I sift though pictures of turkeys, does, fawns, bluejays and squirrels.

It makes it worth all the effort when we come across the perfect picture of a bobcat at sunrise or the big old buck that has not lost his antlers yet.

At times like this, even my wife agrees the initial investment is not too bad.

Walter Scott is an outdoors enthusiast and freelance writer from Bloomfield, Iowa.