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Trail camera is a wildlife lover's friend

As most of us grow older we realize that one of life's biggest headaches is the fact that to have a life, you need a job. Some of us have jobs that we truly enjoy, but let's face it, any job has the power to steer you away from places you may want to be. Anyone who has sat through a summer church service and thought about golf can tell you that.

So when you are the kind of guy that likes wildlife and being outdoors, it is nice to have a digital trail camera. Trail cameras let you know who and what is out there when you can't be in the woods yourself.

The motion-activated shutters of trail cameras give you very personal shots of wildlife. My kids gave me one for Father's Day a few years ago and in that time I have picked up does with fawns in tow, wild turkeys feeding, pelicans sleeping and cleaning their feathers and great blue herons hunting frogs and minnows. I have even picked up four-wheel drive tractors pulling diggers and baboons, the two-legged kind, wearing big grins when they chanced upon the camera.

While there are many uses for trail cameras, most people use them to keep an eye on deer. Depending on how much money you want to spend, a trail camera can not only show you a deer, but also tell you when and how often they used a trail. This will not guarantee you a deer, or even a shot at one, but they can sure increase your chances when the hunting season rolls around.

Last fall I went out deer hunting with the option of hunting in two different stands. My trail camera shots pointed me at the right one. A deer came running out of the wood in front of me not 10 minutes after I had climbed into the stand.

Trail cameras are fun to just goof around with, too. I received the green light to put my trail camera on an earthen bridge that crossed a river near my home a few years ago. It was July and I had not hunted on that property for years -- but I was still curious. The bridge was built for one-way vehicle traffic and it happened to be next to a pretty good deer woods. That bridge might have been a quiet place during the daylight hours, but come dark it turned into a whitetail interstate.

There are many settings on a trail camera and the option of storing your images on a card is always there. Digital cards are a good way to go because the images are still there even if your batteries go dead. My trail camera uses four "D" batteries. Depending on the time of the year, these batteries can last quite awhile or go dead fast. The waterproof feature of the trail camera gives you the option of setting it out and leaving it. While the flash of the camera often attract the attention of wildlife, it does not panic them. As "wild" as some wildlife is, digital cameras do not spook them.

The Van Orsdel group that hunts deer northeast of Wadena showed me some trail camera shots they got before the 2008 deer hunting season. One nocturnal shot had three deer-chasing hunting dogs nicely framed. Another showed a timber wolf. The Van Orsdels have also had pheasants, skunks, raccoons and fox show up on their cameras -- not to mention a lot of deer.

It does not really matter what you use a trail camera for -- those digital shots are like getting e-mail from your friends and family -- it is always fun to check them out.