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That danged trail camera is trouble

My kids gave me a swell trail camera for my birthday this spring to replace the one that was fried by lightning last summer. I have been able to get pictures and video of wildlife both day and night on our farm. The camera will time stamp the pictures. It is great, but it is also dangerous!

I have multiple images of three clowns - an eight-point buck, a doe and her fawn. They are the Three Stooges of the Animal Kingdom. At first they were shy of the camera. By summer they were OK with it. Now they are starting to mug for it!

I am finding that it is a capital mistake to let your prey amuse you. Here I am ready to sally forth and slay a deer and doggone it, the Three Stooges are out there waiting in the woods. It is a good lesson for me not to get too familiar with wildlife.

I am not the first victim of this animal charm.

There is couple that live on Ten Mile Lake in Otter Tail County that has been on very good terms with a doe they call "I-Lean" in years gone by. Why "I-Lean?" She only had three legs. The fourth one was missing - probably the result of a hunting encounter or a collision with a vehicle.

These kind-hearted people put food out in a bunk feeder for the deer in the winter. I-Lean is one of the visitors and she has brought many sets of fawns with her over the years. The lady of the house could feed I-Lean out of her hand. I have never heard of these people hunting deer. In fact, the deer hunting season for them has been a time to hold their breath and cross their fingers.

My brother-in-law and his sons like to hunt deer but that is about it. Since they are a farming family they look on deer as pests that like to rob their ag bags in the fall. But this bunch has never hunted geese or turkeys. A few years ago they had hundreds of Canada geese in their feed lot. When they took feed out to the cattle the geese parted before the tractor like the Red Sea parting for Moses. They often find a flock of wild turkeys standing on the gravel road that runs past the farm. For them, it is all so familiar.

My nephew, who grew up in a townhouse in Shakopee, recently got up on his soap box and let me know that I belong to a fraternity of ruthless killers because I like to hunt geese, ducks, grouse and pheasants - none of which can kill you. As far as he is concerned the only wildlife that should be hunted is the kind that can inflict harm or even death on the hunter. As strange as this sentiment sounds to hunters, it is one shared by a lot of people.

Maybe they have a point. It is hard to imagine that the urge to hunt would not be discouraged by a lot of man-eating tigers waiting for us in the trees or crouching in the switch grass.

I have always been interested in why hunters stop hunting. We have lost a lot of hunters in Minnesota and we are not recruiting many new ones. One survey found that 33 of the 50 states have lost hunters. Is it just because so many more people now live in urban areas and do not have the opportunities? Are the game laws too strict? Has it become too expensive? Perhaps it is just the environment we create by living our lives the way we do?

One of the best men I have ever known hunted until he died. He was in his 80s when he had a fatal stroke. Just two weeks before that he was up in Canada hunting waterfowl. Harold was known to take trips to a pond full of ducks on a sunny fall afternoon just to watch them fly. He loved wildlife and the wonders of nature. Being an outdoorsman was a year-round pursuit for him and it was one of the life lessons he passed on to me. Here was a man that both hunted and revered wildlife.

This is what the crowd that condemns hunting as killing does not take into account. Killing is a big part of hunting, but it is not all of it. Hunters also like taking their dogs out, being with their friends and family, enjoying the beauty of nature and testing their hunting skills. Some of my best memories revolve around hunting and some of the very best ones did not involve any shooting.