Hi, my name is Corey, and I’m addicted to trail cameras. Seriously, these things are so much fun! I am almost giddy walking in to check on my trail cams, filled with anticipation of what might be waiting on there….and what might be waiting over the next ridge!
I upgraded my entire trail camera line to Stealth Cams, and I absolutely love them! They are small, so easy to program (think pre-set settings), and work flawlessly. I have 8 Stealth Cam trail cameras now, and I’ve never had a single issue with any of them. Plus, they take AA batteries, and the batteries last a long time.
I picked up the last of my “elk season” trail cameras a couple weeks ago, and wanted to share the Top 5 images/videos that my trail cameras were able to capture this season. Keep in mind that I am not a “trophy hunter”, so my cameras aren’t used as a tool to find the biggest elk, etc. I use the trail cameras to help me see a bigger picture of what is going on in an area, not necessarily where the biggest elk is. Although, I do like it when I see big bulls on my cameras!
So, as I share these Top 5 captures from this elk season, keep in mind they aren’t ranked according to size of animals, but more for the story that each picture or video tells. I’ll start with #5, and work my way to #1. At the bottom, be sure to leave a comment and tell me which capture you liked best. I’ll randomly select one of the comments to receive a free Stealth Cam trail camera!
As most of you probably know, my family and I moved to the mountains this summer. After 19 years in Boise, it was time to relocate closer to elk. Well, that was a thought in the back of my mind anyway. School for my kiddos, out of the city, etc., were the primary factors that prompted the move, but having elk nearby was a definite bonus. We rented a condo over the summer as we began construction on our new home. I decided to use a handful of trail cameras on our property, more to monitor human activity and make sure materials and tools didn’t end up walking off. So, I used my 16′ ladder and climbed way up in a Douglas Fir tree to place a Stealth Camera that would be pointed directly at the homesite. We had leveled off the building site that morning, and that very first night, here is what I caught on the camera:
It’s so exciting to meet your neighbors for the first time! It looks like we’re moving into an area with good neighbors for sure!
This was the first year I really started playing around with videos on my Stealth Cams. And with Stealth Cams new 4K trail camera, it definitely added a level of excitement to be able to get a little more than just a still capture of the elk’s behavior! Plus, the audio on these things is really, really good!
Most of you probably followed along on the Hunt of a Lifetime hunt that we were blessed to be a part of this fall. 14-year-old Austin came out from Pennsylvania to hunt elk with us for a week, and what an incredible week it was! Donnie and I set up camp 2 days before Austin and his father arrived, and ran up to a wallow we had found last fall to set a trail camera. We didn’t get a chance to check the camera before the hunt ended, but we were excited to see what had been in the area, and stopped on our way back home to pull the camera.
This bull definitely wasn’t the biggest elk on the mountain, but the cool part of the multiple videos we captured of this bull was the fact that just about every video clip showcased a bull bugling in the background. Having audio on a trail camera during the rut is very cool!
If you aren't currently following the "Land of the Free" Elk Hunting Video project, you really should be! Click here to watch all 50 Days of Elk Hunting action unfold. Part of the Land of the Free project included the Elk101 Team hunting elk in Wyoming with Kody and Trent from Born and Raised Outdoors. Dirk, Donnie, and I all filled our elk tags earlier in the hunt, but Trent was holding out to the very end... :-) OK, not really, but we were down to the last day of the hunt and Trent still had his elk tag. Donnie, cameraman John, and I drove up a new drainage to see if we could locate some elk to hunt the next morning, and Dirk, Kody, and Trent drove up a drainage a few miles to the west.
Donnie, John, and I were driving up a rough two-track road to get to the back of the drainage, and spotted a huge, active wallow literally just 10 feet off the road we were driving in on. I commented about how cool it would be to place a Stealth Cam on the wallow right next to the road, and we envisioned a big, old 6x6 bull walking right down to the road in the broad daylight to use the wallow. The thought of that happening made us all laugh. However, not knowing if we would even be coming back to this area the next day, we didn't place a trail camera there.
We ended up finding several bugling bulls in a canyon at the back of the drainage, and with as many bulls as we heard bugling there, we figured the other guys had likely got into elk and possibly shot one, so we didn't set a trail camera on the "Road Wallow" on the way out that night either. Unfortunately, the other guys hadn't heard a bugle all evening, so we decided to spend our last morning hunting the back of the drainage where Donnie, John, and I had found the bugling bulls.
On the way driving into there before daylight the next morning, I stopped to set a trail camera on the wallow. Again, we joked about a big old bull walking into the wallow during the middle of the day. This was public land, and we weren't the only hunters in the area, so we knew the likelihood of capturing anything was pretty minimal. The area we hunted that morning turned out to be a good one, and I don't want to spoil the outcome of the day's hunt (be sure to check out Land of the Free to see how the day turned out), but I'll just say Dirk and I ended up hiking back to the trucks and driving out to pick the other guys up on the other side of the mountain.
As we were driving out, I stopped to grab the trail camera - remember, it was attached to a tree literally 6 feet from the road. Not having a viewer, I just threw the camera in the back seat and drove off. When we go back to camp, I was disappointed to see there were only 3 videos captured....most likely video of me when I set the camera and picked it up. However, as I put the SD card in the laptop, I found a nice surprise!
Before I get to the videos that I ranked at #2, I need to tell the backstory. This capture also came from Wyoming during our week elk hunting there with Kody and Trent from Born and Raised Outdoors. We were hunting in the epicenter of some very heavily-populated grizzly bear country. We had hunted here on a previous year, and had been front-row spectators as 5 grizzly bears fought over Donnie's elk carcass on an open hillside 2 nights after he shot his bull that year.
This season, I carried a Stealth Cam in my hunting pack, just in case a golden opportunity (wallow, rub, etc.) arose that might provide some killer pictures or video. Well, on Day 4 of the hunt, I shot a nice 5x6 bull in a willow thicket that would be a great place for a grizzly bear to lay claim to the carcass. Someone had the brilliant idea of leaving a Stealth Cam there on the carcass to see if we might be able to capture a grizzly bear in action.
Perhaps as you are reading this, you have more sense than any of us did and you're thinking to yourself, How are you going to walk back into that willow thicket to retrieve your trail camera? Evidently, that thought didn't cross our minds in the excitement of the successful morning hunt. More on this predicament to come...
But first, the awesome video that lands at #2:
The #1 capture from my Stealth Cam trail cameras this elk season is a continuation of Story #2. Yeah, those videos of that grizzly bear were pretty sweet, right? When we got back to camp with the trail camera that night and plugged the SD card into the laptop, the entire camp was hooting and hollering at the awesome grizzly footage. But there was quite a story that took place before that.
Remember that Trent hadn't filled his elk tag as of the morning of the last day. And Dirk and I had to hike back to the trucks and drive around the mountain to pick everyone else up. Well, we made it to the butcher (spoiler alert) about an hour before dark that last evening, and as we were driving back to camp, we remembered that we had a Stealth Cam set up on my elk carcass. This is when the thought that should have crossed our minds 4 day earlier actually crossed our minds. The reality of the situation was this: it was going to be dark (or very close to dark) and we had to hike into the carcass to get the camera. The camera was in a depression surrounded by 10-12 foot tall willows. Visibility in the daylight was 20 feet at best. Compounding the location of the camera was the fact that the carcass was on the backside of a small ridge, which meant we had to crest the ridge before we could see - and hear - down into the depression where the camera was located. And we would be less than 20 feet from the carcass before we could see over the ridge!
There was a lot of nervous laughter from Donnie and John as we drove as fast as we could to the trailhead where we would be parking the truck. We managed to work up a pretty solid game plan for the camera retrieval. I had a canister of bear spray. Donnie had a canister of bear spray in one hand, and a sidearm in the other. John had 2 video cameras to document the action. We made sure everyone understood that the sidearm would be the last-resort option, and I was in the primary position (i.e., in front) to utilize the bear spray to protect John (AKA the cameraman).
We hiked quickly, but also stopped often to make noise and to listen. Ravens were making a lot of noise, which made it hard to hear anything else - like flesh being torn from a carcass, or bones being snapped by the powerful jaws of a grizzly bear, etc. We stopped about 100 feet from the carcass and listened. It was now really quiet, and I could hear Donnie and John's heart beat! OK, mine might have been beating louder than normal as well. We talked in loud voices as we rehearsed what we were going to do, and recapped what our plan would be if things went badly.
This is where I need to add that we fully understood the stupidity of what we were doing. For some reason, this scenario hadn't entered our minds previously, but as we stood in the near-darkness just 100 feet from a hidden carcass in the heart of a heavily-populated grizzly bear area, every sense was on full alert. We crept toward the ridge. Our plan was to stop about 5 feet before cresting the ridge and listen intently. We didn't want to make noise at that point, just in case it might surprise a bear. If we heard anything unusual, we would back out to where we could see better and make noise. We made it to the point where we had decided to stop and listen, and that's when the action started...
I'm not sure if John or Donnie screamed first, or if we all just turned to run as branches began crashing 10 feet in front of us, but as I turned to run I pointed the bear spray at the black object crashing through the willows directly in front of us, literally just 10 feet away. I don't know if I consciously meant to discharge the bear spray, or if it was a function of the muscles in my body tightening and constricting my fingers around the bear spray trigger, but it went off - pointed in the right direction, I might add.
Well, the black object rising up out of the willows turned out to not be a grizzly bear. And based on the change in direction of our attacker, I think it's safe to say that bear spray works well on turkey vultures also! :-) After John and Donnie got the tears and runny-noses under control, we managed to have a good laugh. Evidently, the over-spray from bear spray is still fairly potent, and John and Donnie were downwind of my position... :-)
We made it back to camp with the Stealth Cam, and all 6 of us were rolling on the ground in laughter as we retold the story. However, the biggest laughs came as we scrolled through the trail camera videos and found this one. This is Donnie and I walking up to retrieve the camera from the carcass, just seconds after the exciting turkey vulture incident:
So, there you have it! The Top 5 Stealth Cam captures from our 2017 Elk Season.
Leave a comment below and let me know which one you liked best, and I'll randomly select a winner from the comments to receive a free Stealth Cam trail camera!