Would you agree that most hunters think of themselves as rugged and self-reliant?
We engage in an ancient activity — some would call it a sport; others wouldn't — where we pursue wild animals and kill them. Now I know that is a striking thing to say so early, when some of you are having coffee and Cheerios, and you may not want to hear it. But hunting does involve killing, and I feel it is best to be honest and just get it out there.
Working on the premise that some of us hunters may see ourselves as modern Jeremiah Johnsons, you would have to live in a cave or under that proverbial rock to not see that modern technology can and does affect how we hunt. All you have to do is pick up a hunting supply catalog or turn on one of the thousands of videos related to hunting and shooting to see what is out there for the hunter.
Trail cameras, satellite-connected mapping applications, range-finding devices, aerial drones, hunting arrows with an embedded tracking device, and rifle scopes that allow you to dial in long-range shots are all waiting in the wings for you to check out.
It is impossible to talk about these advancements in technology without someone bringing up the old debate about what is fair. What is or isn't fair in hunting can be cussed and discussed until all the bovines come home, and then some.
A satellite-based mapping app that shows topographical features and property lines for public and private land may be the most useful innovation for hunters in many years. OnX Hunt is one such app available to install on your phone and computer.
OnX Hunt was developed by Eric Siegfried in 2009 to support hunters in finding boundaries and access to public land. It started out as a chip and in 2016 became an app. OnX is likely the most widely used hunting-related mapping app. One reason I know it is good, and accurate, is that it is widely used by game wardens around the country to determine property lines at a glance.
Anytime we are discussing things in the hunting and technology realm, the subject of the trail cam has to rear its head. Recently the state of Utah's game and fish department saw fit to outlaw the use of trail cameras for hunting, and it's my understanding Arizona did the same thing not long ago.
Reportedly, Utah conducted a survey of hunters within the state. I am told it was only about 2,000 participants, and the outcome was rather close: Only about 52% of those questioned said they would want trail cameras to be regulated in some way for use by hunters. Then, when the Utah Wildlife Board voted on the matter, it was a 3-3 tie among members and the tie was broken, for the side of banning the trail camera, by the chairman's vote.
Now I know the Utah Wildlife Board does not want some hillbilly from back east telling it how to run its railroad. But I would submit to you the above procedure is not the way to run a railroad, or in this case make decisions on wildlife and hunting.
From my own view, trail cameras have more pluses than minuses. They allow us to see what is going on in the area and what animals are around, no doubt, but is this unfair advantage detrimental to the resource? I don't think so.
I have heard more than one rabid big buck hunter say, if anything, the trail camera conserves more deer than it takes. If the hunter sees an exceptional buck is in the area, he may hold off on taking other deer, choosing to wait for the big boy to appear. And as most hunters know, Mr. Big may never make an appearance in the light of day.
I would argue that just seeing a deer on camera is not a great advantage. If you check your pictures a week later and see Mr. Big, do you think you are going to climb into the stand and send him to his reward an hour later? No, pilgrim, that is not going to happen. As to the cellphone-connected trail cams, if you see a picture on the phone where Mr. Big has just trotted in front of the camera, are you going to leave your home or office, blunder into your stand and proceed to collect your monster buck? Nope.
So put me down for thinking the trail camera does more good than harm. Besides, they are just plain fun to play with. You see what is in the area, and that is more than deer — turkeys, coyotes, raccoons, squirrels and everything else that passes by. This hunting thing is supposed to be fun, remember?
From past discussions, maybe you will recall I believe it is hard to put the fair monitor on hunting. Chasing animals with airplanes and motor vehicles, there's no question that's out, and I would have no problem with not using all of the new flying drone technology. I think the different forms of baiting wildlife could come into question before trail cameras. (Remember, I have always said that if baiting is legal in your state and you want to do it, go for it.)
The fact is, boys and girls, it is hard to talk about what is fair when you discuss hunting. We are human; the animals we hunt are not. Most of us (not all) just naturally have more brainpower than those animals. We also have these things we call thumbs. All this, along with the firearms and other things we humans have, just make the whole fair thing quite murky.
Like I have asked you before, how are we going to get as fair as it can be for the animals? Are we going to resort to wearing a loincloth and carrying a sharp stick?
Trust me, you don't want me and my hunting buds showing up on your trail cam like that.
"Guns & Cornbread" is written by Larry Case, who lives in Fayette County, W.Va. You can write to him at email@example.com.