There is such a thing as two many gadgets.

Sportsmen are like anybody else who gets caught up in a pastime. We are always looking for that special gizmo or gadget that will make us better hunters or anglers, or help us to be less uncomfortable in a treestand or duck blind. Over the years, the proliferation of specialty items for sportsmen has been mind-boggling. Modern marketing and American capitalism is a two-edged entrepreneurial sword as it responds to the demands of the marketplace. In some ways, the new gadgets add a positive dimension to our days afield, but they also can compromise simplicity, which, to some sportsmen, is a reason to be out there in the first place.

When I started deer hunting more than 50 years ago, my day pack included a candy bar, some water, matches, and an extra compass. The pack might have weighed 2 pounds. Not today. Oh, my pack still contains the essentials of the 1960s, but it also includes a GPS, binoculars, rangefinder, cell phone, mountain stove, tin cup, butane canister, space blanket, first aid kit, drag rope, extra water, and a bunch of other “new essentials.” It must weigh 10 pounds!

Although I have always thought of myself as being no big fan of sportsmen’s gadgets, it is probably time to face the truth.

You are familiar with the GPS for automobiles, right? Fought that for years. In fact, Diane and I drove out West a number of times, making our way around the traffic hellholes of Chicago and Cleveland the old-fashioned way: a road map and intuition. Today, we are both amazed that we made it to the Dakota badlands with our marriage still intact. Last fall, at my son Josh’s urging, I let the moths out of my wallet and bought a GPS for the truck for our trip to Colorado. Talk about a useful gizmo! In 36 hours of driving, we never missed an exit or a lane cue up, even around Cleveland and Chicago.

You may have asked yourself the same question: “Why oh why did I wait so long to take advantage of modern technology?” It is not the first time that I have admonished myself for being slow to tumble.

Take trail cameras. They have been on the market for what, 10 years maybe? During that period, I wanted no part of a trail cam. It was a frill device for the younger generation that, because of hectic lifestyles, just had no time to scout an area and pattern a deer’s habits by spending time in the woods studying sign. You would never catch me with a trail camera in my bag of tricks, right?

Wrong. Well, sort of wrong. This spring a friend, who wanted to show his appreciation for a favor that I rendered him, gave me a slightly used trail cam. What could I say? I said “Thank you. Thank you very much.” And I decided to give it a try.

Fascinating! So far I have acquired some exceptionally high quality trail cam photos of a strutting Tom turkey, a large coyote, hen turkey with poults, a buck deer, a doe deer in flight, raccoons, and porcupines. The trail cam is a teacher. It has taught me that a lot goes on in the woods and field edges when the sun goes down. More than I thought. My trail cam has a date and time printout that is useful as a scouting tool, too.

Like everything else electronic, the trail camera technology is advancing at warp speed. It is hard to keep up with it. There is now a decent trail cam on the market for less than a hundred bucks. You can also buy an ancillary device that allows you to monitor your trail cam remotely from your own living room!

So there you have it. A trail cam does not have to complicate your life or undermine your woodsmanship. Moreover, it can really supplement your scouting efforts, too.


The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal and has written his first book, A Maine Deer Hunter’s Logbook. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WCME-FM 96.7) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is [email protected]

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