While many Western hunters are getting cabin fever after the hunting seasons close, DJ Rankosky of Kalispell, Montana is putting out scouting cameras in his hunting areas.
Scouting cameras have been widely adopted by Midwest Whitetail hunters, but see limited use in the West in the vast tracts of public land. When I asked DJ how and why he got started he replied:
“I hunted this brushy country since I was 12. Spent lots of time scouting, out hiking, all that. Two kids come along and that changes a guy’s priorites. They are the most important thing in my life, along with my wife of course. So I started thinking I needed something to help me scout.”
DJ’s early experiments with Game cameras were a learning experience. He finally began building his own “homebrew” cameras.
“My friend bought a Leaf River cam, we played around with it, got some pics, but it was just so slow on the trigger, and bulky. Started surfing the internet, found some homebrew websites and got hooked. I have built about 25-30 cams, I run about 13-15 during the spring and summer. It is so fun to see what is there when I am not. ”
Where DJ hunts is thick and brushy and that part of the state is not as conducive to long range glassing as other more open parts of the West.
“Northwest Montana is tough to scout anyway, you can see the sign, but just don’t see the game like in other parts of the state and country, you can be 20 yards away from an elk, and not see it! Even glassing, you get a glimpse of game but never a good look before it’s into the next patch of alder. ”
DJ has captured some unbelievable pictures from his cameras. Some of the most memorable have been of the predators that share his hunting area.
In November of 2007 he found a mule deer carcass and set up a camera, hoping to catch pictures of scavengers such as coyotes. When he downloaded the pictures he was surprised to find these BIG toothy buggers in his hunting area:
He even kept tabs on them when spring rolled around. He set up a camera on a logging deck where the grass came early (Probably to catch Deer and Elk). The family unit of Grizzlies was back.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll give you folks a taste of DJ’s remote scouting. Perhaps it will encourage folks to get out into their hunting areas and see what’s happening when they are not there….