Monday, May 14, 2012

A surprise and a puzzle

A little over a week ago I headed out with the intention of setting up the trail camera again.  The spot I had in mind is one of my good calling locations.  It is a short walk from an old road, but well off the beaten path.  I have called gray fox and deer from this spot many times, and possibly a bobcat or two.  I have found lion (cougar) scratch marks and scat there a few times, so I thought this would be a good place to leave the camera for a few days.  When I parked the truck and got out, the first thing I saw was a fresh pile of bear scat.

I walked the ridge top to my calling spot, and as usual I first tried calling with a predator call for a few minutes.  Nothing showed up, so I next walked around the area looking for any fresh sign that might be there.  Nothing fresh, so I strapped the camera to a tree and Bear and I went back to the truck to share a sandwich.  Yesterday I went back for the trail cam with high hopes that it had captured something.  What I found was totally unexpected.

I walked to the calling stand, and as before tried calling for awhile.  Again nothing showed up, so I took my little walk around the area.  I found some strange markings on the ground that had me puzzled.  In several places the ground had been roughed up, almost like a ground squirrel or some other critter had been digging and taken a dust bath, but much larger.  The marks were almost a circle, about 3 feet in diameter, and in half a dozen places.  The ground was littered with pine needles except for the dust in those places, and no tracks were visible.  I knew for certain that those marks had not been there the week before when I left the camera.  Very strange, but the camera was still strapped to the tree where I had left it, and I hoped it held the answer to the puzzle.  A quick check told me that it had been triggered multiple times, so I took it home where I could plug it into the computer and see just what I had.

As I said, this spot is well off the beaten path.  My biggest concern about leaving the camera out for a week or more is that someone might find it and walk off with it.  I don’t think I will leave it out when deer season is open and there are lots of people prowling around in the woods, but I didn’t give it a second thought when I left the camera at this location.  Not at this time of the year anyway.  After all, who but a crazy predator caller with a camera would be out there?  Maybe an occasional deer hunter during season, but that is months away.  As I found out, someone else had a reason to be there; and the trail cam had the answer to those strange marks on the ground.

A man, unknown to me, had walked to that spot and been all over the immediate area just as I had.  The camera took several still photos of him, but he is no one I recognize.  He had a walking stick, and carried something over his shoulder.  It looked sort of like a shovel, but not a shovel.  The video from the camera is pretty dark (in the shade), but he was using that object to go over the ground and was actually sort of digging with it.  Now I knew what had left those marks on the ground.  I looked hard at the several video clips that the camera had taken, and finally found one that showed what the object was.  A METAL DECTECTOR!

I still have no idea who that fellow was or what he was looking for.  He was obviously searching for something, and right there in that area.  Maybe he had been there at some time in the past and lost something.  Beats the heck out of me, but at least the riddle of the roughed out circles on the ground had been answered.

The camera had been triggered a few more times, twice in the daytime, and once at night; but try as I might I can’t find anything in the still photos or video.  I think it must be passing birds that trigger the motion sensor. 



Le Loup said...

Very interesting, thanks for posting.
Regards, Keith.

Bob Mc said...

Hi Keith. I normally consider myself pretty good at reading sign left by local wildlife, but I have to admit this had me stumped. I hadn't considered that what I was looking at was made by a man. Glad the camera caught it, or I would still be scratching my head. :)

Dave Reid said...

Fascinating Bob... Looks like we both had visitors mate. I'm thinking now of a way to camo the unit up a bit. I suppose even when we think we have an area to ourselves we never really do. Cheers Dave

Bob Mc said...

Dave - My trail camera, and I think your too, is already in a dull camo color. If its in a shade spot I think it is already pretty hard to see unless someone is really looking for one. Still, I'll continue to put it in out of the way places, and just hope for the best I guess.