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PostPosted: Sat Jan 12, 2013 9:20 am 
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Hi guys,

I've been humbled by how hard it is to get camera trap shots of the abundant wildlife in MT. Of course it's kind of like steelhead fishing where each time I get skunked I'm just more motivated to get back out there and give it another go.

My latest challenge is the birds. I tried setting on some picked over elk bones in the mountains, and a couple times now I've arrived to a full memory card (32 gb/3000 shots) of gray jays/Stellars jays. One time they even burned out one of my strobes. I've gotten some interesting bird shots, but I don't need another 3000 of them, so I'm trying to adapt my setup.

First thing I've done is write a PICAXE script that calculates the rate of pictures taken over a given time interval, and if it exceeds a specified threshold, it makes the camera take a nap. It also counts the total # of pictures taken, so that as the card begins to fill, the threshold and total delay change. I'm hoping this will protect my strobes and memory card by identifying when something's camping out on the set. I'll post the script in a bit (don't have it on this computer).

Do you guys have strategies for avoiding birds when you are setting on bait? I was gonna set on an elk carcass I found earlier in the week, which should be mostly picked over by now, but still have some scraps on it. I'm pretty sure that if I set on the actual carcass, I'll get a full CF of magpies, ravens, etc. on day 1. I thought maybe I'd adjust the positioning of my motion sensor, but I don't think my PIR, even with a tube or something to focus the beam, can differentiate between a raven and a coyote, since the birds can stand on the carcass and be the same height as any of the carnivores I'm interested in.

My other thought was to put my camera away from the carcass, and use a scent lure to try to get a curious sniff from a scavenger visiting the area. I've tried gland lures up here without any luck, but perhaps once a critter was in the vicinity, they'd actually work. The Codger tipped me off to beaver castor (thanks Chris), so maybe I'll give that a shot. I was thinking I'd mix it with glycerin since it's probably 10 below outside right now.

I was hoping you guys might share your experience with this and anything you've found to work.

Thanks,
Jonny

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 12, 2013 9:36 am 
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you could make sort of a funnel out of tree tops so only one way into the carcass then set the cam over the funnel


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 12, 2013 1:35 pm 
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Yup - the only thing I could figure out to limit the birds(though not the rodents) was to hide the carcass best you can. SOmething like a cubby set like Kdornski said or put it in some thick brush/cover. You could bury it as well but once the first animal uncovers it the birds will be all over it again. One thing that does work to deter crows is to shoot one(or more - but check legality/seasons) and hang it(them) in a tree(s) near the set....they are smart and a dead crow hanging upside down must mean danger or "trap!" to them - believe me it works(we do this all around the corn and food plots here). It sometimes stops ravens as well, but eagles, vultures, and other birds(not sure about magpies but would think they would be deterred as they are in the crow family) do not seem to care...nor do the predators.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 12, 2013 8:47 pm 
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Are you using the X-band detector? I like mine, but like PIR sensors it doesn't discriminate body size. There aren't many satisfying solutions. You'll miss a lot of action if you can set your camera for night shots only. This is a good solution in the summer in hot climates, but up there in the cold the predators are more likely to scrounge for food during the day as well as night. The old Trailmaster 1500 works well in your situation, because you can select the body size of the target species by adjusting the active IR beam for chest height and length of beam interruption. There might be some old TM 1500s gathering dust in the wildlife department at your university. The other possibility, using one or more pressure pads around the carcass is a lot work, and you need to cable or chain the carcass down really well just for it to last a few days. We'll be interested in seeing the script. One other thing -- a timelapse series of an elk carcass might make for some interesting effects.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 12, 2013 11:17 pm 
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I would start out using small pieces of meat, it attracts less birds and easier to hide....a large carcass is difficult to hide from view and gets many birds as you stated. Try to keep the bait out of the cameras view, makes for better pictures and you will learn more about animal behavior.

Most predators will come to the odor of aged meat, so think of which direction they will come from and set the camera on side trails, also the wind direction makes a lot of difference as does the trails along a ridge. Ridge trails work great for cats and yotes as they can smell anything below them as the air heats up during the day and the wind comes up the hill. The edges of swamps usually have a good trail around them as most predators will hunt for mice and other smaller water animals at night, owls hunt the open swamps at night and any bait is a good chance for them, but you will need to place the bait close to a log or stump for them to land on for safety....birds are very leary on the ground, but will land on a log or stump to check out the food first.

A good challenge is to find a place with good background that will make a perfect picture, visualize where you want the animal to be standing...then set the camera up and do your best to get the animal to the exact spot for the picture....it sounds strange, but that is how I set up all my cameras and after a while and you learn more about animal behavior and you will be getting super photos of almost any animal in the woods.

If you have ever watched a dog run around your yard and make a trail, that's what the predators do in the woods but the trail will be hard to see. Just urinate in a trail and place your camera there, they always stop to sniff the scent, that goes for deer and elk also....

Good luck,
cliff


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2013 8:39 am 
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What the other guys mentioned is right on...I did forget to mention setting the camera up to catch the predators on approach...here the coyotes are very wary and will circle the carcass(or at least semi-cirle it) many times before taking a taste. They also almost all come in on the same route for each individual set which is usually downwind(prevailing wind that is) or with cover and good view of area around it...of course they have learned behaviors due to hunting here but it becomes instict/habit and for your given area the predators will have thier own. It may seem odd but all the predators be it wolves, fox, coyotes, bobcats, fishers -all these are here -- and cougars, seem to follow the same general route approaching a food source or even water. A scent marker IS a great way to get them to pause for a good shot or 2. I try to do basically the same as wildebeast for all my sets as well --taking into account when the animals most often travel there and the position of the sun as well(to avoid glare/washout).

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2013 9:43 am 
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Been there. :) You might try using active PIR. That way you can adjust the height of the beam to the height of the predator you are trying to capture. The only way a small bird could trip the camera is if they flew through the beam and that might be an interesting shot anyway.

edit: just read codgers post. He covers active PIR.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 14, 2013 5:14 pm 
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Thanks for all the helpful advice guys.

Crazy how variable the wariness of animals is. I was in Southern Oregon over Thanksgiving and got a black bear, gray fox, and fisher in the same weekend. Meanwhile, I've been pursuing a backyard red fox in MT on about 10 occassions spread over two years and I continue to get skunked. Great fun though.

After a storm came through, I couldn't make it back to the elk carcass, so I set on a draw that connects a big river to a big chunk of undeveloped uplands. Hopefully something interesting will use it as a travel route and stop to sniff some castor.

Below is the code I mentioned above, that will calculate the # of photos taken over a given interval, and then slow down the camera so you don't burn out your strobe or fill up the memory card. Even with this, I avoid strobe levels >1/4 power.

Code:

w2=0;total pics taken during set
w1 =0; number of picture bursts during a detection
w3 = 4 ; threshold # picture burts allowed in time interval before delay
w4 = 25; delay time, this is the base value, gets longer from here
disablebod ; saves power me thinks


main:
if w2 >= 400 then  ; the threshold and delay time increase as the memory card fills
w3 = 3
w4 = w4*2
endif
if w2 >= 1900 then ; card almost full, increase delay measures
w3 = 2
w4 = w4*4
endif
if time>60 then  ; every 60s, check how many photo bursts have occured
if w1 >= w3 then ; if too many, then take a nap to protect memory card and flash unit
sertxd("sleepy Time") ; serial output for debugging
sleep w4
sertxd("wake up")
endif
w1=0
disabletime;reset timer
enabletime
endif
pause 100


if pinC.3 = 1 then take.picture ; jump if the input is on

goto main ; else loop back around

;pin 4 is shutter, pin2 is focus, pin 3 pir
take.picture: ; photo burst

high C.2 ; hit focus to wake up camera
pause 200
low C.2
pause 200


;now take burst of photos, the first one will wake the flash
high C.4 ; switch output 4 on
pause 200 ; wait 2 seconds
low C.4 ; switch output 4 off
pause 200

high C.4 ; switch output 4 on
pause 200 ; wait 2 seconds
low C.4 ; switch output 4 off
pause 200

high C.4 ; switch output 4 on
pause 200 ; wait 2 seconds
low C.4 ; switch output 4 off
pause 200

high C.4 ; switch output 4 on
pause 200 ; wait 2 seconds
low C.4 ; switch output 4 off

pause 3000

w1 = w1+1
w2 = w2+3
sertxd(#w1,#w2); for debugging

goto main ; jump back to start




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