As the ranch manager of an 8,500-acre hunting property in Texas, there’s no shortage of tasks I undertake to keep things running smoothly. I oversee ranch operations, manage habitat, monitor and manage wildlife populations and handle all the small details for upcoming hunts to make sure every guest has an exceptional experience during their visit.
I spend a lot of time observing wildlife populations and their behavior through our network of trail cameras, both in and out of hunting seasons. During an average hunting season, I process 25,000-30,000 images per week, looking for deer patterns. Until we installed HuntPro, that took me 30+ hours of my time to process. With HuntPro I spend three to five hours a week processing the same number of images.
As I’m sure those in a similar position can relate, intense population survey process, prior to HuntPro, was very laborious and time consuming, and I questioned its full accuracy. Mainly, because it was an entirely manual process, as I poured through what seemed to be endless images printing, copying and pasting them to folders on my computer for future reference. My right arrow key became worn as I viewed the images on my computer and kept count via handwritten notes, organized into a spreadsheet that I would eventually use to share with owners and guests via various online file sharing solutions, most of which were never accessed. So, I always questioned the effort and outcome of such a tedious process. So many images, so much repetition, so many details and I am sure a lot of human error.
Built around an AI (Artificial Intelligence) engine, HuntPro’s value as a comprehensive wildlife management platform is its ability to automatically recognize animal species; sort sub-species by sex; categorize, organize and file images based on my defined filter criteria; and compile all the images and associated data analytics into a shareable format. All of that functionality allows me to analyze behavior and movement patterns, tag trophy deer, create management lists, focus on predator control, analyze harvest data, check weather conditions and plann hunts via my computer or in the field from my mobile phone.
After a few rounds of camera card pulls with HuntPro, I knew I was much more efficient, had completely stepped away from notes and spreadsheets and embraced the browser and mobile app. I was able to easily share my results with biologists, guides, hunters, and our property owners via the online portal or mobile app, which excited them about the upcoming season and hunts. I feel like I had actually joined the 21st century.
I also discovered several key things that helped further increase the accuracy and maximized the outputs that the HuntPro platform can provide and wanted to share those with you.
1) Well Traveled Location: Cameras should be placed in a location that animals will travel by or to frequently, such as feed locations, water sources and terrain that funnels animals into the camera’s field of view.
This coyote is following a trail from a water source to a large draw. It is a route that many animals use to travel between water and bedding areas.
2) Background: A clean background is important, as a “busy” background can make animals harder to find. Work to limit the amount of brush and other obstructions from the camera’s field of view.
A location with obstructions like this can cause problems for fast and efficient identification of bucks and does.
3) Direction of the Trail Camera: Place a camera in a location in which it gets the most sunlight, though avoid having the camera face directly into the sun. By doing so, the camera image are well lit and not washed out by direct sunlight.
4) Set A Wider Field of View: Place cameras 10-15 yards from where from where you expect animals to step into frame. By doing so, you will establish a wider field of view for the camera, which will help capture more animals within the camera frame.
This is an example of camera that is too close to the feeder, which doesn’t capture a clean image of the target animal.
5) Secure Mounting: Without a solid mounting system, trail cameras will take an endless supply of wasted images as the tree or post to which the camera is mounted moves. HuntPro has a built in “None” filter that compiles all “empty” images, allowing users to quickly delete all useless images in a single click … a HUGE time saver. It also alerts me as to when a specific camera may need attention due a high number of “None” detections.
6) Dependable Trail Camera Equipment: Use heat-tolerant cameras with a long battery life and a versatile mounting system. On-line ratings are insightful and can help guide your selection process. Because I can use HuntPro with any type of trail camera, even cellular-enabled cameras, I use a variety of brands on the property without any issues.
Following these simple trail camera guidelines will improve the quality of your field images, and when used in conjunction with HuntPro will save you hundreds of hours filtering and categorizing your trail camera images. In addition to these guidelines, HuntPro has a Trail Camera Best Practices Guide you can download and use.
To learn more about HuntPro you can schedule a demo here: https://share.hsforms.com/1s2Qpw6XFQ_i5-XrAJup97w3x7jw