Category Archives: Trail cameras

Raptor stand-off between night and day

We call it the Duck Line, though its actually wire staked along the ground to which we’ve also attached the carcasses of geese, pheasants, and wild turkeys after we’ve removed the parts we eat. Off and on since late December, Jake Holem, his mother, Kimberly, and I have put such leftovers in some wide-open cropfields not far from El Dorado Reservoir.

A great-horned owl, left, and a red-tailed hawk square off at a pile of waterfowl carcasses. Photos of hawks out so late are pretty rare.

A great-horned owl, left, and a red-tailed hawk square off at a pile of waterfowl carcasses. Photos of hawks out so late are pretty rare.

To the lines of fast food for assorted carnivores, we’ve had a myriad of red-tailed hawks, raccoons, immature bald eagles and coyotes. The hawks are the most common daytime predator and, eventually, the coyotes the most common at night, though it took them a few weeks to realize those carcasses with human scent offered them easy eating but no threat.

One photo I found of particular interest is one Kimberly e-mailed today of a great-horned owl and red-tailed hawk squaring off. It’s unique because it’s awfully dark for a redtail to be out of a roosting tree, and I didn’t know great-horned owls showed any interest in carrion.  Then again, the owl could have been trying for something else in the area or, foolishly, the hawk.

It’s also interesting that over a four or five days stretch, about every time someone checked the Duck Line there was a mature bald eagle in a tree nearby, or feeding on a goose carcass about 30 yards away. (We attached the dead birds to the wire with zip-ties, so that if a something became entangled, it could easily break free.) Still, we had no shots of the great bird.

Normally cautious coyotes became Duck Line visitors every night as the winter progressed.

Normally cautious coyotes became Duck Line visitors every night as the winter progressed.

It was also interesting how brazen the normally cautious coyotes became, staying at the Duck Line for a long time night after night and making the occasional daytime visit.

With the main hunting seasons closed, and eagles migrating out of the area, the Duck Line may be done for the winter. I’m guessing it won’t be hard to get Jacob and Kimberly to pitch again next season. I know I’ll be ready.

Golden eagle predation on big game not “a first”

Many news services have recently run photography of a golden eagle taking a small deer in Russia. Most claim it’s the first time such a thing has been documented. YOU CAN CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE RECENT PHOTOS.

Not quite.

Golden eagles have been documented preying on fawn and adult antelope, even recently in Kansas.

Golden eagles are the real warriors of the bird world, unlike bald eagles which would just as soon feast on a dead carp as go catch and kill something. Goldens have caused problems for some ranchers for years, taking lambs, sometimes sheep, and calves.

They’ve been documented killing bighorn sheep lambs, antelope and mule deer fawns and occasionally adults of both species of deer. CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO OF A GOLDEN EAGLE TAKING DOWN A SMALL DEER.

A few years ago I blogged about a friend who happened across a Gove County golden eagle on a pronghorn fawn it had just killed. A few days later he and his father found a dead pronghorn doe with exactly the same kind of wounds — signs of talons on the backbone and feeding up high on the animal as the eagle held on. YOU CAN CLICK HERE TO RE-VISIT THAT BLOG.

In fact, in Wyoming a study was done documenting what golden eagles often kill. CLICK HERE TO READ THE STUDY IN WYOMING’S GREAT DIVIDE BASIN. Big game aren’t their main prey, that’s normally jackrabbits, but it’s certainly not too unusual.

A little more checking online finds videos of golden eagles preying on assorted mountain goats and even wolves in Asia.
Like I said, the true warriors of the bird world.

Central Kansas elk increasing

It’s OK, you can go ahead and tell people what you saw.

Ten years ago probably nobody would have believed you, but these days it would be hard for anyone to doubt that you’ve seen an elk in central Kansas.

Not only do we have elk scattered around, they are reproducing…at least in Reno County.

This bull elk, photographed recently by a trail camera, is one of at least two along a stream in Reno County. At least two cows, each with calves, are in the same area. Reports of elk in central Kansas increase annually.

A buddy recently sent me a couple of trail camera photos of a bull he has on some property he manages along a stream that runs through the county. As well as that bull, he’s seen another on the same property, as well as at least two cows with calves in the same area.

No clue where they’ve come from, but this is at least the third year elk have been seen, and shown up on trail cams, in the region of Kingman, Reno and Stafford counties. Last year a bull was poached near the Reno/Rice county line.

Time for the trail cams

This buck obviously feels at home on this food plot, showing up about every day for the past two weeks. He’s put on about 15 to 20 more inches of antler since last year.

It’s kind of like running a trotline, only you have the chance to catch a lot more than just five or six fish.

I ran a set recently  that had more than 1,600 “catches” in about two weeks. I’m talking, of course, about running a string of trail cameras.

What used to be bulky units the size of cigar boxes, that used size D batteries and a roll of 36 exposure film are now about as little as about one-third the old size, run on a few AA batteries and I have some memory cards that store more than 4,000 images.

Photos of young, spotted fawns are always a pleasure to see. This doe actually appears to have triplets, though the camera never got all four in the same frame.

The main thing those with trail cameras…and note it’s plural, because once you have one you realize you need many more, are placed for is to get photos of deer. The main goal is often trophy bucks but I get a kick out of the shots of little spotted fawns, or a pair of does reared up on their hind legs, slapping hooves in a power struggle over a source of food.


Casts and Blasts From Photographing Eagles at Work

This shot shows the white is building on the head of this immature bald eagle. Probably less than 10-percent of the original frame, it also shows how well the images from the Canon 7D stood up to cropping, even when shot at 1,000 ISO.

A few more details from Sunday’s Outdoors page feature on photographing bald eagles and red-tailed hawks feeding on deer carcasses.


– According to a trail camera near the deer carcasses, the immature bald eagle still feeds on the dead deer most days. Its longest stay, thankfully, was the cold day I spent in the photo blind.

– Twice I’ve added goose carcasses to the deer, and raptors seem to prefer them over the venison. That might because they’re smaller and easier to access than the thick hides of deer. Or, it could be because eagles naturally feed on healthy geese.

– The late afternoon light contributed greatly to the flavor of the photos of the bald eagle on the deer.

– I was shooting a Canon 7D, two of which I’ve had for several months. The ability to still get great details with high ISO settings has really helped with photography in low light. Many of the photos were shot with the ISO set at 1,000 but the images held up very well under serious cropping. The lens was a Canon 100-400 with image stabilization. All were shot from a tripod.

– Checking the trail camera a week after the shoot, it appears the red-tailed hawks have settled their disputes over the carcasses. Mostly they feed one at a time, with no more fights caught by the remote camera.

– Coyotes still haven’t really hit the carcasses. If a pack would hit the remains, all would probably be gone within a few nights. I continue to “saturate the area with human scent.” Yes, I’m actually marking the carcasses the same way a coyote would if it were claiming them. The scent doesn’t seem to deter the birds, obviously.

A trail camera photo of the immature bald eagle at the same time it was being photographed from a blind about 30 yards to the left.

– Unfortunately, I had the Bushnell Trail Cam set for the lowest pixel setting possible, so the photos aren’t as sharp as they could be. I did it to get as many photos as possible on a 4 GB card…unfortunately I had a 32 GB card in the camera at the time. Since, I’ve adjusted the pixels and gotten noticeably sharper images.

– Oh, there is one opossum feeding on the carcasses every night. A few nights ago it was photographed dragging off the carcass of a big Canada goose. It must have been so proud!


Bald eagles help insure there’s no waste in the wilds

A mature bald eagle takes a break from eating on a deer carcass. So far only one eagle has been on the scene. Other set-ups have shown five or more eagles utilizing the remains of a deer.

Nature is a wonderful system, where so many different kinds of life forms rely on one another. It’s a system where everything has a purpose, and part of the purpose is meeting the needs of other animals…that eventually means providing them with food.

Having witnessed that thousands of times over several decades many of us who hunt have become dedicated to helping the process along. Rather it be ducks or deer, cottontails or wild turkeys, once we get the meat we need from the game we kill, the rest goes back to the wilds to complete the cycle.

No doubt many expected coyotes opossums, crows, turkey vultures, the occasional bobcat and badger have benefited from such leftovers.

Two red-tailed hawks spar for dominance at the deer carcasses. Best known for their killing ability, redtails will gladly take an easier meal.

Last week a trail camera placed on the boned-out carcasses of two whitetails does I shot Monday afternoon captured a bald eagle and red-tailed hawks, species some may not associate with playing clean-up crew, taking advantage of easy venison.

I’ll leave the trail camera on the carcasses for a few weeks to see what else happens, and probably add a few geese and another remnants of a deer to the spot.

We’ll see what else happens.