Mike Quinn is no stranger to wilderness adventure. For the last 22 years he has scoured nearly every wilderness basin of Washington State with a singular, determined focus: finding trophy mule deer. And every spring, as early as the melting snows allow, Mike laces up his boots, straps on his 60-lb pack, and begins his quest for these infrequent and elusive high-country bucks.
In 2003, Quinn had an epiphany: "I thought that if I set up trail cameras in the areas I scout so heavily, I could effectively monitor favored locations 24-hrs a day — something impossible to do for even the most diehard and time-rich hunters. And if it worked, it might offer a decisive advantage come fall by not wasting time hunting non-productive areas."
Seven years later, he still hadn't tested his theory. Early trail cams had too many downfalls — they were large, heavy, ate batteries quickly, and cost an arm and a leg. Then Bushnell introduced a compact, affordable unit, the Trophy Cam. "Trail cams have gotten exponentially better with time," Quinn says. In the spring of 2011, he finally tested his theory.
Fifteen thousand images later, his theory has morphed into a law: Trail cams work for wilderness scouting. "I now kick myself in the rear-end for not using these units sooner," he said. "If I had been using these ten years ago, I may have enjoyed greater success on trophy-class animals. More importantly, I would have learned to not waste time hunting basins that did not hold trophy bucks."
Not Just the Normal Stuff
On Friday, August 24, Quinn and two Seattle, WA, buddies, John Cizin and Casey Mckinne, hiked into their spots to check a remote camera in Washington's Glacier Peak Wilderness. Despite thousands of images showing does like this one from over a half-dozen current camera locations, nothing could prepare them for what his camera was about to show him.
The Right Spot
Quinn scrolled quickly through the images, looking for big bucks or cougar images (this one location had already captured a mountain lion image in 2012).
What did he think about capturing images of a doe and a few fawns? 'Common, no big deal. The doe and fawn have been seen for the month of July into August. Doe walked out of view, fawn walked into view — three images snapped. '
Quinn sets the camera's interval at five minutes or a two-minute interval and, when triggered, the camera takes three images — pretty normal stuff. Initially, he sets his cameras up after coming across sign he finds through traditional scouting methods. Weather plays a huge part in his camera setup, as snow precludes Quinn from getting into certain areas. 'Every time I set one up, I get animal images, ' he said.
Halfway through the images, he located a cougar image and, before studying the image himself, proudly showed his buddies. 'Is that a deer in its mouth? ' one asked. 'Yeah, and it's got spots. '
Stunned, Quinn looked at the camera himself. Sure enough, his camera had captured a cougar that had just killed a mule deer fawn, an image that may never have been recorded in the wild by trail camera.
Adding to the Excitement
After this incredible discovery, Quinn's 2012 hunting season is going to be that much more exciting. 'You just never know what you're going to find out there, ' he said. 'That's why I love it. '
Be sure to check out Mike Quinn's feature article on Western trail cam scouting in the upcoming November issue of Petersen's Hunting.