Summertime is a good time for predator hunters to tinker with guns and handload a supply of ammo. But it’s also a good time to go hunting with a camera.
Calling and shooting predators with a camera is almost as much fun as doing it with a rifle … and there’s no skinning involved. And because the camera shooter needs to do everything a rifle shooter does in order to get a trophy worthy of hanging on the wall, it’s a great way to practice hunting technique. But there are a few differences, so here are some tips concerning them.
Gear first. You’ll need everything required for hunting with a rifle, except the rifle will be replaced with a camera. The serious camera market is ruled by two brands, one of which is Nikon. Both companies make excellent cameras and, just like selecting a rifle, what brand to buy isn’t as important as the skill of the person pressing the trigger. Personally, I use Nikon and recommend it because Nikon supports hunting. They make riflescopes, rangefinders, binoculars and spotting scopes for hunters, as well as great cameras. That other company makes cameras and excellent photocopiers, but I’ve never seen them support hunting. Your choice.
Whatever camera you own will work, but you’ll get the best results with a digital single lens reflex (DSLR) unit. These cameras have interchangeable lenses and a mirror system that allows the photographer to look out through the lens itself. This means what you see is what you get, and that’s a big deal in taking great photos of wildlife.
If you get a DSLR, the next question becomes what lenses to acquire. Be warned that “lens acquisition syndrome” is a disease almost as bad as the rifle version. But you can do nicely with a lens that reaches 200mm, and you won’t need anything more than 400mm unless you go professional. The one feature to look for is vibration reduction. A small tripod is also very handy; like cameras and lenses, get the best you can afford.
So where should you hunt with a camera? In particular, any plot of land that doesn’t allow the discharge of firearms becomes open to hunting with a camera. Actually, those are the areas I prefer for my summer predator photography, because I don’t want to educate those critters I’ll be seeing again come winter. This means parks, wildlife refuges, sanctuaries and some posted lands can all become fertile hunting grounds. There are coyotes living within the town limits where I reside, but I can’t shoot them … not with a rifle anyway, but I can with a camera. Look around your area, use your imagination, get permission when needed and you’ll find some great spots.
In summary, you already have all the hunting gear, so start with the camera you own and go hunt that nearby spot where you’ve never been able to bring your rifle.
You never know what might come to the dying rabbit call.