TETTEGOUCHE STATE PARK, Minn. -- Ryan Pennesi has a favorite spot near this North Shore park where he hit the jackpot with wildlife sightings -- a creek crossing near Tettegouche State Park.
Well, not sightings so much as trappings. And not trapping like grab the animal by the leg but camera traps, a fancy name for a fancier version of the ever-popular trail camera.
In that one spot Pennesi's camera captured deer, wolves, coyotes, red fox, gray fox, snowshoe hare, ruffed grouse, squirrels and a badger.
Of course Pennesi never actually saw any of them. They just showed up on his little memory card when he went back a few weeks later to pull the card, stick it in his laptop and see what had happened while he was gone.
"It doesn't always work out that way," Pennesi said. "It's a lot of work and a lot of effort and most of the time I don't get the shot I was hoping for. Some of the time I don't get anything at all, except maybe a tree branch blowing."
Or maybe part of a bear just before the bear tries to take the camera down. One of his Pelican camera cases has permanent bear tooth marks in it. One time a bull moose attacked one of Pennesi's camera traps.
"I didn't realize it at the time but I had put it right on a scrape tree. So I'm not sure if he did it by accident as part of his mating thing or if he smelled human and was going after it on purpose," he said.
But Pennesi still gets a thrill whenever he returns to his camera trap to check.
"To me it's like Christmas morning whenever I open up that camera," he said.
Pennesi is part of a growing community of outdoor researchers and photographers who are using camera traps to be their eyes in the woods, to be in two or 20 places at once and get definitive evidence of wildlife behavior, or just wildlife existence in a specific place.