Infrared sees all: deer on the landscape

Posted on: July 22, 2016 | Bob Frye | Comments

FLIR ShotHere’s a look at a doe captured as a FLIR camera image.

Talk about humbling, and also yet fascinating.

If you’re a hunter, and you’ve gone to the woods, failed to see many or any deer, and come home convinced they just aren’t there, this might make you reconsider.

There have been concerns about deer populations in wildlife management unit 3D in northeastern Pennsylvania. The buck harvest rate there is, indeed, the lowest in the state, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s own estimates.

Wayne Laroche, director of the commission’s bureau of wildlife management, traveled to the region recently and met with agency staff to discuss the situation. As part of that, they spent some time driving around state forests and game lands.

They made two trips.

The first was in daylight, looking for deer in fields and, most often, the big woods that predominate in the region, Laroche said. It’s those big woods that are most common.

“Not an easy place to spot deer,” Laroche said.

They saw a few whitetails, he said. They saw more tracks, browsing and other evidence of deer, though.

“It didn’t look like an extreme paucity of deer,” he added.

So they went back after dark, driving the same route, but using a FLIR – or forward-looking infrared – camera. Driving the same route, they saw 160 deer in two hours, Laroche said. Sixty were in fields – including 25 in one opening – and 100 in the woods.

The trip revealed plenty of bucks, too. FLIR picks up body heat, so antlers – still covered in velvet and containing blood – show up at this time of year, Laroche said. That won’t be the case later.

For now, though, the camera revealed one real monster buck.

“I measured it, it looked around a 27-, 28-inch spread,” Laroche said.

All of the deer were on lands open to public hunting.

“There seems to be a good number of deer over there,” Laroche said. “But I would remark, because of the density of forest, their sightability might be poor.”

Commissioner Jim Daley of Cranberry said he suspects that might be true of deer all across the state.

“So there’s probably a least a public perception there are less deer than there really are,” he said. “Would you agree?”

“Definitely,” Laroche agreed.

The video can be seen here. To see the result of Laroche’s FLIR work, and get a look at the trophy buck, start at about the one hour and 15 minute mark.

Bob Frye is the editor. Reach him at 412-838-5148 or See other stories, blogs, videos and more at

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Bob Frye is a storyteller with a passion for all things outdoors. He hunts, he fishes, he hikes, he camps, he paddles, backpacks and snowshoes depending on the season. If he’s not an expert at anything, it’s because he’s passionate to try a little bit of everything.