Monday, April 30, 2012

Field Research Strategy: Using a Vehicle as an Observation Blind

In my own personal quest for the observation and documentation of sasquatches, I am always trying to employ simple and consistent methods that will allow me to more easily see (and potentially film) sasquatches in various contexts.

While it's much more exciting and dramatic to enter wilderness areas and back country in pursuit of sasquatches, I personally believe that better opportunities for documentation await in areas where sasquatches approach areas of human habitation/occupation; especially places where sasquatches have been habituated to humans and exploit human food. (For further information on that subject, please read my article about "Established Habituation Scenarios".) 

Sasquatches will approach camps, lone vehicles, etc. in very specific scenarios; usually in search of food. Many people (witnesses and researchers alike) have heard them moving into camp in the wee hours of the morning to investigate human "stuff". Often, they'll even hear the sasquatch(es) touching/examining tents with human occupants. This occurs frequently, and offers a great opportunity to document sasquatches. However, at the first sign of human movement (unzipping a sleeping bag, unzipping a tent, etc.) the sasquatches typically vacate camp immediately. Dr. Jeff Meldrum experienced this during an expedition in the Siskiyou Wilderness of northern California. Many people have heard sasquatches doing this, but only a few people have seen them in the act. Most tents don't allow you to see much through their walls or mesh windows in total darkness.

Artist Scott Davis' impression of a sasquatch visiting a camp.
There are numerous reports from witnesses and researchers that support this theory, but a select few have greatly influenced my thinking and strategy with regard to this type of attempt.

BFRO Director Matt Moneymaker wrote about setting up surveillance systems inside vehicles for documenting camp approaches. He states: "The most passive camera traps are ones requiring no installation, testing or camouflaging at the site, such as when cameras are already set up inside vehicles. Rigging up surveillance cameras inside vehicles is a much bigger project than one might assume, and needs to begin long before the expedition. If it succeeds at a given spot then it can succeed repeatedly there. If it does not succeed, it can be relocated to other spots as quickly as the vehicle can be moved."

Dennis Pfohl (Colorado BFRO investigator and Erickson Project member) recorded this example of a sasquatch walking through a small camp during a field excursion in Oklahoma. From this BFRO article: "The night this clip was recorded, a search and rescue professional (Rob B.) attending the expedition said a tall massive figure came up to the vehicle he was sleeping in (a 4x4 pickup). The animal pushed up and down on the tailgate with tremendous force. It then walked around to the door of the pickup. It leaned over the hood of the raised 4x4 from the side, to look down through the front windshield. It then it grabbed the door handle and rocked the vehicle a few times. It pounded lightly on the door a few times before walking away. Rob couldn't move while it was happening. He was laying on the seat, in his sleeping bag, looking up through his slightly fogged windows. He could see the figure's size by its silhouette against the starry sky, when it leaned over the hood of the raised vehicle to look through the windshield."  

Veteran researcher (and friend) Tal Branco often used his vehicle as an observation blind. In addition to trying to observe a sasquatch approach his camp from within a vehicle, Tal would mount a parabolic dish on the roof of his vehicle and listen with headphones, anticipating an approach. This method yielded several recordings of approaches and vocalizations for Tal, as well as one sighting.

Kansas-based bigfoot researcher Randy Harrington had an extended observation in southern Oklahoma from the cab of his truck. After devoting time to researching various "hot-spots", Randy decided to set up a small camp in an area where the resident sasquatches had a reputation for taking human food from campsites and trash bins in a heavily used recreation area. He was also monitoring the area with a microphone mounted to the roof of his vehicle. He was able to hear the sasquatches approaching his camp, and therefore was able to anticipate their movements and observe them.

Randy Harrington

In an attempt to replicate the results of other researchers, and also to modify and adapt the methodology, I have been using similar techniques.

I am currently using the Zoom H2 Field Recorder. It's a decent unit with sensitive on-board microphones, and will support large SD cards and multiple file formats. The benefit of this unit is that you can use a large SD card and lithium batteries and it will record high-fidelity audio for an extended time. For sasquatch researchers, that's a major benefit.

The Zoom H2.

Now, when I camp with a small group of researchers, I will sleep in my vehicle. I have a 4Runner, so I can lay the back seats down and create a nice surface to sleep on. I'll lay down a Ridge Rest and sleeping bag and have all of my optical gear at the ready. I mount my H2 on the roof or side of the vehicle with a magnet (at a safe distance from the unit, so it doesn't affect the SD card). I crack one window slightly and run a pair of headphones into the vehicle.
My sleeping setup.
The Zoom H2 has a few different microphone settings, one of which splits the front and rear microphones into a stereo pair. Once you're using that setting, you can orient the unit to direct attention to a given approach or two approaches. I orient it in such a way that I could anticipate the most likely approach routes, and assign them a channel (left or right). Once I'm in the vehicle, the recorder is rolling and I'm monitoring in real time. On the high gain setting, the unit is really sensitive, so I am able to hear subtle sounds extremely well.

If we are able to successfully elicit an approach from a sasquatch to our camp, I'll be able to hear it slowly approaching. If my H2 is oriented correctly, I will also be able to tell which direction it's coming from, and point my optical gear that way. My windows are tinted, so I have the advantage of being able to move around slowly without giving myself away. Moreover, the vehicle really helps contain any small sounds that I make.

Being in a vehicle also offers you a nearly 360 degree view of your surroundings; it gives you much better odds of seeing one approach.

I have been using this method for the last several outings, and I am absolutely convinced that it is one of the most viable ways to see or document a sasquatch. I would highly recommend this method to other researchers and enthusiasts hoping to have an observation of their own.

4 comments:

  1. This was something I was considering doing on the next expedition that I went out on. On my last expedition, there was an approach that went past the tent and headed toward the vehicle; my thought was to put some sort of camera in the vehcile to see if I could capture anything. Thanks for the article, a lot of great ideas!

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  2. We had a camp visitor on our last trip to Arkansas. B.F. thinks it was with a few feet of his tent. A mulual friend (Tal) has an intersting practice. He takes a roll of dark colored thread and strings it around the camp at about 6 ft high. If/when the thread is broken, you have an indication of the direction the animal was traveling (and that it was over 6 feet). Great post Matt.

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  3. Great article! Good luck with this in the future. If I didn't drive a corolla, I'd be all over this tactic!

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