Episode 023 Jon Livingston Co-Founder DeerLab

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Jon Livingston - Deer Lab
Jon Livingston – Deer Lab

Interviewer: DeerLab.com. Why get started, who’s involved with it and who’s your target market?

Jon: Sure. Well, it’s kind of a funny story. I mentioned to you earlier that I’ve only been hunting for about five years and it really started with a date with my wife. We were out to dinner and I had a son, Reese, who was one at the time and really was trying to…I was talking to my wife, Samantha, just trying to come up with different ideas of what I can do with my son as I get older.

When I was 15, my dad turned 40 and when I was 40 my son was 1, so there was a huge difference as far as my age compared to my dad growing up. And I’ve always wanted to hunt but really never had anybody around me that hunted. And we were sitting at dinner one night and at a restaurant and I basically said to Samantha, “You know, I want to learn how to hunt,” and we were just talking about the process of that.

Anyway, long story short, for our anniversary my wife surprised me with a Mathews bow. And it was a complete shock because she’s a CPA and very frugal in her spending of gifts. And so, anything over $50 is a pretty big surprise. So for her to go out and get a bow, she actually got a friend of mine that does hunt and he went out and picked out the bow for me. That really got me into hunting. I had a friend that I would go out with and basically try to glean as much information from him as possible. And we started using trail cameras and as I was using several trail cameras, it became a pain to manage all the photos. But also, trying to understand what was going on behind the scenes instead of just looking at the photo. “Okay, when is this deer coming in?” You know, “What other cameras is he hitting? Is there a pattern that goes behind this?”

And having a web background, that’s where I started to kind of really build a tool out for myself, wanting to build a tool out for myself. And I had a friend who was up in Greeneville,

together and so we basically teamed up. His name is Ryan Wood, and started building Deer Lab. And so, really, the focus of Deer Lab is to pattern bucks with your trail camera photos. We are centered around your trail camera photos. And, you know, the end goal is to see where specific deer, or specific buck is moving, and along that way, along that route, is basically managing your photos. And so, it does that I think very well, very easy.

I mean one of the things that we wanted to do was really make it a very easy to use tool that anybody could use. No matter what your experience is, you could just upload your photos and we would do a lot of the work for you. And so that’s kind of how it all started. We’ve been going since the end of 2013. And so we went through our first year last year and we’re really excited about this upcoming year. We’ve added a lot of new features to the site and are just waiting for everybody to really get their cameras out and start using them.

Interviewer: Who is your target market?

Jon: Well, you know, obviously most people have one, two, three cameras and that’s probably not our target market. We’re after more of the serious hunters that have over three cameras. It’s hard to pattern a buck with just a couple of cameras unless you’re moving them around a lot. And so most of our users have over three cameras.
Interviewer: Up to how many?
Jon: It doesn’t matter. I mean we have customers that have more than a hundred cameras, and we have customers all the way down to one camera. So there’s lots of different varieties. We have different plans for each group. We also just have just a number of tools. Some people use it for patterning specific bucks. Some people just use it to manage their photos, to share their photos. We have some tools that can allow you to easily share your tools without sharing the sensitive information, such as where your cameras are located. I even have a client that is using it for patterning alligators, which I never knew you could do that…
Interviewer: Excuse me?
Jon: …but basically puts cameras up on rivers, on creek beds and basically says that there are certain times that certain gators come out. And he uses Deer Lab to pattern the gators. So its not just whitetails, it’s anything you are going after with a trail camera. But our focus is the whitetail hunter.
Interviewer: And I said excuse me because I, that it was brand new information coming, you know, coming across the radio waves here. I hadn’t heard of that before.
Jon: I haven’t either. I actually ran into him at the, I believe it was the ATA show this year. He came up and he was all excited and I didn’t know that he was using it for that and he was just telling me all the details about that. And I was like, “I would have never guessed that.” I didn’t even know a camera could basically get a gator because of it being cold blooded, but it can.
Interviewer: Amazing. You know, I’m making a note here. Sounds like a great testimonial for your company, because it’s interesting in business, as you’re an entrepreneur, and as you go down your journey, down the road, all of a sudden you go, “We never even would have thought of that unless somebody came up, shared an idea,” and said “Wow, there’s a whole other market we didn’t even know exist.”
Jon: Yeah, it’s really neat to see, too, you know I was thinking more Midwest would be our main, primary customer and that’s pretty much the heartbeat of Deer Lab, is that group of people. but, you know, people are using trail cameras worldwide. I mean we have customers from New Zealand to Africa to Europe, all over the United States. So it’s been pretty neat to see where people are coming from and how they’re using Deer Lab.
Interviewer: Well I’m just fascinated and the entrepreneur spirit is alive in the whitetail world, that’s for sure. Now when somebody gets your camera and contacts you and says, “Hey, I need five cameras,” what type of instruction, user manual, you know, goes out with the equipment?
Jon: Sure. Well, its really no equipment that we provide. All of our stuff is just a web service. And so they log in, they would, Deer Lab works with any trail camera as long as there it has a time stamp to it, we can basically use it. It doesn’t have to be wireless or cellular. In fact, we work with cameras that have SD cards. So basically, you would pull your SD card and we have a way to where you can map your trail cameras where they are from satellite maps. And you just, it’s basically just dropping a pin.
And then you just select the trail camera that you want to upload your photos to. You take your SD card from your computer and just drag and drop all of the photos onto that camera, or basically, an upload area in Deer Lab. And then once it starts to upload the photos, we automatically resize the photos. Because we are mobile friendly, as well, you can take this on your iPad or your phone. Mainly most people use it on their desktop computers or laptops. And you upload your photos. We automatically know where the location of that is because where you dropped the pin on the satellite map. And from that information, we take it and go out to your local weather station and pull in all of the weather data that trail cameras can’t capture. Things like wind direction, wind speed, you know, even if your camera has just a time stamp, we can provide all the weather information down to the second that that photo was taken.
Interviewer: I’m gong to interrupt you. Are you including the barometric pressure?
Jon: Yes.
Interviewer: Ladies and gentleman, that is huge in some hunter’s playbook. They only hunt during certain barometric pressures, either changes up or down. And that’s a huge element of some of the very successful hunters hunting techniques is utilizing barometric pressure. And we’ll be talking about that in future shows but I just wanted to highlight that. And if you haven’t thought about it, start thinking about it. And here’s a tool that will help you pinpoint game movement and correlate it to barometric pressure. Jon, did I say that right?
Interviewer: You did. You did. And some other weather information that we capture for every photo is obviously, the temperature, the weather conditions, if its clear, rainy, that type of stuff, cloudy, the time, which we basically just pull your time stamp from the photo. That’s the only thing that we pull. Even if your camera takes moon phase or whatever, we only use the time stamp and we calculate everything else.
A lot of the times some of the cameras will not give you the actual moon phase or the moon phase might be a little bit off and so we tie it right into the weather station. We do wind direction, wind speed, barometric pressure, if its rising, falling, as well as the actual pressure, the humidity, the visibility, the sunrise, sunset times, as well as the moon phase.
And all of this information, you can go in and look and filter all of your photos by this weather information. So you could say, “Show me all the photos of this specific buck between these times with the barometric pressure above or below this, with the wind coming out of the northwest,” and we’ll provide all the photos. So we try to give you some really easy tools. You can get as specific or as general as you want when you’re using it.
Interviewer: My mind is just racing for the applications of many people throughout North America and many, you know, hunters and just a lot of other applications. I’m just thinking of a friend that has some predation problems and it would really be helpful to see those predators coming, going, time, everything you just said.
Jon: Yeah, and you know, one of the things that I do for our property is, like, we have an issue with coyotes. And so I will tag every photo that has a coyote to it and then pattern them. So we basically get an idea of what cameras the coyotes, or coyotes, depending on where you live, are going on as well as what cameras they are and what times they are hitting those cameras. Now, they’re not as, they can be a little bit harder to pattern but it will kind of give you an idea of where they are going.
Interviewer: Now for all the thousands of photos that you’re getting, is there any information that you can share right now, about the prime times and different mid-western state, for the beginning of the run? Would that be possible for you to correlate all that and then send it out?
Jon: We could do that. We don’t go into individual user data. We do have kind of a general data that we use as far as globally. We could go in and start getting more of those stats out. We haven’t really done that as far the reporting of what we provide our users. I know that, you know, this is pretty sensitive information for many people as far as where their trail cameras are located and what type of you know, animals they have on their property, And so we’re sensitive to that as far as not wanting to get into that stuff.
But from a global standpoint, I do think, I mean, you hit on a key thing as far as the amount of data that we are capturing off of this from areas all over the country or all over the world, there is definitely an application to be able to use that data to kind of give a better idea as far as patterns. You know, there’s always the different sides from a moon phase standpoint. You know some people believe strongly in moon phases and you know there’s a lot of data out there that says moon phases are not important at all.
And so we kind of give that information to users as far as seeing when, if it is really something that they can use for patterning animals. We break down every photo, you can basically look at a dashboard for your camera and it will tell you if the percentage of photos you have per moon phase and different things like that. So you can kind of come up to your own conclusion when it comes to that type of data. But, yeah, I’ve thought a lot about how we can use that data, not from a user standpoint but from a larger scale, but we have not really done anything with it yet.
Interviewer: I’ll wrap this up pretty quickly. But my thought is from 50,000 feet, nobody’s specific farm entered into it, but you’ve got so much data that you could collect and say, “Above lat line X, here’s the activity we’re seeing.” And, you know, during, everybody, you know, works hard up to the rut and then during the rut, they really want to know what’s going daily, if not, hourly. And it seems to me the data you’re collecting could be used in a global application that might be valuable to people.
Jon: Yeah, I think so. I just noticed, Powder Hut just came out with an application as far as heat mapping turkey activity. And so there’s definitely some things that we can use with our data to do something similar to that, but I think that’s a great idea.
Interviewer: Let’s get back to whitetail hunting. Jon, you shared with me you’ve been hunting whitetails ever since your wonderful wife gave you a bow. And you went out and got some gear, and got a tree stand or a ground blind. So have you been able to harvest a deer yet? Buck or doe?
Jon: Yes, I have and I actually was out in Idaho for the first time ever hunting elk and the first day of my hunt, I was able to kill a bull elk at 11 yards. So I’ve been very blessed with being able to harvest deer and elk. I know that the chances of me harvesting an elk the first day of the first hunt ever, going out for elk on public ground in Idaho, is pretty much classified as a miracle.
Interviewer: [laughs]
Jon: So, I don’t know, I’m kind of worried about future elk hunts, if I’m going to have any success. I feel like I kind of got it all on the first day. You know, hunting in Florida is a little bit different than the mid-west. We have a lot smaller deer, but mainly it’s been mostly does. But I’m still waiting for the opportunity to hunt in the mid-west for some larger bucks.
Interviewer: Now tell us a little about hunting in Florida.
Jon: Yeah, well, the early season for us, it starts mid-September and I’m just a pretty much a bow hunter. That’s all I use is a bow. Very hot. I mean, usually it’s like in the 90s so you have mosquitoes and you have your, usually like in a…well, where I am, kind of a swamp conditions. It’s tough. It’s pretty difficult. The terrain is obviously flat but you have a lot of palmettos, and thicker brush, hiding areas.
You know, it’s pretty much when you’re thinking about scent, it’s hard to kind of cover your scent tracks just because you’re sweating so much. By the time you get up in a tree stand, you’re just soaking wet from your sweat. But it’s been a challenge and that’s one of the things that I think just doing Deer Lab has really helped with looking at photos and really relying on photos for a lot of the data. But it’s a challenge but it’s been awesome. I really enjoy getting out in the woods and away from a computer where I’m pretty much in front of most days.
Interviewer: Now have you seen any bucks from your tree stand?
Interviewer: Oh, definitely. Yeah. But you know, as far as, you know, tracking a buck for several years and waiting for it to get a certain size or weight or whatever, in Florida, the challenge is, the neighboring properties. I mean they don’t really follow too many QMDA-type aspects. And so if it’s brown, it’s down for many people. And so I’ve been trying to put in food plots and start growing more mature bucks and I’m in the early stages of that. So just kind of waiting for ones to be able to become a little bit more mature, but its been a challenge because it seems like everything around you, they’re taking everything.
Interviewer: How big is your hunting area?
Jon: Well, I hunt on a couple of properties that are connected to each other and it’s about 1200 acres. And there’s just a couple of us that hunt it.
Interviewer: That’s quite large.
Jon: It is. It is. There’s been a lot of activity on it lately for just the farm that they’re putting in. But there is some great land there.
Interviewer: I’m just making a note. When you look at a piece of property and decide, “I’m going to hunt it,” do you break it down into 40-acre plots, or 20-acres plots, 10-acre plots? How do you look at your land? You’ve got 1200 acres so you’ve got a lot of land to manage and to figure out where the deer are traveling.
Jon: Yeah, you know, the particular property that I hunt on was an old nursery, In fact, it had one of the first watering licenses in the state of Florida. And so it’s a unique property in the fact that there used to be a lot of nursery trees, just rows of trees there. And so there’s certain pretty much open areas and then there’s a swamp that goes through there. And so I start off typically by looking at a satellite map and kind looking for pinch points. We can’t really do too much with the topography because it’s so flat. But the swamp area, any of those really kind of dense areas that the deer like to hide, I usually start out with that.
And then from a trail camera perspective, I usually put those out maybe one every fifty to a hundred acres and start trying to see what’s out there first and then as I start seeing deer I kind of get it a little bit more refined approach and just looking at it with kind of more cameras, as well as just being able to just go off of sight. So a lot of it has to do with, not the topography, but with the trees and with just the layout of the land, from trying to figure out various walking areas and going from there.
Interviewer: Thank you for that. Jon, it’s been very interesting having you on the show. Now here’s the part of the show that you can recap what you’ve already told us about Deer Lab, and tell people how to get a hold of you on social network, how to get directly to your URL, your website and anything else you want to add about your product.
Jon: Well, sure. Thanks, Bruce. First, I appreciate you having me on. Deer Lab was built was built for the person that has more than two to three cameras. But really one of the things we wanted to try to do was simplify the process. The amount of time that you spend with your trail cameras, looking at photos, trying to figure out what deers are doing and getting into details as far as specific deer can be a challenge and can take a long time, on a weekly basis, depending on how often you check your trail cameras.
And so Deer Lab was really created to try to simplify that, to save you time and really provide more information than just looking at pictures. I think its a new process of getting a little bit more detailed but without getting too detailed, we try to give you a lot of information without you having to do too much work. Really it’s uploading photos into the system.
But you know, Deer Lab basically has a lot of different features in it. You can get as into it if you want to or you can stay at a higher level of just managing your photos. But it takes the process of having to manage all of the folders on your computer and really trying to remember what certain deer are doing. We remember all of that stuff for you and provide easy to read charts.
We have a website deerlab.com and we also have a free trial to where you can go in without a credit card, just sign up and try it out for yourself. You can upload photos and see how it works. We also have some videos at our site if you go to deerlab.com/videos you can kind of see Deer Lab in action.
Interviewer: Anything else you want to share?
Jon: I think that’s it, but I appreciate you having me on and yeah, that’s pretty much it.
Interviewer: Whitetail Rendezvous community, technology is a big part of what we do in deer hunting. Trail cameras are integral part of a lot of hunters, outfitters, guides, business. And the more information we can have that tells us the specifics of what is happening at the second that that picture is taken will help us all be better hunters.
Jon Livingston, thank you so much for creating Deer Lab and being part of the Whitetail Rendezvous community. Thank you all. Have an awesome day.