The opening weekend of Wisconsin's gun deer season is now in the books. That means the talk around the water cooler at work will likely center around hunting, which is nothing new for TJ Stenger and his colleagues at Reconyx Inc. in Holmen.
That's because they're in the business of making trail cameras that hunters use to scout their game.
"More than anything it's getting a chance before you're in the stand, before the moment of truth, to know what you're shooting," says Stenger.
He got in the business after he received a trail camera as a Christmas present. "I was just so excited. Like oh my god. This is the greatest. I've been waiting for a digital one. I can't wait to get it out."
Once he got it out, the batteries didn't last. The images were grainy. The quality just wasn't there.
"I just went from being up here on cloud nine, this is the coolest thing ever, to like oh my god. We've got to do something ourselves. Sort of that's when it started. We sort of said, 'How can we build a better camera?'" Stenger recalls.
He dreamt up a line of high end cameras that not only hunters could use, but animal researchers as well. "The research stuff is probably the neatest stuff. We get some stuff from the researchers. Snow leopards...just really unique animals."
And now, Reconyx cameras are snapping pictures of animals on all seven continents.
"Like I said, I had no idea that the global side of this business was like it is. We're selling in I don't know how many different countries."
Whether it's a picture from Canada of a peregrine falcon returning to its nest, a herd of reindeer in Norway, a zeal of zebras in Zambia or a kangaroo in mid-flight down under the cameras seem to be a hit on the global stage. But all the hard work is right in Holmen, Wisconsin.
"This isn't like building a Chevy truck, where you've got this giant assembly line, I mean it sort of just happens right here."
Everything, from hand-focusing the cameras to packaging them up, is done at their Holmen headquarters. That's something that has been important to the 1986 La Crosse Aquinas graduate.
It not only helps to create jobs in his native area, but it also ensures his customers are getting the best possible product. "I mean the quality thing kind of goes without saying. It's the only way that we can ensure that our quality standards are there."
And working with 19 other people who are passionate about the hunting industry makes it that much easier. "I could spend twenty minutes talking about hunting stories with everyone here. We've got a lot of that passion here, which is nice."