By Josh Boyd
With each passing year, continual urban sprawl displaces an ever-growing number of hunters, forcing many to reconsider where, and how, they hunt. For some, permission is gained elsewhere, while others are forced to sign into high dollar leases in order to find a place to hang their stands. However, in the past decade, more hunters than ever before are taking to public land, in a bid to find success and escape to the woods.
While hunting public land can indeed be productive, doing so comes with its own unique set of challenges. As you might have guessed, the bulk of these challenges center around contending with the army of fellow hunters who inhabit the same woods. One of the most significant of all frustrations faced by those hunting public land is finding a way to prevent their equipment from growing legs and going home in someone else’s pickup.
It seems as if treestands and trail cameras are a hot commodity among the dishonest that roam wildlife management areas, and few that regularly hunt public land have been left unaffected. While it is impossible to completely eliminate the chance of equipment theft on public land, the following tips will assist you in keeping such instances to a minimum.
Lock Down Anything That You Can
Today, it seems as if an ever-growing number of individuals have a problem leaving alone that which is not theirs. While only a small percentage of those on public ground account for the bulk of thefts on any given tract, it is still advisable to safeguard your gear in any manner possible. This includes locking down stands and trail cameras with cable locks.
Several treestand and trail camera specific cable locks are now available and come in a variety of lengths and sizes. The use of such cables can be an excellent deterrent against theft, as bolt cutters are generally needed to compromise cable locks of any type. In many instances, a thief will only take what they can grab quickly, and are less apt to go through additional effort to return with tools at a later date.
When hunting on public land, camouflaging your stands and trail cameras is as much about keeping them hidden from hunters, as it is deer. The truth is, a thief cannot steal what they do not see. By brushing in a stand or camera, you likely reduce the chance of theft by as much as 50%. Only those who are actively searching for such items, are likely to discover their whereabouts.
A camera can be easily concealed by binding vegetation within the same cables and tie-downs that affix the unit itself to a tree. Likewise, brush can be tied off to the outer perimeter of a treestand’s deck with small bungee-style cordage.
Hang Equipment High
Hunters, like deer, do not typically look upward as much as we might think. If a piece of equipment is not hung within a thief’s line of sight, there is a good chance that it will go undetected. This can be an especially helpful strategy when placing trail cameras in, and around your hunting area.
Instead of placing trail cameras at a height of approximately 4 feet, set them at heights of 7-8 feet, facing downward with the use of a stick to shim the camera’s angle. Additionally, lock-on stands can be hung at heights of 18-22 feet, rather than 15 feet, where possible. This is typically higher than the point at which most focus their attention, when scanning a treeline.
Use Cell Cameras for Instant Feedback
In the past, retrieving trail camera photos required pulling an SD card from the camera itself. Now, with the advent of cellular trail cameras, photos can be relayed instantaneously, whether of a deer or a thief. This can be a valuable tool to have at your disposal when attempting to keep gear in your possession.
Cellular cameras have now become prevalent enough that many would-be thieves steer clear, as they know that a camera’s owner will have their photo before the unit has ever been removed from the tree. However, if a camera of this nature is stolen, you will have evidence at your disposal to turn over to authorities.
Take Your Ladder With You
If you are hunting on public ground that allows treestands to be left in place during season, but will not be returning to a particular site for several days, removing the stand’s lowest ladder segment can be an excellent theft deterrent. Simply undo the cam lock straps from your stand’s lowest tree stick segment, and pack it out over your shoulder, leaving the lowest point of access to your stand more than 4 feet in the air.
A thief is highly unlikely to return to the location of a stand, packing a tree stick or ladder with them. Therefore, unless the offender in question is especially keen on doing chin-ups, your stand is in little jeopardy of being hauled away.
Taking Necessary Precautions
As hunters, all who share the woods are extended family, related in our common passion for the outdoors. As such, most hunters respect the equipment of others, and would not dare touch that which does not belong to them. However, sooner or later, every public land hunter encounters a thief. By taking the proper precautions, you minimize the chances of being victimized, and are better able to focus on your own pursuits afield.