A sense of bewilderment struck me as I searched for my tree stand in the darkness and couldn’t find it. The stand wasn’t marked, but it was only a few yards from a trail and I couldn’t locate it.
Not sure what else to do, I sat down with my back to a tree and waited for daylight.
It was on private property I had permission to hunt. After daylight and a thorough search, I discovered both my trail camera and tree stand were gone. I talked to the landowner and a neighbour to ensure they hadn’t taken the down, believing I was over the property line.
What I didn’t do was report the theft to the police. I learned later that was a mistake many hunters make.
Report your theft
Const. Chris Doupe, a media relations officer with Lambton OPP in Southwestern Ontario and a hunter, said there aren’t a lot of reports of stolen tree stands or trail cameras. But as a hunter, he is aware it occurs fairly often.
“Unfortunately, not too many people report it,” he said. “A lot of the victims feel it won’t be recovered so there is no incentive to report it.” Doupe said hunters also might not want to chance upsetting the landowner.
“My argument is what if last night an officer pulled over a truck with a stand in the back and noticed a trail camera on the seat (of the truck).”
A case in Elgin County proved this could occur. Following a rash of thefts of hunting equipment that occurred over three years on private property – including three trail cameras, a ground blind and tree stand – the victim finally reported it to police.
“We recovered nine tree stands, some ladder stands and other hunting equipment, but none of that property was his.”
“We recovered nine tree stands, some ladder stands and other hunting equipment, but none of that property was his,” said Const. Troy Carlson of Elgin OPP.
Police made it known at local outdoors events that they had found this property and some of it was returned to the rightful owner.
Prevention is key
Since the theft of my gear, I’ve looked at devices to keep thieves at bay. Locking cables is an option that will work on both tree stands and trail cameras.
Ryan Knigge, salesperson at Big Game Treestands, says, “Cable locks keep the honest honest.” Still, while it is possible to cut the cable, (most hunters don’t walk around with bolt cutters) it should discourage some potential thieves.
Knigge also suggested removing the last couple of steps, or climbing stick, closest to the ground. “Then they’re above the human line of sight. The other thing is if you remove a couple steps, anyone wanting to steal it will have a lot harder time getting up the tree.”
Another option is ‘Tree Stand Buddy’, a quick-attach system with a bracket on the stand and receiver on the tree, that allows the hunter to remove the stand daily and leave only the receiver behind.
Most trail camera manufacturers make protective boxes for their cameras. Bolting these on the tree is the ultimate in protection, but unless the hunter is the property owner, that might not be possible. Using a cable lock and lock box combined is another possibility. Some trail cameras have eyelets on the back to allow a cable to be threaded through.
Although reporting a tree stand or trail camera that has been stolen is a good practice to follow, reality is the chances of having it returned are slim. By following some of the simple steps outlined above, the chance of a theft can be minimized.