Preventing theft of stands and cams

by Jeff Helsdon | June 23, 2015
preventing theft - Tree stand theft prevention

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.

Theft prevention tips
• Ensure you are on the property you have permission for.
• Put your name on anything left unattended, or use your licence plate.
• Download photos from trail cameras as often as possible to get a good handle if other people are in the area. This also helps police narrow down theft dates.
• Camouflage your trail camera so it is harder to find.
• Use a climbing stand so nothing is left behind.

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.

preventing theft - theft secondary

“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.

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  1. Peter Wood - Hunt Talk wrote: After two locked tree stands (on private property) disappeared to theft and one Spypoint Cam also locked on crown land was stolen I'm always particular where I hunt or place trail cams. Good advice from Jeff to inform police if stolen. I always use a quality lock and remove last few strap on tree steps as you said. I also switched to climber stands on crown land so its never left long, unless of course I hunt an evening followed by a morning hunt the next day. I still lock it just in case weather changes and i don't hunt the next day. But remember to take a flashlight and the key! All of my tree stands have my name engraved and phone number into the frame. Take a picture of the location and GPS it. It would be helpful if you can show police what's missing. Always obtain written permission from landowner and indicate where stands are located if other hunters use the same property. In fact find out who they are so you can keep an eye on each others stands and cams and maybe coordinate hunting days. Trail cams are expensive if using quality one say over $400 I prefer to used a locked ($25) security cable and a ($40) box to deter bears and trespassing thieves. You can also mount them higher by bringing a section of climbing stick to get up past eye level. Most of my Spypoint trail cams send a photo to my cell if moved so smile. It can be a huge investment for quality hunting gear but worth it over many seasons. As this is about tree stand security I can only add always use a climbing safety system vest ($100) and proper safety rope (about $50) every time you head out to the stand. I have used them for over a decade but still hear of hunters falling. Don't be one of them, good luck and hunt safe!