Out of Harm's way.
Six weeks later, upon my arrival in North Dakota to hunt, the first thing I did was check those cameras. The photos on the first unit proved the location wasn't as good as I'd expected. The second camera had snapped 1200 photos, some of which got me excited. The third? It was gone. Just gone.
Relative to the information they provide, scouting cameras aren't all that expensive. Even though the loss of one hurts, it can be replaced. But in this case, what really made me sick was the loss of six weeks of information about which deer were using that path through the shelterbelt leading to a food plot of standing corn. I'd now have to waste part of my hunt finding out.
Public land can be tough. In some areas, encounters with other hunters are common. So getting some photos of the deer using a property can be a huge advantage--and scouting cameras are the best way I know to gather that information.
Since that incident in North Dakota, I've become a lot more diligent about protecting my cameras. Here are three ways to protect them from unscrupulous people who want to make off with your cameras and/or the golden information those SD cards contain:
1 LOCK IT UP
Most camera companies now make lock boxes for safeguarding their products. This was at first a response to the fact black bears like to chew on scouting cameras, but it was found to work equally well in discouraging human thieves. You simply bolt the box to a tree, and then the camera is locked securely inside.
The main disadvantage of this strategy is the extra weight of carrying the steel boxes with you, along with the extra tools needed to fasten them to trees. I have a separate backpack I use when putting out scouting cameras. In addition to cameras, extra SD cards and brush nippers, it contains the boxes, lag bolts, padlocks and a cordless screwdriver with a socket.
I use the screwdriver to fasten the box to the tree with lag screws, insert the camera and then lock it up. It's really not that much extra work, and it makes it difficult for any would-be thief to make off with your camera unless the creep returns with a saw and cuts down the tree. (Note: Putting a screw or other metal into a tree on public land isn't legal in all areas. Be sure you know the law.)
2 PLACE IT OUT OF REACH
One of the most effective ways to thwart thieves is to put your camera where they can't reach it. I like to hang mine about 10 feet off the ground and angle them downward. Some people might shinny 10 feet up a tree to steal a camera, but most won't. And having the camera hanging above the usual line of sight greatly reduces the chances of it even being noticed.
Several companies make camera mounts that work for this type of setup. Two I've used are the Covert Tree-60 and the Stic-N-Pic.
I carry a climbing stick to wherever I want to put the camera. Just one. I strap the climbing stick to the tree, climb up (wearing my safety harness, of course) and mount the camera at least 10 feet off the ground. When done, I take the stick with me. It's not a foolproof way to avoid theft, but it works. Just remember to take the stick, or some other climbing apparatus and your safety harness, when you check the camera.
Placing cameras high off the ground offers another advantage: Deer don't seem to notice the flash. I've seen some become alarmed by a white flash at eye level, but I've never seen a deer react negatively to a flash 10 feet up.
3 GET CREATIVE IN HIDING
One easy way to cut camera losses is to simply use those that are harder to see--and then hide them well.
There are three primary kinds of flashes for night photos: white flash, infrared and black flash. Black flash is invisible to the eye. White flash and infrared can be seen by anyone who happens to be looking the right direction when the camera is triggered in the darkness. Presumably, deer have the same ability to see some of these flashes.
Overall, larger cameras are easier to spot than smaller ones. Small black-flash cameras are especially difficult to detect. But even when using them, I employ a small bungee cord to secure a leafy branch over the camera, leaving just enough opening for the sensor, lens and flash to work normally. Camouflaged in this way, cameras are hard to see.
I recently saw an online photo of a camera whose owner had camouflaged with plastic leaves glued them to the front. This was surprisingly effective in breaking up the outline of the camera. I plan to try this trick myself.
Another element of camouflage is the strap used to hang a camera. Wide, black straps can be a dead giveaway of a camera setup. Be sure you aren't doing anything to tip off a potential thief to your otherwise hidden property.
Concern over thelft is warranted. But if you take these steps, you'll minimize and maybe even eliminate your losses of gear and hunting information.
BY BERNIE BARRINGER