There is nothing I hate worse than thieves. Scratch that. There is nothing I hate worse than hunters who are thieves. As a devout deer hunter, I can't stand the fact that we have people in our ranks who will gladly walk away with someone else's property.
My own experiences with this go deep into my deer-hunting history.
I've lost stands on private and public land, and had more than a few trail cameras disappear on me. And the thought of leaving an ATV by the roadside to walk in for a morning hunt, only to return later to find it gone, is something all of us want to avoid.
The typical response where small items are concerned is to lock everything down. This can work, but depending on how dedicated the thieves are, you may only be able to slow them down. I've seen them cut cable locks and chains, so it's not a sure thing, but it generally is a good idea to make them work a little to get your hard-earned property and now there are devices to track your stolen goods.
Stands & Cameras
When dealing with treestands, the best bet is to lock them down and pull the bottom steps or ladder section if at all possible. This won't deter a truly motivated thief, but it will cut down on the opportunistic ones. The downside to this is that you always have to remember where you left the key to your cable lock (in your hunting vehicle's glove box is a good place). You also have to remember to carry in your bottom ladder section or a couple of screw-in steps every time you hunt, which can be somewhat easy to forget after weeks of waking up two hours before first light.
Trail cameras are another hot item in the shady world of hunting thieves, and the best method I've found for preventing theft is to hang them so they aren't even noticed. This means that I carry in a couple of steps, or a single ladder section and hang my cameras 10 feet off of the ground. Once set, I remove the steps and leave.
This necessitates the use of a good, adjustable camera mount and a safety harness. It might seem like you won't need to use a harness since your feet will only be four or five feet off the ground, but you will. There are two reasons for this; the first is that a fall of five feet can scramble your ankles well enough to take you out of the walking game for a long time. The second is that if you use a harness with a lineman's belt, you'll be able to quickly set up your camera and aim it without the hassle of having to bear hug the tree with one hand.
With this strategy you'll get uniquely angled pictures of all kinds of critters. You'll also get images of people passing by, completely unaware that they are being photographed, which is the whole point.
Every year trucks, duck boats, ATVs, farm implements, snowmobiles and all kinds of big-ticket items are stolen. The deer-hunting crowd is heavy on these expensive toys, making us more susceptible to theft. There are a few ways to keep your possessions from being ripped off, and one of the coolest I've played with is the SPOT Trace from Globalstar. This handy little waterproof device, which measures 2.02" X 2.69", is easy to install on all of your high-dollar equipment. Once activated, it uses satellite technology to track its location.
In other words, when you attach the Trace to your parked ATV and turn it on, it will send you a text or email if it suddenly detects movement. After that, it tracks the location anywhere from every 2 1/2 minutes, to every hour depending on what setting you choose. You (or the police you report your stolen property to) can view its location on Google Maps, to see exactly where your four-wheeler is headed.
If you leave an ATV at deer camp, or maybe stash a duck boat somewhere, this is the cheapest insurance ($120) you are likely to find. Better than knowing your property is safe, however, is the fact that should someone try to make off with your Trace-protected property, you and the authorities can catch them dead-to-rights.
While the SPOT Trace is designed to protect larger assets, I keep looking at it thinking it might be ideal for slipping into the seat cushion of my more expensive hang-on treestands. It would certainly fit, and would function just as well to catch treestand thieves as those folks looking to make off with a dirt bike, UTV or even your truck.
I have to imagine that a story about law enforcement showing up at a thief's door (and not telling them how they located your stolen property so quickly) would be a story that would spread quickly through the hunting crowd and eventually act as a strong deterrent overall.
If you're sitting on some valuable hunting gear (aren't we all?) and need a way to keep others from getting their hands on it, there are options. It's unfortunate that they are necessary at all, but you might want to consider all of your options for protecting your hard-earned equipment.