Question: This summer I finally broke down and purchased a trail camera. We started having fun with it right away and were always excited to see what new pictures were on it.
A bear removed it from the tree not long after we got it and did a little damage. I got a metal box for it, hoping that would help.
However, it did not seem to help against two-legged creatures that started roaming the woods as soon as archery season opened. It was recently “removed” by one of these creatures.
You have discussed hunter and camper ethics before, but I have not seen anything when it comes to trail cameras.
I am 60 years old and have lived and hunted here all my life. It is disappointing to see the kind of changes that have taken place with the increase of people in the woods and their lack of respect for other people’s property.
I would like to see my camera again but do not hold out much hope. It was nice to see the article the other day about a camera that was found and returned.
— BRUCE WATSON, via email
Answer: Trail, or wildlife, cameras are vulnerable to theft in the woods and your story is very disappointing.
It’s too bad we have two-legged creatures that don’t respect the property of other folks. There isn’t much to be said about the ethics of the woods except leave other folks’ property alone. That goes for a lot of things, even equipment left at campsites.
Anyway, I’ve got a fairly inexpensive trail camera but it has its own plastic, protective case with a loop hole where you can insert a cable for a lock.
I can lock it around a tree and it will discourage the casual thief without cable cutters or a hacksaw. It’s also a plastic box that can be broken easily.
Moultrie and other makers of trail cams have camera security boxes available from $30 to $50.
Place the camera in the box and lock it to a tree or pole and you have a little more security. Moultrie, the staff at Cabela’s and other outdoors outlets offered some tips on protecting trail cameras:
• If you can get permission to put the camera on private land, you’ll have less human traffic and less of a possibility for theft.
• On public lands, don’t put the camera on a high-use hiking or hunting trail. Get off the beaten track. Find a high-use game trail that isn’t used by other hunters or hikers.
• Hide your camera as best as possible. You might put it in brush or cover it with vegetation, but always make sure to leave the lens opening clear and away from moving branches. The wind can sway the branches and that will set off your camera. I once had 50 photos of moving branches.
• You can put your camera higher up in a tree pointed down at the trail. It would make it harder for thieves to spot it.
• You might buy an infrared scouting camera that doesn’t have a visible white flash to alert someone where the camera is located.
• Some camera manufacturers suggest putting out a broken or less expensive trail camera as a decoy and having the more expensive camera hidden nearby.
• Now about critters. Scent will draw an animal to your camera and it could mean trouble. A friend’s camera was stomped by a cow elk.
To protect your camera from bears or other animals, wipe it down to eliminate any scent that might draw the animal to the camera.
Moultrie says that many hunters make the mistake of setting out bait and then adjusting their camera. This leaves bait scent on the camera, making it an appetizer for a bear or raccoon.
• With some of the more expensive cameras going for $500, you might ask your insurance agent about adding your game cameras to your home policy.
GPS VS. MAPS
Q: We just took an 85-mile horse packing trip into Chamberlain Basin in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area.
I took along a map and a new Garmin 550T. I thought the Garmin would be wonderful for this trip but found out it is no substitute for a map.
If you want to know what is within 200 feet of you, the GPS is great. But to look ahead five miles, it’s worthless.
I figured based on the map that the trip would be about 50 miles, but the GPS mapped it at 85 miles by the time we got back with many switchbacks that you cannot see on the map.
A combination of both is great for the backcountry but don’t just rely on the GPS or you will be disappointed.
— STEVE RYALS, via email
A: Very true. GPS is no substitute for a good map and compass.
When my wife and I are exploring the backcountry or remote high desert, we carry the GPS, Benchmark Maps Idaho Road and Recreation Atlas or the DeLorme Idaho Atlas & Gazetteer (your choice), and topographical maps from my National Geographic computer topographical programs for Idaho and Oregon.
What I do is start charting my course on the computer with the topo map program before the trip. It’s a fun way to plan and anticipate the trip.
I can draw routes and get some pretty accurate mileages and elevations on the computer before I even hit the trail. I get a good feeling for the lay of the land on the computer. When I’m ready, I print out the topo maps that I will need for the trip. I also program waypoints from the computer topo map program on my GPS, which really helps when you have to turn off on a dirt road out in the middle of nowhere.
On our way while driving, my wife is an excellent navigator with the Idaho Road & Recreation Atlas or a national forest map.
Once on the ground or at the trailhead, we take the topo maps and the GPS and head out. We always have a compass in the emergency kit.
Usually there is no second guessing with this preparation.
Good riding and hiking.
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