Game trail cameras are a fantastic tool for hunters. They also come at a pretty hefty price. If a hunter has just five stand locations, the total cost can be well over seven hundred dollars. Considering that hunters will have their cameras stolen three to five times a year, it can add up to two thousand dollars or more.
After a string of thefts, I wanted to know how it was done. One day a fellow outdoor writer told me how to “ping” a camera with a cell phone. I could hardly believe my eyes! Without the aid of lights or night vision goggles, a thief can walk the woods and find cameras with ease.
Ultimately, the thief uses the camera function of a cell phone so that it looks like they are trying to take a picture. Holding the camera in front of them, they walk down a path where they think a hunter might have a stand. When the white box turns green, the thief knows that the phone has picked up on a trail camera’s night vision function. From there, it is nothing but walking to the location and picking up the camera and whatever else may be around.
The reason that this works is that the cell phone camera technology is picking up on invisible light waves. When the trail camera sends out an infrared light, the picture finder feature picks up on it as a potential target for a photo. Therefore, in the darkest of nights, a trail camera literally shines like a new penny to a thief.
I’ve contacted various camera manufacturers and they just don’t seem to care. This is probably because many of them have been bought out by larger companies. It’s been my hope that somehow these companies would fix this flaw. After seeing these camera companies now coming out with models that puts out more infrared at longer distances; I’ve decided to force the companies’ hand in the matter. As I see it, they are now essentially helping the thieves to continue stealing money from hunters by not changing the technology.
But, what is the hunter to do?
Mainly, hunters need to quit purchasing cameras relies on manual retrieval of images and that emit a large amount of infrared light at a long distance. At triple the cost of normal trail cameras, there are models that can send images to a website so that you never have to walk into the woods. This allows the hunter real time photos of thieves. These internet photos can then be handed to law enforcement as evidence.
Another thing that hunters can do is to mark their camera well with both engraving and the use of black light nail polish. Inside of the battery case, you can inscribe something like your initials and some number that means something to you like your house number. In another location, use the nail polish to discretely mark the battery case with the same letters and numbers. This way, when you report the theft, authorities can use a black light to verify that they have the culprit.
Finally, hunters need to speak out! When consumers are empowered with knowledge; manufacturers must react with new innovations. And, ultimately, that is what all hunters really want – the best tools available to make momentous moments in the field.