Tips for Avoiding Tree Stand Theft

Considering how much time, effort and machinery (chain saws, bolt cutters, ATVs) stealing someone else's hunting tree stand requires, it's amazing these people bother.

It's a common problem: You take the time to find a great stand, find a great spot, and put up a great hunting tree stand, and then someone comes along and steals it! We've talked with Glenn Wheeler, a retired law-enforcement officer who now makes a living as a fantastic outdoor photographer and writer, to get some tips on how to prevent tree stand theft and how to recover the stand and prosecute the hunting tree stand thief.

Make Your Mark on Your Hunting Tree Stand

"When you first get a stand home, make an identifying mark on it so that if it's stolen, the police or agency working the case can positively identify it as yours," Wheeler says. "Do this in an area of the stand where the thief won't look. Scratch your initials into the paint on the underside of an armrest, or use a Sharpie to write your name under or at the back of the seat cushion. Just put something on there that's unique and will identify it as yours on an area of the stand that's inconspicuous."

Place Your Hunting Tree Stand Deeper in the Woods

The placement of your hunting tree stand can also deter theft. Wheeler says the deeper into the woods you hang your stand, the less likely it is to be stolen.

"Many tree stand thefts are crimes of opportunity, not preconceived crimes, so the more remote the stand, the better," Wheeler says. "They see the stand and take it. Preventive steps of chaining it to the tree and locking it with a padlock will help. Most thieves are lazy and don't normally carry bolt cutters with them."

But some tree stand thieves do return to the area with cutters. To some, stealing a hunting tree stand may rank right up there with shooting a deer. It's a trophy.

How to Report the Theft of Your Hunting Tree Stand

So what do you do if, despite your best efforts, you head out to your hunting tree stand and it's not there? First, report the theft to the local police department and your game warden. Provide the value of the stand and the location, plus any other information you have, even if it's just that you suspect a neighbor of the crime. If evidence remains at the site, such as a trail or footprints that lead to a road or fence line, let them know that too.

"What many people don't realize is that, typically, law-enforcement agencies get a regular report from the resellers and pawnshops in the area on the items they've taken in," Wheeler says. "The agencies keep close tabs on what's being pawned, and it doesn't hurt for the hunter himself to check the local pawnshops for their stands."

If you do locate a hunting tree stand that has your identifying mark on it at a pawnshop, don't confront the pawnshop owner, Wheeler says. Go to the agency working the case with the information.

"The same goes if you see someone using a stand that you think is yours," Wheeler says. "Don't confront them. Just contact the agency immediately and go through the proper channels."

To Catch a Hunting Tree Stand Thief

Cellular game cameras have provided evidence for convictions of tree stand thieves. The only problem is that they too are highly desired items, so they must be hidden and secured. A game camera security box screwed to a tree and secured with a cable and padlock might provide photographic evidence for prosecution. Another option is to use multiple cameras.

When setting up your game cameras, think like a thief. What's the most likely route he'll take to and from your stand? Hide a trail camera along that route too. Or if your hunting area is remote, hang a camera near the gate or pull-off at an angle that will catch an image of the license plate.

Safety First

If you do recover your stolen hunting tree stand, first rejoice over your victory. Then give the treestand a very thorough inspection before use. Replace any part that shows wear or adjustment so you can be sure it's still safe.

Hopefully tree stand theft is something you'll never have to deal with. These tips should help you avoid it or help you deal with it if it does end up happening.

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