A good friend, Scott Thorpe, called and we spoke about the problems he has been encountering over the past few hunting seasons. The problem is he is not the only person with a story like his.
I start my story by saying that like most of our outdoorsman, I got my start as a youngster. My father, uncle and grandfather all tell stories about hunting and fishing and my years in the Scouts where I learned about honor. I have now been hunting for 40 years and fishing since I have been knee high to the grasshoppers. I got my initial hunter education class when I was in the Scouts, and took another class when my youngest son was 14 in hopes of inspiring his years afield.
I write this blurb because, over the last several years I have noticed a decline in honor amongst my fellow outdoorsman and others. It started about 10 years ago, as I was starting my time afield bow hunting. I and my bow-hunting mentor had spent some time in the late summer and early fall scouting the edge of a local farmer's hay field and the state land adjacent to the field. I placed my stand at an entry point and sat for a couple days at the start of archery season. I saw another hunter come strolling into the field. He looked up at me in my stand, turned and went back the way he came. After that, I was unable to get back to my stand for about two weeks -- when I went back, the stand was missing.
Jump ahead to the spring following the big ice storm. My hunting partner and I went into the same patch of woods adjacent to the hay field. We found a lot of downed trees and limbs, so we decided to work this area, creating several channeling lanes for the deer and turkeys. He and I went into the woods to sit for observation three or four afternoons, went back in and placed five stands along the edge of this field one week before opening of archery season. Opening afternoon we walked in to take a stand, each about 100 yards apart, and all five stands were gone.
My hunting partner placed a game camera at the edge of a deer trail in a different piece of woods during the summer. He went in to check it right before the season and it was gone. Jump ahead again to this past fall -- again my hunting partner and I have placed another game camera in yet another patch of woods along the edge of a deer trail. He and I had been checking and changing out the SD cards in the camera through the summer.
Come Sept. 1, it is bear season and we were baiting in the Black Water dam area in New Hampshire. When the season ends, we went back to check the game camera on the deer trail and it is gone. The only sign around the area is fresh horse tracks. Locking these items into the trees didn't seem to deter these thieves.
I am not sure what has happened to our society, but when I was growing up, my parents always told me that if it was not mine I shouldn't touch it. Have we lost sight of this concept and become a society of dishonest thieves and vandals so we cannot do the work and trust those who we are sharing the woods with?
As I was sitting looking at some of my previous game camera pictures retrieved from my stolen camera, I came across an image that raised my suspicion. I also did not mention that I found the first stand that went missing in the pasture that the farmer was using to graze his cows. It had been busted up and twisted into an unusable pile of scrap metal.
If if you are hunting private land or public land, you cannot bet your equipment is safe. Placing padlocks will help, but a person who really wants it will just go home get the bolt cutters and go back and cut the wire, taking your stand or camera.
I have also heard of a hunter who found his tree stand cut out of the tree and left on the ground. It was possibly done by an anti-hunter as a warning.
Just goes to show that leaving a tree stand is a huge gamble as is the game camera. A tree stand can cost up to $300 and game cameras about $200 each. Its a felony if the person is caught. Let's hope they are.
Bill Biswanger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.