Protecting your camp during the off-season

“It was finally the weekend. Spring turkey season had arrived and all Neal Windley of Norfolk, Va., wanted to do was get to his farm, change into his camouflage and get into the woods. What he found when he arrived not only put a halt to his weekend of hunting, it also cost him thousands of dollars in repair and prevention.
“Windley’s hunting camp was demolished. Windows were broken, a television and other items were missing and the once clean and comfortable house had been turned into a disaster area. Sadly, that was not the first time this had happened. Vandals had trashed his camp two other times. Sweeping up glass and filling out police reports were not what he had in mind when he and a good friend originally bought the land in the early 1990s.”
The above report was part of a news release I received from the National Wild Turkey Federation. The report from the NWTF gives sobering evidence that all too often, hunters head for camp after a long hiatus to find just what Neal Windley found.
The first thing I did after reading the NWTF press release was call a fellow club member to see if he’s checked on our camp lately. He no doubt heard my sigh of relief when he reported he was there this past weekend, and everything was as we had left it.
The second thing I did was call the Lincoln Parish Sheriff’s office to talk with Steve Rogers who was investigator at the time to see if there have been incidences of hunting camp vandalism and/or theft recently.
“It happens here from time to time. It seems that things will be quiet and then we’ll get three or four reports in a week. It’s like a rash; it spreads when it breaks out,” said Rogers.

Philip Seacrist is proud of this nice buck he downed while keeping an eye on his hunting camp during the off season.

There are several things hunting camp owners can do during the off-season to keep criminals from trashing or stealing from your hunting camp, according to Rogers.
“First, if your camp has a locked gate, be sure to keep the gate locked. This won’t necessarily prevent theft but it makes it harder for thieves to cart off large items.
“Another important thing is don’t leave valuable items, such as 4-wheelers, guns, cookers, lanterns, etc. at the camp. Take them home for the off-season.
“I’d also suggest that you or somebody in your hunting club check on your camp regularly. Also, you might get a neighbor who lives near the camp and who you trust to keep an eye out for what may be going on when you’re not there. One of the problems we have,” Rogers noted, “is that we’ll get a report in the fall when hunters arrive at the camp and it may have been broken into in late spring. “Make an inventory of everything of value in your camp, just like you should be doing in your home. Write down serial numbers, description of each item, and where practical, put some identifying mark on the item in a concealed area so thieves won’t be as likely to find and remove it. I’d also suggest taking photos of valuable items to aid in identifying them should they be stolen,” said Rogers.
Some other suggestions offered by the NWTF is to make the local authorities aware that the camp will be unoccupied for a designated period of time. Another suggestion is to leave keys to your property’s gates with someone in authority to help them watch your place while you are away. Make sure you have insurance and make sure it includes boats, ATVs or any item that may not be covered under a standard homeowner’s or renter’s policy.

Put identifying marks or recognizable numbers on tree stands and blinds. This can help law enforcement agents identify these items in the field if they are stolen. Follow these suggestions and you stand a better chance of finding your hunting camp this fall just as you left it…..except of course for dirt dobber nests and a mouse or two.

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