Back a few years ago when game cameras started becoming more popular, manufacturers began hearing stories about getting photos of trespassers, poachers and other slimebag criminals stealing stuff.
By Alan Clemons, Managing Editor
Some of the stories were comical. Trespassers looking directly at the camera but not realizing it was there, giving the landowner a perfect view. Trespassers doing, um, personal things. Poachers walking out with a turkey or fish, or walking in with a gun and camo. People breaking into storage sheds, tearing up shooting boxes or destroying property.
Decorum prevents me from using some of the more colorful phrases uttered when describing these folks. Criminal is the legal term, of course. Folks committing these crimes often whine about not hurting anyone, didn’t do nothin’ bad, only caught a few fish or killed a turkey or deer … but the bottom line is they were trespassing, hunting or fishing without permission, and maybe theft or destruction of property. They’re criminals.
A good friend of mine called recently to ask if our son had been with me on an early-spring visit to his property. Nope, I replied. He sighed and confirmed my suspicions when he said he had photos of a trespasser. His anger was evident as he said his next move was to contact the game warden to talk with him and then the county’s sheriff department to make sure about his next legal moves in order to prosecute.
Knowing the property, this trespasser had to do a bit of walking to get where the camera snapped — very clearly — photos of him. Details were clear, including the face. It was obvious, too, that Timmy Trespasser didn’t have a clue about the game camera doing its job.
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My buddy called a few days later to give me an update.
“I asked the warden if that kind of (photo) evidence will hold up and he said absolutely,” he said. “They’ve used game camera photos for arrests and prosecutions before. It sometimes depends on the judge, of course, and an attorney may try to negotiate a deal, but usually the photos are pretty clear proof and help with the case.”
Game cameras have come a long way in the last 20 years or so. As with most things, they’ve gotten smaller and have tremendously better technical capabilities. From boxes with wires and batteries to, now, cameras about the size of your hand in camouflage and locking safety boxes (because slimebags steal the cameras!) to the Moultrie Panoramic 150 that has a quiet lens with wide-view photo capabilities, high definition, video, and even remote systems.
Unreal, isn’t it?
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My buddy said he’s looking at some of the new technology that has a “hub” that holds the camera system’s SD card that stores images or video, but is separate from the camera.
“I don’t understand the technology but it’s a wireless remote system that sends the signal to the hub site and supports multiple cameras,” he said. “If some thug comes up and sees the camera, they’re just going to take it. With this remote system, you may lose the camera but you’re probably going to get images or video of the guy taking the camera. Then you’ve got a charge of property theft, too, if you can catch and prosecute them.”
Last July while hunting Florida’s deer opener, we were blessed to be with our gracious hosts, Charlie and Laura Palmer, on their property west of Lake Okeechobee. I guess this was pretty much what most of south Florida looked like years ago with palms, palmettos, shallow ponds, panthers, bears, deer, gators, snakes and an incredible bird population of such variety it’s sort of mind-boggling.
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Charlie and Laura have remote cameras on their property that send a signal back to the main unit and then their laptop at home. She said one of their favorite things to do in the morning is get a cup of coffee and then check their laptop to see what the cameras revealed. They’ve seen all kind of critters, remotely, which to me is ultra cool.
Once this technology continues to improve, like with these Cahaba Game Cameras, I think we’ll see this happen more with Joe Lunchbucket hunters. They’ll have the ability to watch, more easily and inexpensively as the techno-guts get better, what’s happening on their land.
This still doesn’t address the problem of actually catching the bad guys, which adds another layer of frustration.
“It really does just piss me off when this happens even though I know it may result in an arrest or conviction,” my friend told me. “The legal process is there for a reason, but
people who pursue things like this have to swear out the warrant, appear in court, miss a day or more of work and all because someone doesn’t respect a landowner’s rights or property.”
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The cameras aren’t just for hunting stuff. Deer and turkeys and hunting stuff is the fun part, of course, but don’t overlook using them for security. Many of you already do, I know.
You’re placing the cameras higher up in trees, hiding them better, using stronger lock boxes or security mechanisms to keep them from being stolen, and that’s good. Some of today’s models are camouflaged but others that aren’t could use a touch-up from tape or Sharpie pen to help hide them. Steel cables and locks also may help prevent theft.
I’m hearing of more hunters and landowners putting cameras at an angle and higher up in trees where people don’t think about looking. We look at eye level, usually. Home and business security systems put cameras in the corner of a roof or on poles overlooking entrances or parking lots. Hunters and landowners need to start thinking about things like this, too, if you have problems with criminals. Toting a ladder to remove an SD card or switch batters is a minor hassle compared to losing your gear or having a poacher run rampant.
Better, more ingenious ways to help catch poachers and trespassers definitely is a good thing, because poachers aren’t hunters. They’re criminals, and should be treated as such.