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Low-cost ruses can deter thefts at hunting clubs.

Mike Bolton's outdoors column: [email protected]
Sunday, December 11, 2005

When I joined my first hunting club more than 25 years ago, I thought I'd make a good impression and purchase a new television set to replace the decrepit one on which the club had watched Saturday football games for years. Two weeks later, someone broke into the club and took the television along with numerous tree stands, hunting clothes, a microwave and anything else of value that was not nailed down.

If you are a member of a hunting club, you know that break-ins at hunting clubs are common. Many clubs are easy targets by nature. Almost all are located in rural areas well off the beaten path where someone might notice something suspicious. They are typically vacant during the week and full of things that are easy to sell or pawn.

I've visited dozens of clubs throughout the years and witnessed a variety of clubs that have taken precautions to prevent break-ins. I've seen nicer clubs with elaborate surveillance systems and clubs with game trail cameras mounted in the yard (they got some good pictures of the burglars, but nobody knew who they were).

But the best solutions I've seen are relatively simple and cheap.

One of my favorites was the system that I saw at a hunting camp near Auburn a few years back. It's not only effective for keeping out burglars, it has thwarted poachers, the club's owner said.

I was surprised on my first visit there to find the road going to the camp lined with official-looking U.S. government signs. The signs explained that the property had been declared a federal wildlife research facility and was under 24-hour video surveillance and patrolled by federal marshals.

Trespassing was a federal crime and the minimum fine for trespassing on the first offense was $15,000, the sign read. When I asked the owner about it being a federal wildlife research facility, he just laughed at my naivete. There was not an ounce of truth to any of the signs, but the break-ins and poaching on his property had stopped.

I saw another, similar ruse in West Alabama. The hunting camp had signs on all sides of the house, warning club members to disconnect the booby traps before unlocking any door or opening any window.

Once again, the owner laughed. There were no booby traps. The break-ins had stopped immediately after the signs went up, however.

My favorite deterrent of all time is located at a hunting camp near Fort Deposit. This camp was broken into so many times that the owners were forced to take everything with them every time they left. During one break-in, burglars stole even the blankets and pillows.

Where these people got a human skull I don't know. It was placed on the fireplace mantel with an orange light illuminating it and the rest of the old house was left dark. The owner said a few break-ins occurred after the skull was placed on the mantel, but nothing was taken. He said the break-ins have now stopped completely.
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