Updated: Nov 16
For those who use trail cameras long enough, there is an old adage “It is not if, but when your trail camera will get stolen.” It is an unfortunate truth, that there are people roaming around the woods, that have nothing better to do than to steal your camera, your time, and your hard work. Whether it be for a false sense of ownership of a piece of public property, or a desire to just to take someone's equipment for themselves, I can not speculate, but the responsibility to protect your investment falls squarely on your shoulders.
To avoid having your trail camera stolen, it is important to decide if you want to disguise it, or you want to lock it. It is nearly impossible to do both with any sort of regularity, because the tactics that you would generally use would contradict one another.
Choosing to lock your equipment, makes it extremely difficult to hide lock boxes and horizontal cable straps while hiding your camera means you are leaving yourself vulnerable in the case someone does find your camera.
I would venture to say that most trail camera thieves are not out looking to steal cameras, but rather are opportunistic when they stumble across one, which makes your choice to either lock or hide your cameras even more important.
Locking your Trail Camera
When deciding to lock your trail cameras, you are trusting your equipment with manufactured items that are designed to keep your camera from being stolen. This tactic works well in most cases, but regardless of how well you lock your cameras, it is not impossible for someone to cut locks, break into boxes, or steal your SD cards.
Almost all manufacturers have created a lock box for their cameras that are specific to their cameras. The size, the placement of the holes for the lens, and motion detectors, and the location of access are all particular to their designed cameras. For that reason I can not recommend any one box over another. What I will say is that these boxes are primarily designed to protect the camera from bears. As I have shared numerous times, first hand I have seen what a curious bear can do to an unprotected trail camera, and it is not pretty.
For this circumstance lock boxes are great. For theft, there is a lot to be desired. Almost all lock boxes are locked by nothing other than a padlock. For the average person just passing by, this is probably enough to deter them from tampering with it, but for those thieves who have any perseverance, a simple trip back to the truck for some bolt cutters is a simple remedy for a free camera.
If you decide that locking your camera is your best option, using manufactured lock boxes should be part of your locking system if for nothing more than a hindrance to those potential thieves who are simply just passing by, but should not be your only line of defense for protecting your trail camera.
Locking Cable or Steel Strap
Locking cables are are simply a coated braided wire that cinches through the trail camera and onto the tree. Master Lock Python is the most effective way to secure your camera, due to their patented key locking cable that eliminates the use of padlocks. The key to using these effectively is to make the cable as tight to the tree as possible making it impossible for anyone with a pair of bold cutters to be able to cut all away around the 5/16” cable.
I also like using the [steel strap product from] Guardian Trail camera lock [or the Maxx Trail Camera Lock by Guardian]in conjunction with a manufactured lock box. This essentially works similar to the Python locks, but is made of a banding metal that is cinch tightened with a special size Allen wrench. This locking system makes it easier to have a more snug to fit to the tree as it is mechanically tightened rather than cinched by hand. It works great with the lock boxes because in order to cut through the tightened metal, a thief would also need a pair of tin snips. Since the Guardian is not used as often as the python locks, it is simply a new obstacle someone trying to steal your camera would need to think through.
NOTE: Excerpted. Read full post here: https://www.trailcamjunkie.com/keep-your-trail-camera-from-being-stolen/