Wild Game Commission Votes Unanimously to Ban Trail Cameras

For most states, the use of trail cameras is not controversial, but in some western states such as Arizona, it has become a hot button issue. back in 2018, the game commission outlawed the use of “live-action” game cameras, but now they have just voted on a ban of all trail cameras.

According to Go Hunt, on December 4th the Arizona game commission met for their annual commission meeting. On the docket was a controversial trail camera plan for members to vote on.

The plan listed two options.

Option 1 is as follows:

Ban the use of all trail cameras

R12-4-301: Repeal definition of “live-action trail camera.”

R12-4-301: Add definition: “Trail camera” means an unmanned device used to capture images, video, or location data of wildlife.

R12-4-303: A person shall not use a trail camera, or images from a trail camera, for the purpose of taking or aiding in the take of wildlife, or locating wildlife for the purpose of taking or aiding in the take of wildlife.

Option 2 is as follows:

Establish a trail camera season

R12-4-301: Add definition: “Trail camera” means an unmanned device used to capture images, video, or location data of wildlife.

R12-4-303: A person shall not use a trail camera, or images from a trail camera, for the purpose of taking or aiding in the take of wildlife, or locating wildlife for the purpose of taking or aiding in the take of wildlife from July 1 through January 31 annually.

The commission voted unanimously 5-0 to go with option 1, an outright ban on the use of trail cameras for taking wild game. As far as we can tell this would be the strictest ban on the use of cameras for hunting in North America.

A change.org petition has already been formed to overturn the vote. The petitioners cite the following for justification on using trail cameras.

1.) Trail cameras are the marketing department of hunting, the outdoors, and conservation. Many new hunters are born off of the ability to see animals they may not have the time, knowledge of location(where to start), or ability to see. We get to experience and enjoy natural animal behavior in their home environment, driving our passion for the land.

2.) Men, women & children enjoy physical activity in the outdoors by placing trail cameras in strategic locations to capture these amazing events. This drives physical well being and health for all involved.

3.) Gas, Food, Lodging (out of state hunters), vehicle maintenance, etc is garnered by local businesses due to in-state and out of state hunters spending their time and money to put boots on the ground and understand their pursuit.

4.) The use of trail camera’s IN NO WAY guarantee success during a hunt and does not have any direct correlation to “quality or trophy” related success. If anything, we often hold out for something we will most likely never see again. Trail cameras do not change the fair chase ethos that we as sportsmen support. This statement is supported by organizations like The Pope and Young Club. “The Pope and Young Club, historically, has not viewed the use of trail cameras as a violation of the Rules of Fair Chase.”

5.) Trail Cameras IN NO WAY change the habits or patterns of animals. The hunting community has years of photos to prove this. These cameras are nonintrusive, passive devices that take nothing more than a picture or short video clip. These cameras do not affect the hunting experience of others or their success. Trail cameras are not just being used by hunters. There are no restrictions on camping, target shooting, or other public land activities during hunting seasons. Trail cameras should not be any different.

6.) Arizona Game and Fish Department solely owe the gratitude for the discovery of jaguars in Arizona to Trail Cameras. If it were not for these unobtrusive cameras placed in the southern mountains of Arizona, the discovery and information on these elusive beautiful creatures would not have been captured and turned in for research purposes to the Game & Fish Department. On this specific event alone, the current commission sends a message of ignorance and ungratefulness to the utilization of these amazing tools, with no regard for our help and commitment to them in the past on information collection and provision we hunters have provided to biologists within the department.

7.) If our game and fish department wanted to be proactive and operate on a positive note, I propose they research and explore the actions needed to add trail cameras to the Pittman Robertson Act of 1937. This would vastly generate funds for all wildlife departments across the states, wherever trail cameras are sold locally.

Those that support the ban claim that trail cameras give the hunter an unfair advantage over game and they are not in the spirit of fair chase.

The Pope and Young Club and the Boone and Crocket Club have already weighed in on the issue stating that the use of cellular (Live-Action) trail cameras may be in violation of their definition of Fair Chase and their use may keep entries out of their record books. However, they do not view non-cellular cameras as a violation of their fair chase standards.

Nevada issued a similar ban to trail cameras during hunting season and their reasoning is very similar to Arizona’s. In Nevada’s press release they lay out the following reasons.

Proponents of the regulation raised several significant issues of concern including the growing commercialization of animal location data. New internet businesses have begun buying and selling GPS location data of animals captured on trail cameras. Also, saturating all or most available water sources with trail cameras in a hunt unit not only disrupts the animal’s ability to obtain water as camera owners come and go from waters that have as many as 25 or more cameras, but also creates hunter congestion and hunter competition issues. The accessibility to our public lands combined with our wildlife’s dependence on our extremely limited water sources makes for some real challenges for both wildlife and outdoor enthusiasts. Proponents of the regulation were quick to point out that whether enhanced, protected, or human-created water sources (guzzlers), the waters’ primary purpose is to assist in herd health and herd growth, not for the placement of a technological device at an animal concentration site that potentially makes it easier to kill trophy animals.

According to Go Hunt this change is not set in stone and there is still time to voice your opinion to the game commission.