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 with Rob Miskosky

An End to Trail Cameras?

Technical advancements in hunting and fishing gear, along with their potential to provide an unfair advantage to hunters or anglers has been discussed within these pages several times over the years. It’s a serious question that needs to be asked whenever a new technically advanced product comes on the market. In some cases, such as with aerial drones, governments have been quick to act, realizing that an unfair advantage could be easily had and because of this, they have been banned for use while hunting. Another example is the use of scented fishing lures and/or lighted lures. Their use has raised questions regarding the advantages they provide and as such, many jurisdictions have rules regarding their use too.

But what about trail cameras, do they provide an unfair advantage?

There are concerns that the cameras don’t give animals a “fair chance” and that they break the Boone and Crockett Club’s “Fair Chase” rule. “Fair Chase, as defined by the Boone and Crockett Club, is the ethical, sportsmanlike, and lawful pursuit and taking of any free-ranging wild game animal in a manner that does not give the hunter an improper or unfair advantage over the game animals.”

With the advent of trail cameras that can send images via cell phone coverage the moment an image is captured, the anti-camera crowd may have a good argument about their being fair.

However, many hunters will tell you that they have never harvested an animal that they got a picture of on their trail cameras, and I would be one of them. But it would be naive to suggest that this holds true in all instances, as many animals have been harvested after their photo has been taken.

At the very least, a trail camera will give you a good idea of what animals are in your hunting vicinity; well, at the time the photo was taken anyway.

Currently, there are a few jurisdictions that don’t allow the use of trail cameras during hunting seasons and others where their use is controlled or under discussion, such as British Columbia, where just last year it became illegal to use a wireless camera for the purposes of hunting from August 1 to December 10 of each year. From what I can discern, this means cameras that can transmit an image to your phone or computer, not your standard trail camera. It’s one thing to know there is an animal in your area, it’s entirely different to know exactly where at a given moment.

It is also illegal to use trail cameras in a national park in Canada. Anyone wanting to place a camera in a national park must apply for a research permit or face fines as high as $25,000.

And now, at least one state is going even further than BC and other states have. Arizona has outright banned the use of any type of trail camera beginning January 1, 2022. The Arizona Game and Fish Commission says “the use of trail cameras has become an increasing source of conflict between and amongst hunters, including increased traffic by hunters checking cameras for a current hunt and/or for their future hunts.” They also contend “frequent visits to set and/or check trail cameras cause disturbances to wildlife and habitat, which may be exacerbated during extended dry periods of the year and drought conditions.” They also say, “Livestock operators are concerned that frequent visits to set and/or check trail cameras are negatively affecting livestock operations.” Other concerns include “trail cameras are an invasion of privacy when they photograph other people in the field without permission, as well as the potential monetization of game cameras to include services to place, monitor, check and sell camera images, and if those services increase, the numbers of cameras and their use for take could dramatically increase.”

According to a final report, “The Arizona Game and Fish Commission approved the final rulemaking amending rules within Articles 1, 2 and 3 to prohibit the use of trail cameras 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.”

Arizona hunters are now outraged, clearly upset by this ruling, and for good reason. The Arizona Game and Fish Commission stated it received 2,742 letters during the one-month public commenting period. Of those, it says that 833 were in favour of the change, while the remainder was opposed. Yet, they still pushed through the ban; unless, of course, you aren’t a hunter, then trail camera use is perfectly fine. Which to me clearly signifies that much like BC did when the grizzly hunt was banned, Arizona acted on emotion, a direction that this far-to-sensitive world we live in is headed far too often.

Wireless trail cameras that can transmit an image to your phone or computer, okay, I get it. But a standard trail camera, capable only of taking a video or picture, are we really headed in that direction?

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