Heading out into the wilderness, hoping to capture amazing footage of wildlife? Before you pack up your trail camera, make sure you know the laws in Colorado. Setting up a trail camera incorrectly could land you in hot water with hefty fines or worse.
As an avid hunter and outdoorsman, I’ve learned the hard way that trail camera regulations can be tricky. I once had a camera confiscated and was left scratching my head about what I did wrong. But with the right information, you can avoid headaches and capture incredible, legal footage on public or private lands.
The key is understanding that all live-action game cameras have restrictions in Colorado. According to the state’s parks and wildlife division, trail cams are legal for hunting and observation if you follow certain rules. For instance, you can only use them on private property like wildlife areas and trust lands if you gain permission first. The state’s Code of Regulations outlines other critical guidelines too.
While it’s not illegal to place trail cameras on public lands, adhering to the parks and wildlife regulations is crucial. Review them thoroughly before your next trip so you can set up your cameras correctly. With knowledge of the laws, your next backcountry adventure will be smooth sailing and deliver amazing results.
Now let’s dive into the regulations and best practices to legally capture wildlife with trail cameras in Colorado. Gain confidence before your next hunt by learning rules like…
Live-Action Trail Cameras Have Restrictions in Colorado
First, you need to understand that all live-action game cameras have certain restrictions in Colorado. The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Division makes it clear that trail cams are legal for hunting and observation purposes if specific guidelines are followed.
So what are these key rules? Let’s break them down so you can set up your cameras correctly.
Trail Cameras on Private Property Require Permission
If you want to set up trail cameras on any private property in Colorado, including state wildlife areas and trust lands, you must gain permission first.
This means checking with the landowner, farmer, rancher, or other entities that oversee the private property. Explain that you’d like to use trail cameras for hunting or observation. Get clear consent before entering the premises or setting up any gear.
TIP: Get permission in writing whenever possible for your own records and protection. Email or mail a request and save the response.
Live-Action Cameras Only Allowed on Certain Lands
Another critical regulation – live-action game cameras can only be utilized on private properties in Colorado.
That includes private ranches and farms, as well as state wildlife areas and trust lands as mentioned. You cannot set up live-action trail cameras on any other type of public lands.
This differs from still image cameras, which are allowed on both state and federal public lands. We’ll get into more detail later about where these can be used.
Regulations Found in the Colorado Code
Where exactly are these trail camera rules found? In the Colorado Code of Regulations.
Title #406 specifically outlines big game hunting seasons and rules. Within that section, regulation #006 states that live-action cameras are restricted to private lands only.
Browse the full Colorado Code of Regulations to find additional guidelines about trail camera usage. Being familiar with the codes will help ensure you have lawful setups.
Public Lands Also Have Trail Camera Stipulations
Now you know the regulations around using live-action trail cameras on private property in Colorado. But what about setting up cameras on public lands?
While it’s not illegal to place trail cameras on public lands, there are still important guidelines to follow.
Follow All Parks and Wildlife Regulations
Both state and federal public lands, like national forests and parks, allow trail cameras but within certain parameters. Following the stipulations from Colorado Parks and Wildlife is essential wherever you set up cameras.
Some key public lands regulations include:
- Checking local and park-specific rules before setting up cameras. For example, Rocky Mountain National Park prohibits all hunting but does allow cameras for observation.
- Using only still photograph cameras on public lands versus live-action cameras. Live-action cameras are restricted to private properties.
- Not disturbing or damaging any natural features or habitats when mounting cameras. Follow Leave No Trace principles.
- Properly securing your cameras and not litter. Unattended cameras can be considered litter if left for extended periods.
TIP: Research not only state but federal and local park rules too. These sometimes impose additional trail camera guidelines for public use.
Banned in Official Wilderness Areas
Be aware that designated wilderness areas on public lands prohibit trail cameras.
These federally-protected lands are meant to exist in their natural state without modern technology or equipment. Cameras are banned in official wilderness areas along with tools like drones.
Check boundaries or speak with rangers to know if your desired location falls under an official wilderness area. Follow rules to avoid hefty fines or having gear confiscated.
Review All Regulations Thoroughly
By this point, it should be clear there are quite a few regulations around trail camera usage in Colorado.
My top tip after learning lessons myself: thoroughly review all state, federal, and local area rules before setting up any trail cameras.
Never make assumptions or guess about what is allowed. Be sure to follow every law and guideline to the letter.
This takes diligence on your part, especially if using cameras in multiple areas around the state. But doing your research will ensure your compliance and prevent fines, penalties, or lost equipment.
Below I’ll share some additional tips to make the most of legal trail camera usage in Colorado’s awe-inspiring wilderness.
Best Practices for Legally Using Trail Cameras in Colorado
Beyond following the regulations, you can set yourself up for success with trail cameras through smart practices:
Choose locations carefully
- Scout areas ahead of time on foot to find good camera spots away from trails and other people. This will yield better wildlife shots.
- Consider the backdrop to avoid getting non-wildlife in your images. Position the camera capture to face dense woods.
- Select spots hidden from view but where animals frequently travel and perch. Near water sources and along game trails is best.
Use locks and camouflage
- Secure cameras to trees using locks or cables to prevent theft. Avoid disturbing habitats with nails or permanent mounts.
- Camouflage your cameras using bark, leaves, burlap, or other natural elements to blend into the area.
Be selective on frequency
- Resist checking cameras too frequently, like multiple times per day. This can alter animal behavior.
- Visit every 2-3 weeks to change batteries and memory cards without excessive disturbances.
Follow game laws
- Adhere to Colorado hunting seasons and limits. Cameras are for observation only unless legally hunting.
- Be sure your licensing and tags are up to date before packing up trail cams near hunting grounds.
FAQs About Trail Camera Laws in Colorado
Can I use trail cameras on public lands in Colorado?
Yes, you can use trail cameras on public lands like national forests and parks in Colorado. However, they must be still photograph cameras, not live-action. And you must follow all regulations from parks and wildlife agencies.
Do I need a permit for trail cameras on public land?
In most cases, no special permit is required to use trail cameras on public lands in Colorado. But always check local rules in case specific areas require permits. Obtain necessary permits before setting up cameras.
Can trail cameras be used in wilderness areas?
No. Designated wilderness areas prohibit the use of trail cameras and other technology. Know wilderness boundaries and avoid setting up cameras in those protected locations.
What happens if I violate trail camera laws?
Penalties for violating trail camera regulations can include warnings, fines, having your camera confiscated, or even criminal charges. Know the laws thoroughly and follow them to avoid violations.
Can I use bait or attractants near Colorado trail cameras?
No, it is illegal to use bait near trail cameras for hunting purposes in Colorado. For observation only, some attractants may be allowed but check regulations. Never litter or leave attractants behind.
Hit the Trails Confidently
The thrill of observing Colorado’s great outdoors, up close and personal, awaits. With knowledge about legal trail camera practices for both public and private lands, you can capture stunning footage without worry.
Always take time to review the state laws and area-specific rules before hitting the trails. Follow regulations diligently and use smart field techniques for positioning your cameras.
Gain confidence before your next adventure by having the inside scoop on trail camera legality. Soon you’ll be on your way to recording unbelievable wildlife moments with your new skills. Happy and legal hunting!