The hunting community is torn on the new trail camera ban in Arizona. Some hunters feel that this will make for better fair chase practices, while others are concerned about public safety.
What the Trail Camera Ban Means for Hunters in Arizona
The Arizona Game and Fish Commission banned trail cameras on June 11th 2021, citing safety concerns. The devices may be used for scouting game animals, but cannot be placed within 600 feet of a highway or road. Many hunters are concerned that they will not be able to effectively scout game locations before hunting season without this tool.
Others feel that the new regulations will help preserve fair chase practices by eliminating temptation for hunters to use camera traps to lure animals into unsafe areas.
“We’re about giving people the opportunity to hunt with the most natural weapon possible—your eyes,” said Ben Altenbaumer, commissioner of the Arizona State Parks board. “I think it’s an unfortunate policy decision because if you’re going to use cameras, then you’ve got to scout for them.”
Another concern is that it will be difficult for hunters without access to a private land to find suitable locations. In Arizona especially, public land often does not provide good hunting opportunities. Most of the state’s population centers and farms are in the eastern portion of the state, leaving large swaths of western Arizona with little human activity and therefore few game animals.
Because the new regulation is in effect immediately, hunters may have difficulty finding alternative areas where they can effectively hunt in time for this fall’s season.
“If you want [deer] numbers high, let people go out and get them,” said Paul Chappell of Trophy Game Guides. “People just need to be responsible. If you’re not, then it should be against the law.”
The rules represent a sharp change in policy for Game and Fish officials who had pushed to expand hunting opportunities to include new tools like drones and remote-controlled camera traps over the last few years. The commission voted 5-0 on Monday to approve the ban with little or no public discussion.
“We want to make sure that all hunters…have an equal opportunity,” Altenbaumer said before casting his vote. “I think our policies are doing that, but this is one area I see us falling short.”
Game and Fish spokesman Mark Hart said he was unaware of any particular incident involving trail cameras that prompted the rule change, although there have been several non-fatal accidents involving hunters being struck by vehicles within the last few years in Arizona.
“We want people to be aware of their surroundings,” Hart said. “Hunters should not use trail cameras more than is necessary.”
While most hunters agree that safety concerns are an issue, some feel that the commission went too far with its ban. Joe O’Brien from Flagstaff was one such hunter who spoke at a public hearing about the new regulations on Aug. 18th.
“Unfortunately what I’m seeing here today is a solution looking for a problem,” he said before the five-member commission voted unanimously to approve the rule change anyway. “I don’t think we have enough evidence to support this.”
Until then, hunters must find alternative ways to scout game locations or hope that their hunting license is enough to get them through this season.
Can you use trail cameras in Arizona?
No. On June 11th 2021, the Arizona Game and Fish Commission voted to ban all use of trail cameras for hunting purposes, citing safety concerns and a need to preserve fair chase practices.
The devices may still be used for scouting game animals at any time so long as they are not within 600 feet of a highway or road. It is up to each individual county sheriff’s office whether to enforce the regulation at the local level.
“I think our policies are doing that, but this is one area I see us falling short,” said Ben Altenbaumer before voting in favor of the ban.
Laws and regulations governing the use of trail cameras in Arizona vary
from county to county. Before June 2021, Game and Fish had been pushing for greater flexibility in the use of trail cameras as a tool for hunters, but now they have banned their use completely.
Trail camera users who hunt on private land will not be affected by the new regulation unless they plan to hunt on public lands outside of hunting seasons.
What does this mean for hunters?
Hunters and outdoor enthusiasts feel that the ban is an overreach and that it limits their opportunity to scout game locations without trespassing on private property.
Additionally, Arizona’s vast stretches of uninhabited desert means that many hunters only have access to small pieces of land specifically designated for hunting purposes. This can make it difficult or impossible to find good hunting grounds without the use of trail cameras.
How to use trail cameras in Arizona?
On June 11th 2021, the commission voted to ban all trail camera use for hunting purposes. They may still be used by individual counties’ sheriff’s offices at their discretion for scouting purposes outside of hunting seasons as long as they are not within 600 feet of a public highway or other area where it could pose a safety hazard. The ban does not affect private land unless the hunter plans to hunt on public lands.
Check with your local sheriff’s office to see if they plan to enforce the new regulation and if so, what kind of penalties might be involved in violating the rule. If you have been charged under this law, talk to an attorney right away- there may have been some kind of error made or your rights could have been violated during the course of the investigation.
The hunting community is split on this issue- some believe that this will preserve fair chase practices while others are concerned about public safety and other factors which should be considered before putting safety at risk for the sake of convenience.
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