PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona is moving to ban the use of trail cameras to take video or photos to aid hunting, with regulators saying the widespread practice runs counter to a doctrine that prey animals should have a chance to get away and that hunters shouldn't rely on their skills, not technology.
The state Game and Fish Commission unanimously approved the ban during a June 11 meeting in Payson and plans to start implementing it as early as next January. Achieving the Jan. 1 target date depends on education and training, commission Chairman Kurt Davis told the Arizona Republic.
Under the prohibition, cameras could no longer be placed at or near watering holes and other locations to help hunters by locating wildlife. The cameras are often triggered by motion and store pictures or videos to be viewed later.
The ban wouldn’t affect cameras used for non-hunting purposes, such as wildlife viewing or protecting property.
Trying to balance the use of technology while respecting wildlife is “the million-dollar responsibility of this commission,” Davis said. “That balance is the essential part of being on the commission and setting the rules that govern how we pursue wildlife.”
The new ban will “ensure that we protect the quality of the experience, that we protect the wildlife itself and that they are being pursued under Fair Chase Doctrine,” Davis said.
According to the Arizona Game and Fish Department website, the doctrine “pays respect to the traditions of hunting and angling by emphasizing the development of an individual’s skills rather than reliance on practices or technologies that overwhelm the quarry’s ability to elude detection or take."
This is not the first time that Arizona has restricted camera technology used for hunting. In 2018, the commission banned transmitter cameras, which can send live video wirelessly.
With the advancement of technology, trail cameras have become widely available. Coupled with the increase in Arizona hunting licenses since 2010, the use of cameras now creates more problems than benefits, Davis said.
The commission has seen an increase in hunter-on-hunter conflicts in recent years because of camera placement and access to limited water sources, Davis said.
The Arizona Wildlife Federation did not take a position on the camera ban, but respected the commission’s decision, said Glen Dickens, vice president of the federation.
“We support the authority of the commission but in particular their authority to deal with all issues of the ‘take’ of wildlife to include; hunting and fishing regulations, species protection and habitat management,” he said in a statement.
Davis said enforcing the ban won't be easy but that many hunters will keep an eye out for any violations.
“The number one enforcement tool is hunters themselves,” he said. “Hunters are not shy about turning in those who are violating the law and the rules.”