Some people call them trail cameras. Others call them game cameras. Hunters call them indispensable.
I sometimes wonder how many cameras per square mile can be found on trees in West Virginia’s four archery-only counties, home to a sizable percentage of the state’s trophy bucks.
A few hunters have told me they’ll sometimes put out eight to 10 cameras in areas where they suspect a big-antlered whitetail might show up.
They use the images they get to identify which bucks they want to target. They also use them so they’ll know when those “shooters” wander in and out of the area.
It’s that latter use that has natural-resource agencies in some states considering whether to ban a particular type of camera, or at least prohibit its use during hunting seasons.
The type of camera in question is one that not only takes photos of animals that trip its motion sensors, but also instantly sends those images to the hunter’s cellphone.
Resource agencies in several states have banned the use of cameras that use cellular or radio signals to transmit real-time photos or videos.
Nevada has gone so far as to ban all trail-camera use on public lands, which encompass roughly 90% of the state. Essentially, it’s a general statewide ban.
Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Kansas, Montana and New Hampshire have either banned cellular cams outright or prohibit their use during hunting seasons. The growing consensus among resource-agency officials in those and other states seems to be that the use of cell cams violates hunting’s fair-chase ethic.
The Boone and Crockett Club takes the concept of fair chase quite seriously. In fact, the organization’s quarterly magazine is titled “Fair Chase.” It’s not terribly surprising, then, that the club refuses to include in its record book any animal taken with the aid of a cellular-linked camera.
Most states now have laws against using camera-equipped drones to find, track, drive or pursue game animals. Officials in those states quite rightly believe drones give users an unfair advantage at finding quarry.
It’s easy to understand why. Instead of spending a day watching a single field, a drone-equipped hunter can just send the machine up, locate a buck that might be browsing in the next field over, and then go stalk that buck.
Opponents of cell-linked cameras believe the devices, while not mobile, fall into the same category.
One example I’ve heard is that a fellow could be sitting in his living room, watching a football game on TV, when his cell phone pings to let him know that the buck he’s been watching since August just stepped out into the field near his house. The hunter could wait for the next commercial, grab his rifle, walk out into the back yard, shoot the deer and return to the game without missing a single play.
That’s an exaggeration, of course, but a thought-provoking one.
Modern technology has blessed us with oodles of gadgets that make hunting easier — four-wheelers, compound bows, in-line muzzleloaders and red-dot sights, just to name a few.
None of those innovations created such an unfair advantage that they had to be regulated. As I understand it, West Virginia’s resource officials have no current plans to regulate the use of game cameras, either — cell-connected or otherwise.
That’s probably a good thing. After all, if they did propose a cell-camera ban, they’d give half the bowhunters in Southern West Virginia heart attacks.