Arizona trail camera ban
Photo credit: Lisa Carter

Arizona Considers Banning Trail Cameras for Hunting, Cites ‘Fair Chase’ Issues

A new regulation is up for comment in Arizona. It looks to ban the use of trail cameras for the ‘take of wildlife.’ Hunters, take note.

It’s not uncommon to stumble across a trail camera on public lands in the West. But if Arizona’s game commission gets its way, people will likely see far less of them in places frequented by Arizona hunters, like the Tonto National Forest.

The proposed regulation takes aim at a surging number of trail cameras in sensitive game habitat. And some of the regulation is particularly aimed at stopping the potential sale of photographs and data from strategically placed cameras, which could lead to an even greater issue with the technology.

Legal Reaction to Public Issues Regarding Use of Trail Cameras

As cameras have gained popularity, tensions have risen, and many public land users, law enforcement, ranchers, and hunters bring a multitude of complaints to Arizona Fish and Game.

The commission’s report states the public’s concerns as the following:

  • Concerns over the use of trail cameras as it relates to Fair Chase. Commission Policy on Fair Chase includes: “…new or evolving technologies and practices that provide hunters or anglers with an improper or unfair advantage in the pursuit and taking of wildlife, or may create a public perception of an improper or unfair advantage …” This applies to areas where water is primarily point source water and game cannot escape detection.
  • Concerns that the use of trail cameras has become an increasing source of conflict between and amongst hunters, including the sense of ownership over a water source and hunting area.
  • Concerns that frequent visits to set/check trail cameras are creating a significant disturbance to wildlife during extended dry periods of the year.
  • Concerns among some livestock operators that frequent visits to set/check trail cameras are negatively affecting livestock operations.
  • Concerns over the potential biological effects of setting/checking trail cameras on point source waters, especially during the ongoing drought.
  • Concerns stemming from photos being taken of other people in the field by trail cameras.
  •  Complaints about the high numbers of trail cameras on the landscape and water sources, and concerns over the high number of trail cameras that may be on the landscape in the future as the population in Arizona continues to grow rapidly, technology continues to improve, prices go down, and availability increases.
  • Complaints about damage to and theft of trail cameras.

You can find the full document regarding potential regulations here.

A public comment period will take place from Jan. 1, 2021, to Feb. 1, 2021, and comments can be emailed to rulemaking@azgfd.gov.

Nicole Qualtieri
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Based in Montana, Nicole Qualtieri is GearJunkie's Hunt + Fish Editor. She also serves as a Board Director for Orion the Hunters Insititute, a non-profit promoting fair chase and hunting ethics nationwide. A DIY hunter, she comes from a non-traditional hunting background and began hunting and fishing in her 30s. She's been a voice for hunting, fishing, and conservation since 2014, when she got started working on the television show MeatEater. She's an avid horsewoman, bird dog aficionado, snowboarder, hiker/backpacker, food nerd, and all-around outdoorswoman. Find her online at @nkqualtieri.