No Photos: Explaining Utah’s Trail Camera Ban

(Photo courtesy of Browning Trail Cameras)

Cameras are everywhere today, a modern reality where a photo is taken – and used by most of us, in some way – dozens of times in a day.

From taking a smartphone photo of a signed document you need to send to the boss to a snapshot of a recipe while you shop the aisles of the local grocery store to a doorbell camera showing that a package has been delivered to an exciting image of one of the children scoring a goal during an evening football practice, there are countless photos that are part of our lives every day.

Some — like a ski resort webcam in the run-up to spring break — help keep us motivated on another soulless Monday morning. Others, like a traffic camera showing heavy congestion on the local freeway, help us plan our daily activities and trips. And others – like a favorite social media bowhunting star showing us training regimes or a big game creature arrowed last fall – fuel our dreams for the fall months of September, October and November.

There are even aerial photos of where you hope to be this fall, hunting grounds in the white deer antlers of the Midwest, a desert flat where a large pronghorn could lay in limited shade, or a high country bench where the bull elk of your dreams might trumpet and sing their wild, mountainous song during the September rut.

But despite the myriad everyday uses of cameras and photography that have become part of the modern way of life, it’s this latest example here that has drawn increasingly stark battle lines between wildlife officials. , record-keeping organizations that champion fairness. Out Westhase, and those who just love hunting critters in the western hunting grounds.

The latest shot over the bow in this build battle — specifically, a battle where Western hunters’ use of trail cameras is at stake — comes from Utah State.

Earlier this year, in January, the Utah Wildlife Board voted “…to restrict the use of trail cameras and other hunting-related technologies…” according to a Utah press release. DNR.

The vote at this Jan. 4, 2022, meeting came after the Utah Legislature passed HB 295 in 2021, which directed the Utah Wildlife Board to establish certain rules in Beehive State. regarding the use of trail camera technology in big game hunting. State.

For this reason, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources conducted two surveys, which the agency says were sent to more than 14,000 big game hunters as the DWR sought feedback on the potential proposals. possibly to be made to the council.

What do these surveys of hunters reveal? According to the Utah DWR press release referenced above, the results indicate that “…the majority of the public opposes the use of transmission cameras for hunting (cameras that transmit images and footage in real time ).”

With this backstory in place, the Utah Wildlife Board voted in early January of this year to “…ban all trail cameras (including non-portable, non-transmitting transmitting devices) while harvesting or to assist in the big game harvest between July 31 and December 31.

Since outfitters, guides and dedicated big game hunters who have won the lottery and drawn a limited entry big game ticket might not like this rule – or maybe they do. – a key definition was noted by the Utah Wildlife Board.

And that definition reads: “A trail camera is defined as a device that is not manually held or operated by a person and is used to capture image, video, or wildlife location data and uses heat or movement to trigger the device.”

That would still allow the use of DSLR cameras and handheld video cameras to record images and videos of bucks, bulls, and other big game creatures, right?

Well, that depends. Because the Utah DWR press release also states that “the board also voted to prohibit the sale or purchase of any trail camera footage or data to be taken, attempted to be taken, or assisted in the taking or attempted catch big game. This includes images, location information, time and date of images, and any other data that may assist in harvesting or attempting to take big game.

But that’s not all. It should also be noted that Utah’s ruling does not apply to government or educational organizations that collect wildlife information or to Utah cities involved in the state’s Urban Deer program.

It also does not apply to private landowners monitoring agricultural activities or searching for trespassers. But Utah’s DWR has made it clear that this private landowner exception does not apply to trail cameras used on private property that are used to “…assist in the harvesting of big game between July 31 and December 31.

In other words, if that photo or video capture unit — handheld or otherwise — will help you punch a tag in the second half of the year, it’s now banned in Utah.

If you live out west in a mountain town or valley community, are a dedicated bowhunter for point and beacon hunting in a particular state, or are just a interested archer who follows our sport’s headlines every year, then you We are probably already aware that Utah’s decision, as strict as it is, is also part of a larger trend in the west to restrict and/or regulate the use of game cameras in the pursuit of big game.

It’s something we’ve been reporting on regularly here at our various Outdoor Sportsman Group properties as the news broke, and there will no doubt be more headlines to cover in the months to come.

Headlines like the one that came a few months ago when the Arizona Department of Game and Fisheries commission voted at its June 11, 2021 meeting in Payson — in a unanimous vote 5-0, by the way – to ban the use of game cameras for the purpose of helping hunters capture big game in the Grand Canyon State.

While game camera use isn’t under scrutiny in the White Tail Woods to the east, game-changing camera units are being scrutinized by states other than Utah and Utah. Arizona. In fact, many places in the Rocky Mountain and Great Basin regions of the lower 48 have already done so or are currently doing so.

In Nevada, the state stopped the use of surveillance cameras on certain public lands at certain times of the year while Montana amended a 2010 ban against all game cameras to now apply only those related to mobile phones. New Mexico has its own regulations, as does Alaska, and you can be pretty sure the problem won’t go away any time soon and may be visited by other big game hunting states in the future. popular in the West.

In addition to state regulations regarding the use of game cameras in the American West, there is also the aspect of record keeping here, as the use of a trail camera could potentially disqualify a male or bull from the pages of sacred records carefully preserved for decades by the Boone and Crockett Club and the Pope and Young Club.

In fact, B&C clearly states on its website under the theme of the Trail Camera Use Policy that: “The use of any technology that provides real-time location data (including photos) to target or Guiding a hunter to a species or animal in a way that elicits an immediate (real-time) response from the hunter is not permitted”.

But as clear as that may sound, there are also shadows in the minds of some observers, and B&C and its bowhunting counterpart, the Pope and Young Club, have attempted to further clarify the matter lately. month.

And no doubt, this is not the last time the subject will be broached by one or another of the conservation and record-keeping organizations.

Why? Because at the end of the day, in a changing world where technological advancements are pushing the boundaries of the envelope at breakneck speed, outdoor product manufacturers are looking for additional ways to sustain sales numbers during these trying times. . Hunters are simply looking for legal ways to help them hit a tag and hunt more effectively, which makes this topic confusing at best and controversial at worst.

Kyle Lehr, assistant director of big game records at B&C, realizes that the issues mentioned above might be a bit of a conundrum. He also notes that in some cases the decision to accept a big game — even a potential world record — could come down to a decision by the B&C Records Committee.

But he also points out that at the end of the day, the fundamental question that drives all of this is – or should be – simple enough for most interested parties.

“And that question is whether or not the technology was the primary reason the animal was captured by the hunter and harvested,” Lehr said in a 2021 interview with OSG. “You have to wonder if an animal has been taken on a fair hunt, because it’s the fundamental backbone of the hunt for B&C, P&Y and conservationists across North America.”

Wildlife officials in Utah believe they found their answer to that question early last month and responded accordingly. And as noted, other states have already done the same, in one way or another.

And you can rest assured that there will likely be more movement on the western big game / game camera subject in the weeks and months to come.

About Ethel Partin

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