Arizona Fish and Game Commissioner explains new surveillance camera ban


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If you live and hunt in the East, Midwest, or South, it’s easy to assume that Arizona’s recent surveillance camera ban is a government overreaction to a non-issue. This was my initial point of view. After all, surveillance cameras have been a part of the hunt for decades; their use is widespread and increasingly popular. And while there are occasional whispers about trail cameras giving hunters an unfair advantage, those requests seem a bit far-fetched to many of us. If you live in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, or Mississippi and get a photo of a white-tailed deer on your 80-acre farm, your camera has probably revealed more about what you don’t know about the buck than it does about what you just learned.

But it’s not like that in Arizona, according to Kurt Davis, chairman of the Game and Fish Commission who voted unanimously to ban surveillance cameras year-round and statewide – the first total ban. of the country for hunters. In an interview with Field & Flow, along with a written statement released after the vote, Davis, now in his 10th year on the Commission, said a combination of factors led to his decision to support the ban. “Look,” he told me over the phone, “you’re calling me from Minnesota, a water-rich and blanket state where we shouldn’t, and shouldn’t even be discussing this matter. But here it is a different situation.

AZGF Commission worried about increasing conflicts between hunters over surveillance cameras

One of Davis’ main concerns was the increase in the number of complaints about surveillance cameras, which have gone from being no problem five years ago to increasingly problematic. Unlike many states, Arizona has a growing hunting population and is in the midst of a historic 20-year drought that focuses game movement on water sources. “There are 3,100 watersheds in the state, the vast majority of which are on public land and all of them are mapped,” he said. “When people start placing and checking cameras on these limited water sources, there will be conflict.” There have been reports of a dozen or more cameras on a single water point.

Davis said state conservation officers have noted an increase in reported conflicts between hunters over camera placement. “As a commission, we also have to take into account the quality of the hunter‘s time in the field,” he said. “We have several seasons in many units. If I’m a first season archery elk hunter and you’re a third season rifle hunter who keeps checking his cameras, chances are you are interfering with my hunt. And as the number of hunters increases in Arizona, the chances of a hunter or guide service servicing their cameras for a future hunt while you are on yours will increase dramatically, and have been increasing for several years.

Tenants on public land have also complained about rear-view camera users

Pastoralists, who not only lease grazing rights to many public spaces, but also build and maintain many watersheds, have also registered more complaints about users of trail cameras near water sources. “We work in partnership with breeders and these partnerships are important; the same water that benefits their livestock also benefits wildlife, ”Davis said. “I have been contacted by many landowners / tenants about the increased traffic to their water sources maintained by those who use cameras, and they are concerned about the impact on their infrastructure, roads and the ability of their livestock to access these water sources. “

In the end, the Commission decided that surveillance cameras violate fair hunting and threaten the future of our sport

Ultimately, the issue of fair hunting was perhaps the biggest issue and may explain why this is a statewide ban, and not just a ban on the land. public (although Davis did not specifically mention it). “In an arid state with very limited water sources, do cameras really allow a moose or a deer to escape detection? Davis asked. “We have tried to refine Arizona’s fair hunting ethics and believe this is an important part of maintaining the state’s strong hunting tradition.

“We owe it to generations of thoughtful hunters long before us that we can even sit here today and contemplate the tools we use to hunt. The point is, history has made it clear that hunters were the first to see an emerging problem with the unregulated harvest and mismanagement of wildlife at rates beyond capacity, in addition to creating the gross monetization of this. wildlife. These hunters have not stood idly by, but thanks to their efforts we are living in an era of great success in conserving, protecting and reintroducing countless species of wildlife.

Ultimately, Davis said the commission was trying to forestall a problem before it got out of hand. “The cameras are not only getting better, but cheaper,” he said. “We already have outfitters that use 1,000 cameras, as well as companies that will place and maintain cameras for a hunter who doesn’t even have to check them. One of the things we try to do is look at five or ten years down the road and ask, “How do we maintain the quality of people’s time overseas?” It was a problem that would only get worse. ”

Are these reasons enough for a statewide, year-round ban on surveillance cameras for hunters? Well, not for state surveillance camera advocates, they aren’t, and we plan to cover their side of the story next. Meanwhile, while Davis hasn’t fully convinced this devoted Minnesota trail camera user that a complete ban is the answer, he has opened my eyes to two things: trail is, in fact, a different wax ball in Arizona, and this story is not as simple as the big bad government agency that sticks it to the hunters. They have serious issues to deal with, and this latest decision probably isn’t the end.

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Helen L. Cuellar

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