Recently the Arizona Game and Fish Department has been debating whether or not to ban the use of trail cameras during hunting season. The two options up for consideration are to ban trail cameras outright or to establish a hunting season for them. Honestly, I did not even realize this was such a controversial topic, but a quick reading of comments on the proposal reveals some deep divides about the issue. Here in the midwest, we tend to take trail cameras for granted as a necessary tool for hunting.
Fair chase is defined as giving the animal being hunted a reasonable chance of escape. While the application of this rule has changed over time, the core principle remains the same. When hunting, success cannot be guaranteed or it is no longer fair chase. Where trail cameras become problematic is when they are used as an aid while actively hunting. If you have 60 cellular trail cameras on a property and are getting alerts with locations to deer movement while you are hunting, then you are using technology to ensure your success.
On the other hand, if you use trail cameras to find out which deer are on a property and when, then that seems to still fit the definition of fair chase. Even if you pattern a deer to a specific location and time of day, there is no guarantee they will come back to that spot on a subsequent day. I think that it’s safe to say that when trail cameras are used to gather intel that could be gathered by other legal means (scouting, shining, glassing, etc.) they are just another tool. If they become a network of spies in the woods to direct your efforts while you are hunting then they have crossed the fair chase line.
This issue is likely one that is viewed differently throughout different parts of the country. Out west it is easier to glass a long-distance and gather information about animals. In the dense woods of the midwest, it is more important to utilize technology to help determine if there is a target buck on a certain property. This issue is definitely worth following to see what direction Arizona Game and Fish ultimately goes. It may have implications for the use of technology while hunting in other regions as well.