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12:52 AM Sun, Nov. 18th

Game and Fish Commission decides no change needed for passive trail cameras

Photo by Don Martin.

It was one of the more contentious items that has come before the five members of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission in many years.

It was an issue that pitted sportsmen against sportsmen, and in the end, the commission decided on a 5-0 vote against imposing any restrictions on the use of passive trail cameras in Arizona.

According to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, they had received complaints in the past from sportsmen regarding the large number of trail cameras being used by other sportsmen at developed waterholes.

The main thrust of the complaints came from those who were concerned about the use of them on the Arizona Strip, Unit 13B, which is regarded as the best mule deer unit in the United States, and in Unit 9, which some believe is the best elk unit in the state.

The department had put together what they called the “Fair Chase Committee,” which included department personnel, and even two hunting guides, one of them being Kingman resident Craig Steele.

Working with the commission’s Article 3 Team, and using the commission’s definition of Fair Chase, a recommendation came out of the department that determined the use of live and passive trail cameras would be a violation of Fair Chase.

And using those guidelines, the department proposed to eliminate live action trail cameras, and restrict passive cameras to being no closer than 1/4 mile (440 yards) from a developed water source.

Then came a time when the public, you and I, could offer our comments on those proposals.

According to the department, they received more comments against the proposal than they did in favor of the proposal.

Personally, even though I own just 10 of these cameras, I saw a lot of problems with the proposed rule; and I expressed them not only here in my weekly column, but in conversations with department personnel and at the AZGFD meeting here in Kingman in April.

One of the issues I pointed out was that I had contacted the Boone and Crockett Club, which is an organization that has defined Fair Chase. They told me they did not see the use of passive trail cameras as a violation of Fair Chase, and in the end, that was what the commissioner who would cast the deciding vote on the issued agreed with.

After the meeting in Kingman, the department held a webinar in May and once again a few vocal sportsmen attended the meeting, while it was estimated that at least 200 more watched the webinar live.

Only one person, State Representative Regina Cobb, spoke out in favor of the proposed rule, indicating that other sportsmen from Kingman who she named, were in support of the proposed rule. A small number of sportsmen in attendance spoke against it.

Then came the June commission meeting in Payson. After a lot of discussion, it was time for a vote. Two of the commissioners were in favor of the proposals to eliminate the live action cameras and place a 1/4 mile restriction on passive cameras. Two commissioners were not in favor of the passive camera restriction, but agreed that the live camera ban would be OK.

It all boiled down to the vote of Commissioner Eric Sparks. Sparks said that he had learned that the Boone and Crockett Club, Pope and Young Club, and Safari Club International had all determined that the use of passive cameras did not violate Fair Chase.

And with that, Sparks voted to not impose any restrictions on the use of passive trail cameras.

A new vote was taken and the entire commission voted to ban live action trail cameras while not imposing any restrictions on the passive cameras. In other words, it would stay as it currently is.

But that is not the end of this issue. Because of their action, there will now be a Supplemental Rule Making process, which includes a 30-day public comment period from July 13 through Aug. 13.

You can submit comments via email at rulemaking@azgfd.gov.

Sportsmen will now have the opportunity to once again make their wishes known to the commission whether they are for or against the proposed rule of no restrictions of the use of passive cameras.

The final rule will be presented to the commission at its Sept. 21 meeting in the Navajo County Heber Complex in Overgaard.

“Passionate sportsmen getting involved in this process caused this to pass,” said Jay Cook, who was the leader of the Department’s Article 3 team.

Cook also noted that there were still people within the department who believe that at some point this issue will come back up.

Assuming that the commission adopts the rule in September, it will be another five years before that might happen.