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2:13 PM Wed, Dec. 12th

AZGFD to hold public forum and webinar today on trail camera proposals

Photo by Don Martin.

The continuing saga of the proposal to regulate the use of trail cameras in Arizona is continuing with the Arizona Game and Fish Department hosting a meeting and live webcast on this subject starting at 6 p.m. tonight.

The webcast can be viewed at www.azgfd.gov/webcast.

The main topic of discussion will be on the proposed rule change by the Commission pertaining to the use of a trail camera within one-fourth mile of a developed water source.

Questions or comments can be asked in-person if you attend or are involved in the webinar. The meeting will be held in the Quail Room at the department’s headquarters, 5000 W. Carefree Highway, Phoenix. You can also submit questions or comments via e-mail prior or during the forum at questions@azgfd.gov.

After this event, a final rule will be submitted to the commission to act on at the June meeting in Payson.

That is the notification, and obviously, I have some comments about these proposed rules. And while yes, I am an outfitter and guide, I offer these up as a sportsman who has lived in Arizona for 67 years and done a bit of hunting and fishing in this state.

The department is suggesting this one-fourth mile rule based on what it says is a violation of the Fair Chase ethic.

I called the Boone & Crockett organization (www.Boone-Crockett.org, 406-542-1888) in Missoula, Montana, and asked what their official opinion is about the use of trail cameras as it relates to their definition of Fair Chase.

I might add that this prestigious organization is considered by many, me included, as the preeminent authority in America on what the definition of Fair Chase is and how it applies to activities by sportsmen.

I put a lot of stock into what they say about this subject. Their definition of Fair Chase – “Is the ethical, sportsmanlike, and lawful pursuit and taking of any free-ranging wild, native North American big game animal in a manner that does not give the hunter an improper advantage over such animals.”

Now I understand that every state wildlife agency and commission has the right to set its own definition of what Fair Chase is. The Arizona Game and Fish Department and commission said this is their definition, “Fair Chase means the ethical and lawful pursuit and take of free-ranging wildlife in a manner that does not give the hunter or angler improper or unfair advantage over such wildlife.”

Hmm, sounds almost word for word what the Boone and Crocket group said, EXCEPT note that anglers are also subject to the AZGFD definition. I’ll have some comments on that, too.

So what is the Boone and Crockett Club’s take on the issue of trail cameras and of technological advanced rifles scopes as it applies to Fair Chase?

You might not be surprised to learn that the uses of live action cameras are considered to be a violation of Fair Chase by both Boone and Crockett and AZGFD and its commission.

But the use of passive cameras, where an individual has to personally check the images that are present in a camera, are NOT considered to be a violation of Fair Chase according to Boone and Crockett, yet the department and commission says it does.

And it’s not just this issue that the two groups disagree on. Remember when I commented on the issue of rifle scopes that are so advanced that with the push of a button the scope not only tells the hunter the range of their quarry out to 600-plus yards, but it also makes the internal adjustment for the elevation needed for the bullet to hit its mark.

You know, dope the wind, squeeze the trigger and bam, your animal is down.

According to the AZGFD and commission, the use of this equipment is NOT a violation of Fair Chase, but yet Boone and Crockett says that it is a violation of that ethic, and if you use that equipment to take an animal it cannot be entered into their record book, which is the “Holy Grail” to rifle hunters.

There are a myriad of other issues with this proposed rule. As a former AZGFD commissioner told me, “This is a solution looking for a problem.”

I, and many other sportsmen agree, with that analogy.

I think the rule discriminates against sportsmen. Remember, it is sportsmen who have paid with their dollars, and in many cases their labor, which have resulted in these developed waters being out there on the landscape.

Have the non-consumptive groups; including bird watchers, back packers, photographers, 4-wheel drive enthusiasts and others done this work or paid for these waters? Nope, it is we the sportsmen, the true conservationists in America, who have put these in or paid to have them installed.

And yet, according to the proposed rule, sportsmen could not put a camera within one-fourth mile of the water, but everyone else in the groups that I’ve listed above could have a camera there.

Other issues I see include since there is no requirement for a camera to have the owner’s name on it, how would law enforcement know if the camera belonged to a wildlife watcher or to a hunter?

And does the department really have the resources to have an officer walk in a quarter-mile circle looking to see if the cameras out there are in fact 440 yards away from the water?

I would rather see an officer investigating wildlife crimes like poaching, instead of trying to make cases on sportsmen whose camera may only be 401 yards from the outside of a developed water.

I truly hope that a lot more sportsmen from Kingman and Mohave County attend or watch this webcast.

Some out there seem to think this is only about hunting guides, but it’s really not. It will affect ALL sportsmen. And remember, up to that last meeting in Kingman, according to Jay Cook, the department lead on the Article 3 team, the department has received more comments that are AGAINST this proposed rule than are for it.

The department has said they started this process for a change after receiving requests from customers. How many people really want the department to go down this obviously slippery slope? Were there hundreds or thousands of requests by outraged sportsmen? Or was it really just a few disgruntled people. That’s a question that needs to be asked and answered.

Sportsmen as a group are our own worst enemies. We as a group are a minority in not only Arizona but in this nation, and yet we continue to try and micro-manage the way others recreate.

The antis out there that want to shut down hunting and fishing completely are gloating as they see us destroy our sport from within.

Instead of presenting a solid front as a group we are fractionalized, and ultimately that will lead to our collective downfall.

Just remember the statement of that past commissioner, “This is a solution looking for a problem.”