Game and Fish commission postpones trail camera decision for another month

After a lot of discussion, four members of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission who attended Friday’s public meeting in Kingman decided that more time was needed to determine the fate of trail camera use issue in Arizona.

In a 2-2 vote, with Commissioners Jim Ammons and James Zieler voting to not support the department’s recommendation of a one-quarter mile setback of trail camera use at most man-made water sources, and Commissioners Kurt Davis and Bill Brake on the other hand supporting the department’s recommendation, it will be at least another month before the issue if finally decided.

A fifth commissioner, Eric Sparks, was not in attendance at the meeting and would have cast the deciding vote had he been there.

The discussion came during the meeting when the commission was to decide whether or not to approve the recommendations of the department, including what is known as the “Fair Chase Committee,” to the Article 3 package, which deals with the taking and handling of wildlife in Arizona.

A number of speakers addressed the commission, including myself, on the proposal concerning trail cameras. Personally, I think it is very discriminatory. As written, a camera couldn’t be used at a water if the images were going to assist in the take of wildlife, but bird or wildlife watchers would not be under that same restriction. They could have cameras there at waters with no restrictions. While some argue that sportsmen cameras at waters cause a disruption for wildlife, it appears that they feel a non-consumptive users camera would not.

Doesn’t make any sense to me.

Plus, that restriction would be a law enforcement nightmare. How would an officer know if the camera was a sportsman’s, or a wildlife watcher’s?

Jay Cook, who is heading the department’s effort to address the Article 3 items, noted that the trail camera issue had generated more written comments than any of the other proposed recommendations.

Cook said the department had received 46 emails in support of the one-quarter mile restriction on the use of passive trail cameras, while 55 comments had been received that did not support the recommendation.

A lot of the discussion centered on the phrase “Fair Chase” and the department interprets it as the use of trail cameras at water sources violates that edict.

The Arizona Game and Fish Commission defines Fair Chase as the ethical, sportsmanlike, and lawful pursuit and taking of free ranging Arizona wildlife in a manner that does not give the hunter or angler improper or unfair advantage over such wildlife.

That’s interesting, since none of the 10 trail cameras I own have ever jumped off a post and killed anything, and no animals that I have got photos of have ever been taken.

And that definition is what is causing the differing of opinions from Arizona sportsmen.

Only one local sportsman, Jim Cave, spoke out in support of the proposed restriction, saying that he personally had a bad experience on the Arizona Strip on a deer hunt that he believed was caused by the prolific use of trail cameras.

Now the issue will carry over to the June commission meeting, with Commission Chairman Jim Ammons asking the individuals and the public to submit ideas on how the proposed restriction could be modified to satisfy those with concerns. Ammons asked me if I had any suggestions on a way to come to a compromise on this issue, but unfortunately I don’t. My only suggestion would be to drop the matter, but I know that won’t happen.

Maybe some of you in the general public have an idea on how to resolve this issue? If you do, let Ammons know. Send your ideas to Ammons by going to the department’s website and under commission you will find a link to contact him.

One sportsman from Flagstaff who attended the meeting and spoke out against the restrictions was Russ Jacoby. Jacoby is part of a guide operation that assists hunters on bison hunts on the Kaibab.

Jacoby said he believes it is going to be tough finding any common ground when it comes to the restriction of trail camera use in Arizona, but Jacoby agreed to assist Ammons in finding a solution.

There will be a lot more dialogue between both sides, and I’m sure some other suggestions will be brought forth. I’ve heard it said time and time again that we sportsmen are our own worst enemies.

Sportsmen are slowly losing our freedoms to what I call “Creeping Incrementalism,” which happens when government tries to micro-manage every aspect of our lives.

This trail camera issue looks like a perfect example of that to me.