TOLEDO, Ohio — Hunters across the country are paying close attention to hints of a trend in some western states that involves changing hunting regulations to outlaw or restrict the use of popular trail cameras. The devices allow hunters to scout territories around the clock and document wildlife movements simultaneously at a multitude of sites. At its December meeting, the Arizona Game and Fish Commission voted unanimously to begin the process to strictly regulate the use of passive trail cameras used for the purpose of taking wild game. In 2018 the state had banned the use of live-action cameras by hunters involved in harvesting wild game.

A couple of years ago Nevada put in place a ban on the use of all trail cameras on public land during certain times of the year, and with close to 90 percent of the land in the state public ground, the rule had a significant impact. In outlining the need for such a restriction in a presentation to the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners, now retired Division of Wildlife Chief Game Warden Tyler Turnipseed cited a regionally-centric circumstance — the scarcity of water — as one of the primary reasons such a ban was important. "What began as a person using two or three cameras to check wildlife usage of a favorite water, has grown in orders of magnitude to a point at which we now find individual water sources with dozens of cameras," Turnipseed said at the time. "We hear of individuals putting out as many as 300 cameras to cover every water source in a hunt unit, or series of hunt units."

He added that while this "water hole" connection likely would not be a problem in areas with plenty of water sources for wildlife to use, with Nevada's expanse of dry, desert areas, wildlife in a large mountainous section could be reliant on just a few available water holes. "In many hunt units, simply by using trail cameras to cover every water source, a person can literally capture photos of every single big game animal in the entire hunt unit," Turnipseed said.

Arizona's proposed ban, which was open for public comment through Monday, would go a step further, banning any use of trail or game cameras, live-action or passive, used for taking game. The language of the proposed new rule reads: "A person shall not use a trail camera, or images from a trail camera, for the purpose of taking or aiding in the take of wildlife, or locating wildlife for the purpose of taking or aiding in the take of wildlife."

The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks agency had banned the use of all trail cameras for the 2010 hunting season, and that law was later amended to apply to only those trail cameras that are linked to cell phones. New Hampshire started to restrict the use of trail cameras about five years ago, prohibiting hunters from taking an animal on the same day that the trail camera images were captured. Wildlife officers in the state commented at the time on how difficult it would be to prove a violation in such cases.

Trail camera evolution: When these devices first came on the market, they used disposable film cameras that were triggered by a motion detector, and the film had to be removed and taken someplace to be developed. When the change to digital was made, hunters had to return to the site to remove the memory card and then use a computer to view images and video. Now, with cellphone linked trail cameras, a hunter can have multiple cameras feeding video or images to a phone or tablet. Using this method, once the cameras are in place, hunters don't have to re-enter the woods and risk disturbing the wildlife in the area.

Ohio/archery: The bowhunting season for white-tailed deer, which opened Sept. 26, will close Monday at 30 minutes after sunset. As of Jan. 26, the most recent reporting date, archery hunters in Ohio had harvested 89,615 deer with a bow this season, with an almost even split between antlered deer (44,861) and antlerless deer (44,754). Across all phases of the white-tailed deer season, hunters in Ohio have taken 192,639 deer, with 78,746 of those being antlered deer and 113,893 antlerless deer.

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