Are Trail Cameras Legal?

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Are trail cameras legal everywhere in the US? It is perfectly lawful to hunt with the assistance of trail cameras in a majority of US states. The exceptions are Kansas and Arizona, who have banned outright the use of trail cameras while hunting.

A further eight states have placed ‘restricted use’ constraints on using trail cameras against particular species during specific seasons on civic land. These are Utah, North Dakota, New Mexico, Nevada, Montana, Kentucky, Delaware and Colorado.

Trail cameras are overwhelmingly permitted for use in America.

The minimum trail camera requirements while hunting are:

  • In states where using trail cameras (also known as scouting cameras or wildlife cameras) is permitted, initially check with the appropriate nature reserve supervisors or county wildlife administrators before using them.
  • Whether hunting on public or private land, label your trail camera clearly with your contact details
  • When mounting your hunting camera to a tree or post, use a cable tie or a strap. This would be preferable than a screw or nail. If needs must, use just one.

Are trail cameras legal in Arizona?

A ban on the use of trail cameras came into force on New Year’s Day, 2022.

Exceptions to the rule include the use of game cameras for the purposes of protecting property, observing wildlife for interest or research purposes.

Why have trail cameras been outlawed in Arizona?

The Arizona Game and Fish Fair Chase committee made the proposal to ban trail camera use in Arizona.

In June 2021, trail cameras were banned through a unanimous vote. They were banned, according to the bill, for aiding or taking of wildlife, or locating so that you can take wildlife.

It was noted by a committee member that trail cameras are not compatible with wildlife, landowners, hunters, or natural resources. He added that trail cameras did not respect American wildlife conservation efforts.

What brought about the Arizona trail camera ban?

It was a culmination of over ten years of debate. New Mexico, Nevada, Montana, amongst others have legislated trail camera limitations on where they can be run and restrictions on how they are run. Additionally, they have concerns with the features that they possess. Currently, Arizona carries some restrictions of the use of trail cameras.

Hunters were skeptical a ban would be ratified as it would be a first throughout the US.

Arizona Game and Fish were forced to revisit the issue of trail camera use following several conflicts and increasing trail camera sophistication.

Some of the issues arising from widespread trail camera use include:

  • Interfering with the enjoyment of nature for those that are not hunters
  • Litter and other forms of damage caused by trail camera operators
  • Increased human activity in the areas with the heaviest trail camera use

The Arizona Game and Fish Commission argue that locations such as watering holes are widely known and therefore do not require round the clock monitoring using trail cameras.

At the end of the day, however, the guarding of watering holes is crucial if the animals have any hope of eluding detection. This is a guaranteed right under Fair Chase.

Are trail cameras legal in Utah?

While hunting big game, game hunting cameras and other technology related to them have been prohibited, according to the Wildlife Resources, Utah Division.

After a bill enacting in May 2021, the new rule was adopted in early January 2022.

This decision was reached after polling 14,000 hunters of large game, with a large number of them opposing the use of transmitting hunting cameras while hunting.

All large game scouting cameras will be prohibited from operating for the purposes of hunting large game from between July 31 and December 31.

The definition of a trail camera is a device that is neither manually operated or hand held by anyone that is used in the recording of location data, video, images of wildlife. A trail camera is also defined as a device that uses thermal motion detection as well as transmitting footage as it is recorded.

Another modification proposal would be to make illegal the use of all night-vision devices for the purposes of tracking down large game. The rule would begin 2 days ahead of any hunting period and remain all the way through to 2 days after the big game hunt ends.

In addition, these restrictions are also applicable to bear and cougar hunting.

What about using trail cameras in California?

The use of trail cameras is not in violation of any current California law at the present time. Trail camera use can be defined as ‘digital scouting’.

This describes a hunter mounting a trail camera in a certain area in order to help identify they type of wildlife present in that area at that time.

A non-hunter may just want to tell wildlife activity levels in an area using trail camera ‘digital scouting’.

Motion-activated trail cameras are typically employed by hunters as a hunt planning tool. Newer game camera models allow users to remotely view images. Older game scouting cameras needed the user to travel physically to the game tracking camera mounting spot to check the SD card inside for photos.

It is important to note that all California Department of Fish and Wildlife land have a requirement for all visitors to remove every personal bit of belonging or equipment, every day. Any devices left behind are considered litter and will be disposed of, as laid out in the California Code of Regulations.

For a breakdown of all trail camera regulations in the Union, go here

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