Are Cellular-Tied Game Cameras a Bane to the Hunting World?

Far be it for this author to tell you what you should feel about a particular subject, but there are some concerns raised by the recent use of cellular tied trail cameras, which seem to be a great innovation on the surface for hunters.

This article seeks to explain the controversial points of these innovations and give you a realistic view of how they can be used ethically and without harming native game populations.

Of course, it’s a study in moderation that helps to even out the controversy brought on by these tools, but recent banning of their use on public lands in several states has brought this conversation into the mainstream.

The most obvious concerns arise where conservation efforts seek to keep game hydrated where there is a less plentiful water supply. Desert watering holes littered with cameras that take several shots a second and transmit those photos within seconds to a hunter anywhere in the world can cause the natural habits of the animal to be altered by curious or zealous hunters. For instance, if a deer is seen on camera each night at a specific hour resulting in the hunter showing up at that hour, it can force the animal to change its habits on when and how it consumes water. This can have a detrimental effect on the health and practices of the animal. Nevada actually recently banned cellular tied cameras during and within reasonable timelines of the hunting season for deer because hundreds of cameras at only dozens of sites where conservation led watering facilities exist proved to also present difficulties around game management. Hunters were taking advantage of the game camera knowledge and creating a greater kill ratio than had been anticipated by conservationists in years past.

While it is a stretch to jump to the idea that the use of trail cameras like these can lead to an increase in poaching, it also certainly is a tool that lends itself well to such a concept. Mankind is not always honest. If an unscrupulous hunter knows when an animal is at a specific spot and harvests that game, it has big negative impacts on all aspects of the equation. Note to readers: unethical hunters DO EXIST.

Just because a state bans the technology does not make it bad. The opportunities that are opened up by utilizing cellular based trail cameras do great things like allow hunters to better understand animal behavior and habits opening opportunities for more ethical shots and smarter, more efficient hunting to occur – IF the hunts are done under the basis of good ethics and best practices.

Cellular-tied game cameras can also be viewed as a part of the investment in the hunt. Tags can be expensive, and whether a hunt is public or private, it can cost thousands of dollars to execute. By the time a hunter figures out the logistics, hires a guide (or not), preps for weeks, and purchases equipment, he may not have a successful hunt without using some technology. Game cameras can serve as a place to start when investing in a successful experience, and the use of cell-tied cameras will not still never take all the variables out of the hunt. In many hunting areas, cell service is minimal at best, and a reliable connection can’t transmit a picture. Not only can a hunter not can’t guarantee moving from shot-to-shot to take trophy game, but it would require an investment in an army of camera’s to guarantee a hunt, which is complete unethical, and frankly, pretty unrealistic.

The long story short is this:

Cell-tied camera setups for game hunting are innovative and useful, but their impact is yet to be fully vetted. They may or may not provide an unfair, or even unethical component to the traditional hunt. And it isn’t just because some old-timer who prefers organic game stalking said so. It’s because there are already real concerns with the technology as it relates to keeping the habits of game animals intact.

This won’t be the last time you hear about the wonderful, albeit controversial, cellular-based game trail camera.

Benjamin Worthen