House Bill 295 introduced by Representative Casey Snider has been a controversial one. It started out as a conservation piece for some wetland areas regarding laws, management, and creating waterfowl management areas. Now, banning baiting and trail cam use on public land from August 1 through December 31st is also attached to this bill. This has sparked a lot of controversy in the Utah hunting community with a bunch of mixed opinions from all types of hunters.
Ok, so let’s talk about trail cameras. This bill instructs that the wildlife board shall make rules governing the use of trail cameras. This falls under the amended section of the use of a computer or other device to remotely hunt wildlife. Basically, what they propose is to make a trail camera season from Jan 1 to July 31 on public land so there are no cameras in the field during hunting season and slightly beforehand. These restrictions will not affect private land. Some folks have said that trail cameras don’t really help the aid of harvesting a big game animal because there’s so much more to the hunt than a trail camera photo. Others have said they are tired of seeing trail cameras all over public land and when they do see the cameras, they feel like they are encroaching on someone else’s hunting area. There has been a lot of support to ban trail cameras that send real time photos via cell phone signal and some states have already made these illegal, such as Wyoming.
The baiting portion of this bill is aimed at an all out ban. This bill considers any food or nutrient substances that will manipulate the behavior of wildlife bait. Bait does not include chemicals used as an attractant or masking scent. Salt, mineral blocks or other commonly used livestock substances for normal agricultural purposes are also not considered bait. Neither are standing crops or vegetation that has been planted. In short, this bill directly prohibits making an apple or corn pile or licks that are made to attract big game specifically. The majority of baiting is not legal out West and Utah is basically the last place you are able to do it and I think we can agree that hunting over a corn pile does increase success rates.
Some things I look at is that maybe some people think harvest success rates are too high in Utah? Banning baiting could potentially save some big game for the next year and make hunting even that much better. Looking at three year average success rates for limited entry deer and elk on Eastmans’ TagHub I see that they are some of the highest in the West.
The general consensus for writing this bill is that baiting and use of trail cams during hunting season is not fair chase and makes hunting too easy. SFW has come out and supported this bill while the Mule Deer Foundation opposes it. What I don’t like about this bill is that politicians are wanting to make the rules for the hunters of Utah. How about everyone that holds a Utah hunting license in their pocket gets to vote on these issues? More power to the people! What say you?