SALT LAKE CITY — Members of the Utah Wildlife Board voted Thursday to postpone making a decision on proposals to ban the use of night vision devices and tweak how trail cameras are used during peak hunting season.
Their decision came just one day after the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources unveiled the proposals and the board began to accept public comment on the plans. Faith Heaton Jolley, a spokeswoman for the division said the board decided to postpone receiving comments on the trail camera plan so that wildlife officials could conduct further studies on the matter.
The board also agreed to postpone several other hunting rule amendments that were set to be voted on Sept. 30, such as a ban of night vision devices while hunting big game and also mandating that bison hunters review materials on best practices to shoot a bison.
Jolley said those proposals and others will be voted on during a later meeting yet to be determined. She added that it won't harm the timeline for the changes to be implemented because the new hunting rules were slated to begin in 2022 even if they had been passed in September.
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources officials on Wednesday revealed rules that would tweak how trail cameras are used during peak hunting season, especially, as the technologies become more affordable and more popular.
The rule that the Utah Wildlife Board requested more information on centered around a plan that would ban the use of transmitting trail camera footage between July 31 and Jan. 31. Covy Jones, the big game coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, explained in a video published by the division that people could still place trail cameras across the state but there would be a "season of nonuse" for hunting purposes.
During that time frame, people would not be able to use a trail camera device to either locate or attempt to locate big game. The plan stated it would also be illegal to sell, distribute or store any footage from a transmitting trail camera for the use of harvest or aid in the harvest of any big game animals. It would not have banned people who use trail cameras to monitor trespassers, or who have "active agricultural operations."
About 62% of the more than 2,000 Utah hunters surveyed about the proposal said they opposed the use of transmitting trail camera footage in real time during the hunting season, according to the division. Division officials will now study the issue more before the proposal is voted on by the Utah Wildlife Board.
Another plan that would ban the use of night vision devices to locate or attempt to locate a big game animal — starting 48 hours before a game hunt in an area, through 48 hours after a big game hunt ends in that area — was also put on hold. Jolley said the board preferred that all the proposals to big game hunting be submitted at the same time instead of holding back one proposal.
Jones said both devices are seen as challenging the boundaries of hunting ethics. He added it wasn't much of an issue before, but both became more popular as prices for the equipment dropped in recent years.
"Overwhelmingly, the sentiment is that using (night vision devices) does not align with fair chase, and there's a strong sentiment that the animal needs to have a chance — and fair chase is just that," he said earlier this week.
Other changes postponed Thursday include requiring bison hunters to read an article about shot placement, also due to ethics concerns, and a change that would remove the requirement to wear hunter orange during general-season any bull archery hunts that overlap with the general-season any bull youth hunt.
The Utah Wildlife Board will still meet on Sept. 30 and vote on a few other wildlife rule changes, such as combining the Zion Unit bighorn sheep hunts in southern Utah into one due to decreased permit numbers and creating two new bison hunting units in the Book Cliffs area of eastern Utah.
Another plan calls for the ban of fishing at Willard Bay Pond to be extended to Sept. 1, 2022, to allow for fish that were stocked to grow and spawn. Public comment on those proposals can be left on the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources website. The online comment period ends at 11:59 p.m. on Sept. 23.
There are also several regional meetings where people can provide feedback on the plans:
- Central Utah Regional Advisory Council meets Aug. 31 at 6 p.m. at DWR's Springville Office, 1115 N. Main St. in Springville.
- Northern Utah Regional Advisory Council meets Sept. 1 at 6 p.m. at DWR's Weber County Commission Chambers, 2380 Washington Blvd., Ssuite #240 in Ogden.
- Southern Utah Regional Advisory Council meets Sept. 7 at 6 p.m. at the Department of Natural Resource's Richfield City complex (2031 Industrial Park Road.
- Southeastern Utah Regional Advisory Council meets Sept. 8 at 6:30 p.m. at the John Wesley Powell Museum, 1765 E. Main St. in Green River.
- Northeastern Utah Regional Advisory Council meets Sept. 9 at 6:30 p.m. at the DWR Vernal Office, 318 N. Vernal Ave.
People can also provide comments during the Utah Wildlife Board meeting where the vote will take place. The meeting is scheduled to be held at 9 a.m. on Sept. 30 at the Department of Natural Resource building, 1594 W. North Temple in Salt Lake City.