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Hunting News: Keeping Abreast of Technology & Disease

We'll explore several updates on wildlife issues that bowhunters should certainly be keeping an eye on.

Hunting News: Keeping Abreast of Technology & Disease

Regulations are changing regarding the use of trail cameras so be sure you are aware of the law.

Trail Cameras

In our February issue, I presented problems Western states are having with the use of trail cameras. At that time, I noted that Utah was considering some changes. That has now happened and here is the new law.

The Utah Legislature passed HB 295 during the 2021 legislative session that instructed the Utah Wildlife Board to make rules governing the use of trail cameras in hunting. The game agency surveyed 14,000 big game hunters asking for feedback on potential changes. The survey showed that the majority of hunters opposed using trail cameras that transmit images in real time. So, from July 31 to December 31 each year, cameras that have internal storage memory as well as wireless cameras that transmit images to a hunter’s smartphone, cannot be used. Private landowners can still use cameras to monitor their property and agricultural operations, but most hunting on both private and public land is affected. The law also states that no one can sell or purchase trail-camera footage that aids in the attempted taking of big game animals. The Wildlife Board also banned night-vision devices to locate big game beginning 48 hours before any big game hunt opening date and ending 48 hours after a hunting season.

Other states already had made rules concerning trail cameras. As of 2015, hunters in New Hampshire can use cellular-linked cameras but cannot hunt an animal on the same date the photos are taken. Nevada banned the use of trail cameras on public land in 2018. The 2022 Hunting Regulations in Montana state that you can’t use video to track animals while hunting, nor can you use real time video, including that taken from drones, while hunting.

Effective January 1, 2022, hunters in Arizona cannot use trail cameras for the purpose of taking, locating, or aiding in the taking of wildlife. States everywhere are concerned for a variety of reasons, but “fair-chase” principles are the underlying issues. Advancement of technologies that aid the hunter have led to where we are today. We’ve seen similar advancements in drones and “smart” rifle technology. The technology advancement challenge is not only faced by state wildlife agencies, but hunters as well. We haven’t heard the last on this issue.

CWD Always In The News

Years ago, I noted in this column that prion diseases, such as Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), are very complicated, very hard to solve, and probably impossible to eliminate. One only need study the research done for decades on Creutzfeldt-Jakob’s Disease in humans to see just how complicated prion diseases are. For the average person, just reading prion research and trying to understand what it says, is daunting. However, we need prion/CWD research if we are ever going to find ways to save deer and make sure humans stay safe when eating deer that have that disease.

A recent, but not completed, study titled, “Tissue-Specific Biochemical Differences Between Chronic Wasting Disease Prions Isolated From Free-Ranging White-Tailed Deer,” shows just how complicated and scary the prion situation is in CWD. They noted that “most infected cervids likely shed peripheral prions replicated in lymphoid organs.” I thought that the prions were neurogenic and came from the nervous system to the brain, but this work leads one to believe that deer have strains of prions that replicate in the lymphatic system, as well as those that replicate in the nervous system.

But what does the fact that prions can also come from the lymphatic system mean to deer and to deer hunters? Some background. CWD is the only prion disease known to infect and be transmitted between captive animals and also free-ranging individuals. Infectious prions have been found in saliva, urine, feces, antler velvet, blood, and reproductive tissues. Deer can get the prions in two situations. One is described as “horizontally,” which means that a CWD-free deer is exposed to infected saliva, feces, or urine during close contact or by coming into contact with infected prions in the environment. Deer can also get the prions “vertically,” which means an infected doe passes the prions to a fetus.

OK, so now we have non-nervous system prions that come from the lymphatic system. Where do they figure into the disease? This study wants to determine if these lymphatic prions have unique characteristics that affect CWD transmission. The authors note that there are different strains of CWD-neural prions. Do lymphatic prions also have different strains? The answer is probably “yes.” We already know that we can experimentally inoculate the brains of cattle, sheep, pigs, and cats with CWD prions and infect them. And we know that cattle and cats resisted CWD infection after oral exposure. We also know that different prion strains affect deer differently. One strain (H95+) emerges from deer that have a more CWD-resistant genotype. This is a possible red flag regarding the disease’s infectious potential.

The yet unfinished study will continue to look at the biochemical makeup of lymph-node prions and brain-derived prions in deer. And any differences may have important implications for the disease’s potential transmission to humans.

Gun Sales Helps Conservation Funding

A huge part of all conservation funding comes to state wildlife and fish agencies via the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, more commonly known as the Pittman-Robertson Act (i.e. PR money). This act created an 11-percent excise tax on firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment, paid by manufacturers and passed on to the buyers (hunters and others). There is a similar excise tax on fishing tackle, boat equipment, and boat fuel, and this tax brought in $400 million in 2021.

PR monies for 2021 reached a record $1.1 billion. Americans who purchased guns contributed a huge amount of money for conservation. Gun sales peaked in 2020 and dropped slightly in 2021, when 18.5 million guns were purchased. Since the pandemic, more and more Americans look for ways to enjoy the outdoors, and the excise-tax money supports the continued management of our outdoor resources.

Editor’s Note: It’s also worth noting that, according to the Archery Trade Association, federal excise taxes collected during the last two pandemic years totaled over $100 million.


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