Asarchery hunter Steve Holte thumbs through hunting catalogs, new ways to harness the World Wide Web to boost his deer-hunting successes leap right off the pages.
Game cams — those widely popular remote, digital cameras that snap photos and film video of animals prancing past them in the woods — are sporting a new twist.
Instead of simply downloading images onto a digital card, these new cams can instantly send photos and video to cell phones and desktop computers miles away.
"I've seen those in catalogs and they're sooo tempting," says Holte, who has five game cams. He uses them to hunt for shed antlers, to find places to erect archery tree stands, and other tasks to give him an edge in the woods.
"It would be nice to just sit back at home and see what's going on in your hunting areas," he says. "You could probably choose your Honey Hole."
These Internet-ready game cams could become the next hornet's nest in Oregon's seemingly endless debate about where to draw the technical lines in hunting to keep the fair part of fair chase alive.
Oregon already has banned such techno-trends as mechanical duck decoys and cyber-hunting — operating a weapon remotely via a computer to shoot an animal off-site — in attempts to place ethical harnesses on new technology as it applies to hunting.
The use of instant Web cams during hunting seasons could become the next field where ethics and technology cross.
"Since this technology is so new, no one's raised it as a potential problem," says Ron Anglin, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Wildlife Division administrator. "It's not something that's been on our radar screen to look at — yet."
Adjusting the rules to fit the technology is a practice steeped in decades of Oregon outdoor recreation:
"A lot of times, it's the social impact of things and the social review of things that determines what is allowed and what is not allowed," Anglin says. "Sounds like we may be taking a look at issues with game cams, if folks are interested."
So far, game cams have hovered within the ethical window.
Early game cams were simply waterproof housings for cameras placed in trees along game trails. The latest digital models offer 7-megapixel-quality images that are snapped when laser or infrared sensors are tripped.
Holte has cameras that shoot both still shots and high-quality video. He places the cameras in areas where bucks shed their antlers from February through April.
When a deer appears on camera sans antlers, Holte knows the antlers he's after are on the ground somewhere near his camera.
Holte also uses them to test-drive potential tree-stand sites during archery season.
None of that has been judged to violate fair chase — the credo that animals have the right to a reasonable chance to escape their pursuers — in part because game cams give Holte no immediate advantage over the deer he stalks.
Holte has to hike into his remote spots regularly to replace batteries and trade out the electronic video cards that capture the images.
For $1,895, he can get all the same information beamed to the computer in his Eagle Point home.
Orion makes a camera that sends live remote video of animals in fields or on game trails. The company is marketing it largely to hunting ranches to generate more traffic on their Web sites and expand the sale of guided hunts.
Those who buy these cameras then sign up with a delivery service. For $20 to $50 a month, the service send photos or video captured by the camera to your computer via cell phone and Internet.
This technology would give a hunter the ability to sit in his pickup in the woods with a cell-phone Internet connection and receive images of that big buck just moments after it wanders past the camera.
"As the price drops on these things, they become more economical and it'll give folks an opportunity to figure out ways to use them," Anglin says. "Our folks in the field will be following it, I suppose, to see how it's being used.
"My guess is we'll be asked to look at these sometime in the future," he says.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.