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Hunting Legally and Ethically

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It matters out on the Game Trail

Fall is definitely creeping into the air. The nights are bit cooler and it just feels like summer’s grip is loosening. My tomatoes are not happy with that situation, but I always look forward to the fall despite it being the busiest time for game wardens. My wife Becky just sighs when I say, “fall is almost here!” with a smile on my face. “See you in January” she says.

It was a busy summer for me with Department related events, so I didn’t get to visit with most of you as much as I would have liked too. IDFG hosted the first ever Wildlife Summit August 24-26, which occupied much of our time recently. If you remember in an earlier article I discussed the Summit and the goals IDFG Director Virgil Moore set forth in bringing wildlife enthusiasts together to discuss the future of wildlife in Idaho. I may be a little biased here when I say that it’s pretty darn cool that a state agency opens their doors, ears, and minds to the ideas of Idahoans. It was pure democracy and a shining example of how successful it is to have dialogue among different and liked minded people. There was no doubt a difference in opinion and feeling toward the management of wildlife but a clear message we heard from the 800 registered attendees and 3,000 on-line participants is that Idahoans love their wildlife and they want more of it for years to come.

With fall knocking on the door it means back to school and hunting seasons. I always like to use the September Game Trail article to remind folks of season dates and regulation related matter to reduce the unintentional violations. People always ask, do the majority of poachers do it intentionally.  Hardly, the majority of wildlife related violations are committed by those not paying attention or uniformed. During our Hunter Education courses we really harp on the idea that every hunter has the obligation to educate themselves and be responsible for understanding the rules, ethically and legally.

Most of the violations we encounter are mistakes or oversights by the hunter, an unintentional violation.  These mistakes are still violations though, and the hunter must educate himself or herself to avoid these situations.  Common mistakes that hunters make include: failure to immediately validate and attach the tag, failure to leave evidence of sex, and waste of game.

The hunting regulations clearly state that upon killing any deer, elk, antelope, black bear, wolf, or mountain lion you must immediately validate and attach the tag. This does not mean attach the tag once you drag it to the truck, or when you get home. If the animal is down, before doing anything else, take the time to properly notch the date and month and then attach the tag to the animal. I can always tell when someone properly tags their animal because there is no blood on the tag.

Properly leaving evidence of sex is another common blunder, but the process is very simple. If you are not going to leave the head attached to your animal, leave the sex organs attached to one of the hindquarters. With antlered animals leave the penis or scrotum attached, with an antlerless animal leave the vulva or udder attached. Remember, with an antlered animal the antlers must accompany the carcass if they are detached.  In addition, leave evidence of species attached as well. This could be as simple as leaving the tail or antlers on a deer or leaving a fully feathered wing on a grouse.

During the early fall, the temperatures can be extremely warm. Unfortunately, every year there are a few hunters who don’t plan well and end up wasting meat.  This is not only a violation but it breaks the code of ethical hunters. If you have any doubt that you can get the meat packed out before it spoils, don’t take the shot. One of my pet peeves is the hunter who packs out the head and antlers first before caring for, and packing out, the meat. The antlers aren’t going to rot.

Please plan for this by bringing adequate amounts of ice and coolers and hunt within a reasonable distance from your vehicle. In addition, know where you will take your animal before you even go. Ask yourself, “Will I take it to grandpa’s cooler or the butcher?”  

Mistakes happen to the even the best hunters. The difference between an ethical hunter and a careless hunter is honesty. Every hunter knows somebody or has been in a situation himself or herself that resulted in an honest mistake. It doesn’t matter if it was accidentally taking two turkeys with one shot, or killing a bull trout because it was hooked badly, call your local conservation officer and explain what happened. We can make things right if you make the effort to contact us. However, if we have to contact you, do not expect leniency.

For those hunters who intentionally violate the law, you are jeopardizing the privilege to hunt, and you are stealing from your own community. Before you go spotlighting, hunt over salt, or party hunt, ask yourself, “Is it worth it?  Will I be in hot water with my family, friends, or even lose my job?” Don’t fuel the anti-hunter sentiment and ruin the hunting privilege for the honest sportsmen.

I’ll leave you with this finally and important reminder. There is NO general cow elk season this year, all cow hunts have become controlled hunts in the Panhandle zones.

I look forward to seeing you all in the woods this fall, whether you’re hiking, woodcutting, or hunting! Please have a safe, ethical, and legal hunt.

Be a True Sportsmen— Protect for the Future! And leave no child inside.

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Author info

Matt Haag Matt Haag is an Idaho Fish and Game Conservation Officer.

Tagged as:

hunting, The Game Trail, Wildlife Summit

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