RALL: Shooters need to behave or get outWORTHINGTON — It makes me wonder just who thinks up some of the laws regarding wildlife that make it on the books. I try very hard to stay on top of regulatory developments in the land of game, fish and wildlife. I am on an email list that gets me a few news releases every week regarding happenings on a state level and at the Department of Natural Resources.
By: Scott Rall, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — It makes me wonder just who thinks up some of the laws regarding wildlife that make it on the books.
I try very hard to stay on top of regulatory developments in the land of game, fish and wildlife. I am on an email list that gets me a few news releases every week regarding happenings on a state level and at the Department of Natural Resources.
A recent news release refers to new regulations about deer baiting, which is the placement of food or other attractants in a specific area for the purpose of getting a deer close enough to shoot. It is illegal and has been illegal since 1991.
The fact that deer baiting is illegal has not had much effect on some unethical shooters, it seems. Notice, I did not call them hunters.
Last season, the DNR issued 24 warnings and 133 citations for baiting. I wonder if these were spaced evenly over the state or if there was a bigger problem in some areas over others. I will try to find out this information.
The news release stated the penalties for baiting have been increased and that license forfeiture is now possible.
Here is where the “scratch my head moment” starts.
In the past, the violator was subject to a fine and had to forfeit guns, bows and other related equipment. This is all fine and good.
Now, the DNR has added the loss of hunting privileges to the total. If you are caught baiting, you can lose your hunting license for a year. If you have a second violation within three years, you can now get your privileges jerked for three years. If you shoot a really big deer — measured by the total number of inches of the antlers — the length of the license revocation can double to either two or six years, respectively.
When I read this, I thought of the folks who routinely speed on Minnesota roadways. If you do a lot of speeding, and you get caught every other year or so and pay the $280 fine, you just average that out over the 300 times that you were speeding and it costs about 94 cents per violation. It’s a pretty good deal if you are always in a hurry.
The same can be said about a shooter (not a hunter) who might consider baiting.
Hunting licenses in other states can cost upwards of $1,000 per state, per year, if you are willing to pay the price to get drawn faster without having to deal with the license lottery. A good guided hunt for elk or deer in a western state can run about $5,000 to $10,000. Even an out-of-state deer license in states close to Minnesota can be close to $500.
If folks are willing to pay big for the opportunity to shoot a really big deer or elk, who thinks a $300 fine will be enough to keep them from baiting?
Getting caught baiting has an even smaller likelihood of happening than getting a speeding ticket. There are not enough law enforcement personnel in the fields to provide any measurable deterrent. If you get caught and they take your gun, average this cost over the 10 illegal deer you shot and baiting is still cheap.
There are currently 27 vacant conservation officer positions in the state. This is just sad.
I wonder why the cost of getting caught baiting a deer is not $5,000. If baiting has been determined to negatively affect hunting in our state, then why does the rule only slap the hand of those caught doing it?
Why not make the penalty for getting caught high enough to make people stop and think about just how they would pay for it if they did get caught? What difference does it make if your second infraction is within three years or five years or even 10? If you ever get caught a second time, it should be lights out for your hunting privileges in our state and every other state that shares reciprocity with us.
It is my understanding there is only one way to lose your hunting privileges in Minnesota for life. That is if you are charged and found guilty of hunting while intoxicated and, then, don’t pay the fine. There should be a much longer list of gross violations that could land you in the same position.
I have advocated for all sportsmen to act ethically and set a good example. Those who won’t should pay big time and in a measurable way that at least helps fund the DNR, which provides wildlife management for the whole state.
If shooters prove themselves to be so unlawful, then they should just take up a different pastime. They can make this decision on their own from a pocketbook perspective, or we can help them by never letting them buy a license again. Some will continue to take game and they will just be formally categorized as a poacher.
Some lesser game violations can actually happen by accident. This year, for the first time, the duck season was split. It opened a week, closed a week and then reopened again. Several hunters were cited for hunting in a closed season. I imagine there was no malice or intent in these tickets. This was most likely an accident.
Can you imagine someone saying his huge piles of apples or corn in the shooting lane near their deer stand was an accident? The conservation officers, I am sure, have heard it — but it was not an accident.
Baiting is legal in other states and the merits or demerits can be discussed all day. In Minnesota, it is illegal and those who choose to do it should do it at the measurable peril of their own pocketbooks and the lifetime loss of their hunting privileges.
P.S.: The Turn In Poachers (TIP) number is 1-800-652-9093. Know it, memorize it and use it when necessary to help your local conservation officer do a job that benefits our natural resources.
Scott Rall is the Daily Globe’s outdoors columnist. His column can also be read weekly at www.dglobe.com.