A couple times a year I hook up with the local conservation officer, Andrew Dirks, for a sit-down about what’s happening in the world of game and fish enforcement. It is always interesting, and our latest chat was no different. He covers some of the important issues hunters need to know when hitting the fields this fall, and the first one on this list every fall is the blaze orange requirement.
Small game hunters like pheasant, squirrel and rabbit hunters all need to wear one article of blaze orange above the waist when in the field. The change happens when these same hunters chase exactly the same game when there is a firearms deer season in progress. What works for those hunters is no longer legal when they share the outdoors with firearms deer hunters.
When that deer season is open, all hunters (both small game and big game) now need to wear garments that are 50 percent or more of the upper body excluding the sleeves in blaze orange and an orange hat. Even duck hunters and trappers have the same requirement. Duck hunters can remove their orange when stationary in a boat or blind.
I have always purchased hunting vests that are 100 percent blaze orange so I meet the requirement all of the time. Purchasing a vest with a little orange when the rest of garment is tan or brown leaves that hunter open to a ticket if used during a deer season.
The moral of the story is that if you are going to buy a new hunting vest, buy one that is 100 percent orange. The orange requirement has been credited for making hunting and shooting sports one of the safest pass times for both youths and adults.
With deer season just around the corner — firearms seasons in southwest Minnesota start Nov. 9 and run through Nov. 17 — it is important to remember a few important rules.
Party hunting is legal in this state. If you are hunting in a group, one member of that group could legally shoot every deer for that group as long as they have enough tags for each deer.
Youth 16 and under all get a doe tag. This means they don’t have to apply and be lucky enough to get drawn. Each kid can shoot a doe. What is different and badly abused in our areas is that the adults will shoot the youth’s doe and then use the youth’s tag to register it.
This is outright illegal and unsportsmanlike. Unethical is another term I would use for this action. Kids have to shoot their own doe. No party hunting is allowed for that youth doe tag.
It is also illegal, and routinely done, to purchase a mom or grandma a tag when they have no intent on going hunting. This borrow/lend scheme is common, and both the borrower and the lender of such a tag can be ticketed. Don’t let anyone buy a tag in your name.
You may not use radio/phone/text or other electronic devices in the aid of taking big game. You cannot tell you party that a buck is crossing here or there and they should get into position at point X. The use of drones in finding or moving game is also illegal.
Officer Dirks indicated that trespassing in the deer season is kind of a severe problem, but the rest of the year it is a less intense problem. You may not enter any agricultural land regardless of whether it is posted as closed or not. You may enter un-posted land to retrieve wounded game, but may not enter posted land for that same purpose without permission.
It is so easy to look up a landowner phone number and make that important call. Landowner relations are so much stronger with the hunting community when this common sense activity is strictly adhered to. One bad experience might close large tracts of land to all hunters. Don’t be the individual that makes this happen.
When landowners close their property to hunters, even those retrieving wounded game, it is usually a result of a prior bad experience. I don’t know how many times I have been called by a hunter wanting to enter my property to retrieve wounded game when in actuality all they want to do is push a deer out of my spot into a spot where they can hunt it.
It comes down to ethical and sportsmanlike conduct. You do it — make sure all of those in your party do, too.
If you see a violation, be the first to call the Turn in Poachers Line at 1-800-652-9093. Officer Dirks indicated that some of the biggest offenders he has been successful in prosecuting came from a TIP call. My hats off to all of the state’s conservation officers for keeping us safe and protecting our natural resources for all to enjoy.