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Game wardens: Many hunting violations due to poor judgment and ethics

October 15, 2010

Game wardens: Many hunting violations due to poor judgment and ethics

Green River - After a busy weekend for big game hunters in southwest Wyoming, wildlife officers with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department are troubled by the number and type of citations issued to area hunters.

Green River Wildlife Supervisor Steve DeCecco says the department spends a great deal of time highlighting the more high profile wildlife violation cases when many of the citations issued resulted from something as simple as lack of good judgment.

DeCecco, a veteran wildlife officer of nearly 30 years and supervisor of the region's nine game wardens, says he sees the same hunting violations each year. DeCecco had his own epiphany this past weekend and says many violations could have been avoided.

"It is common practice for department personnel to showcase wildlife violation cases in the media, especially when it involves such violations as taking a big game animal solely for its antlers, taking a trophy-quality buck or bull out of season or purposely taking an over limit of game animals," said DeCecco. "But, more often than not, some violations could have been avoided if the hunter just took his/her time, assessed the entire scenario, considered his/her own physical limitations and exercised good judgment."

This past weekend an elk hunter was cited near La Barge Creek for killing a bull elk instead of a cow elk.

"The hunter had a permit for a cow elk only," DeCecco said. "The first thing he did wrong was shooting from a public road. It was late in the day and because the cloud cover was heavy, the lighting was poor. Also, the man recently had eye surgery. All of these limitations and conditions combined to make for a poor decision on his part to shoot at the elk herd several hundred yards away on the hillside above the road. If he had just waited for better light and shot in the range he was more proficient at, this violation would have been avoided."

In a separate big game hunting violation game wardens from Kemmerer and Cokeville cited a Green River man for killing two deer on one deer license.

"This is another case of poor judgment in which a hunter shot two deer," said DeCecco. "The man shot the first deer and he did not properly follow that deer once he fired the shot. He then shot at a deer he thought was the deer he first shot and it was not the first deer, but a second deer. Rather than field dress both of the deer and go find a game warden to report the mistake to, the man chose to only field dress the bigger deer and take the back straps off the second, smaller deer and leave the rest of the deer to rot. The man showed lack of good judgment and good ethics in this case. Fortunately, there were concerned, ethical hunters watching the whole incident unfold and reported the incident to game wardens patrolling the area."

Green River Game Warden Dustin Kirsch and Evanston Game Warden Brian Baker expressed their concern over the increase of hunters driving off-road to retrieve game animals.

"I saw several instances of hunters driving off-road on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands and lands enrolled in the department's Hunter Management Areas (HMAs) near Evanston," says Kirsch. "This past weekend many individuals drove into roadless areas to hunt or retrieve animals, causing immense resource damage."

"There are specific ranch rules which apply to each HMA," Baker added. "Many hunters do not understand that by breaking these rules they are jeopardizing their future access to these private lands."

HMAs are parcels of land where the department facilitates management of hunters for access to hunt. The area may be solely private lands or a combination of private, state trust land and federal land within ranch boundaries. All hunters who wish to hunt these access areas must obtain a printed permission slip. The hunter pays no fee for receiving permission for access for specific times only and they must abide by ranch rules.

National forests have regulations that restrict four wheeler use to established roads. If there is a road closure sign, that also pertains to ATVs or four wheelers. Four wheeler use is generally allowed off road for restricted distances on most BLM land. However, the BLM strongly recommends you restrict use to established roads or two-tracks. If you are on private lands, four-wheeler use is totally up to the landowner. It is a good idea to check with the local forest service or BLM office for specific regulations.

Green River Warden Duane Kerr says he had at least three instances of hunters killing yearling buck pronghorn on doe licenses because hunters did not take their time to be sure of their target before pulling the trigger.

"Doe (female) pronghorn have horns just like the buck (male) pronghorn that is why it is critical that pronghorn hunters look for the black cheek patch on the male pronghorn when hunting for the bucks," said Kerr. Kerr also wrote four citations to hunters for hunting without conservation stamps, several citations to hunters hunting in the wrong area or portion of area and at least six hunters not being able to show proof of hunter education.

"A large percentage of these violations demonstrate that many hunters still don't bother to read and understand the rules they need to know for what and where they are hunting," Kerr said. "I have noticed over the last several years that the use of good maps by a hunter is rare and even then some folks with good maps have no idea where they are or how to read the map."

Mountain View Game Warden Daniel Beach says he is seeing more cases in which people are shooting game for other people, commonly called party hunting. Party hunting is illegal in Wyoming.

"I have cases where adults shoot game for other people, like their children, elderly parent or wives, and that is illegal," Beach said. "I have had cases where I am told the licensed person has killed the elk or deer, but they have 'already gone back to town' and they are not in camp for me to make sure they truly.

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