When Bob Ream, chairman of the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission,
got his deer this hunting season, he tagged it and took it home for
The problem was, he got the four-point buck with his 2000 Subaru
Forester, and Montana regulations limit hunting to firearms and archery.
In addition, the accident occurred in the early morning hours Nov. 12,
before the hunting season opened for the day.
It wasn’t until Ream mentioned it to a game warden when they were
talking about another topic that he learned it was illegal. The animal
was confiscated and the meat given to a food bank, and Ream was issued a
warning but not ticketed.
Jim Kropp, chief of law enforcement for FWP, said the matter was
handled without regard to Ream’s status as an FWP commissioner.
“The wardens have a fair amount of discretion, and we issue far, far
more warnings than citations,” Kropp said on Monday.
Ironically, the commission is responsible for setting regulations, as
well s hunting seasons and structures. The five commissioners are
appointed by the governor, and Ream has served for three years.
The accident happened as Ream was on his way to hunt deer in Coffee
Creek in Region 4 in north-central Montana. The deer jumped out of the
blackness and caused $5,000 in damage to Ream’s vehicle, totaling it. He
wasn’t hurt, but the deer was dead.
“I grew up in Wisconsin and Minnesota, where when you hit a deer you
just call the warden and I think you gave them $5 and they gave
you a tag at any time of the year,” Ream said. “In 26 other states they
have provisions for salvaging road kill deer. We don’t have that here;
in fact, quite the opposite. But I assumed I could tag it.”
Kropp noted that Montana statutes define how hunters can take big
game, but don’t go into detail about what’s an illegal take because it
would be too difficult to define all the various unlawful scenarios. He
added that in 31 years of law enforcement, he hasn’t run across this
situation very often, usually because the deer are not salvageable once
they come in contact with a vehicle.
“More often, we get calls from people who want to cut off antlers or
the claws of black bears (killed by vehicles), and you simply can’t do
that,” Kropp said. “But the only way to possess them legally is to
harvest them legally with a license.”
Ream said his deer only had significant damage to a hind quarter.
According to Ream, the issue apparently goes back to a 1984 legal
opinion from an FWP staff attorney. Ream said he may bring the issue up
at the Dec.8 commission meeting to see if they can somehow clarify this
in the regulations so that others don’t make the same mistake he did.
“I grew up learning not to waste game. The food bank benefited out of
this, so 90 percent of it was good,” Ream said. “I think this may be a
gray area that we may need to look into further and at the very least
put into the regulations.
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