By Greg Moore
In mid-October, Idaho Fish and Game conservation officers set up an artificial doe mule deer close to a road near Sublette in southeastern Idaho. Killing antlerless deer in that area is legal only for youth hunters, and shooting from a road is illegal for anyone. Yet, during the three-hour enforcement operation, the department issued 10 citations and four warnings to five adults and four youths who had shot at the decoy a total of 31 times.
One of those cited was an adult shooting from an ATV loaded in the back of a truck.
“He was using it like some sort of mobile tree-stand,” said District Conservation Officer Ryan Hilton.
The incident was a sobering example of how many people are willing to take an illegal shortcut—commonly known as poaching—to get a big-game animal.
Illegal hunting activities in Idaho include:
- Killing a big-game animal without a license or tag.
- Hunting out of season.
- Hunting by a nonresident who has obtained a resident tag, generally from a resident friend.
- Using a weapon not permitted in a particular hunt.
- An adult hunting in a youth-only hunt.
- Shooting from a vehicle or road.
- Killing an animal, such as an endangered species, for which there is no legal season.
“It’s so hard to get a handle on it,” said Clearwater Region Conservation Officer Mark Hill, who’s in the process of creating a computer program to produce a map of unlawful wildlife harvests throughout the state.
However, Hill said, that information will probably understate the true extent of the problem. He cited a study of deer ecology in south-central Oregon that incidentally collected data showing more deer killed illegally during the study than were killed legally. From June 2005 to September 2011, the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife radio-collared 591 mule deer. During the study, 216 deer were found dead. Of the 118 animals with a known cause of mortality, 49 were killed by hunters (other main causes of death were 38 deer killed by predators and 21 by motor vehicles).
Of the hunted deer, 23 were killed in season and 26 were killed out of season (study author DeWaine Jackson cautions that those determinations were made from evidence found at the site, not from convictions). The study did not address other illegal methods that may have been used. More....