Insuring fair hunting practices

Senior Game Warden Bill Brinegar looks through Game and Fish check station signs Oct. 26 at the Game and Fish offices.

SHANNON BRODERICK/Boomerang photographer

Hunters in the Laramie region received more than 382 citations in 2016 for a variety of hunting violations, ranging from failing to stop at mandatory field check stations to tagging their animal. The Laramie region sprawls more than 15,000 square miles from the Nebraska state line to the Continental Divide and north from Colorado to south of Casper, Wyoming Game and Fish Warden Bill Brinegar said.

According to information provided by Game and Fish, the number of citations from game wardens decreased from 387 in 2015 to 382 in 2016.

So far, 31 citations for failing to properly tag an animal, shooting along or across a road and failing to stop at a certified game check station have been issued in 2017.

If a hunting violation is not as severe, game wardens can issue written warnings. In 2016, game wardens issued 638 written warnings in the Laramie region, Game and Fish information states.

Brinegar said one of the more common reasons hunters receive citations and written warnings is for not checking in at mandatory field check stations game and fish biologists set up to record how many animals are being harvested.

“(Earlier in the season), another warden and I helped out at a check station,” he said. “We wrote several tickets for hunters running the check station when they had animals in the back. For some reason, people think if they don’t have anything they don’t need to stop, or they are playing on their phone and not paying attention and they just blow right through.”

Information provided by Game and Fish states seven law enforcement officers worked 128 hours in 2016 during a two-day taskforce at two field check stations, documenting a total of 23 violations. About 70 percent of the violations were failing to stop at an established check station.

Wildlife Management Coordinator Corey Class said it is important for hunters to stop at the field checks, even if they don’t have any animals. The data they receive is used to help determine how many hunting licenses should be issued the next year to bring the herds to their target population, he said.

“We count the total number of (animals) we see and we also break them into males, females and juveniles and we also use our harvest data to come up with population estimates,” Class said. “Then we generate herd objectives for all of our herds. Right now the Snowy Range herd objective is 6,000 (elk) and so we are over that by we feel by a few thousand.”

Brinegar said he has confiscated animals from people who harvest animals illegally. Animals can be illegally harvested is if the hunter does not use the carcass coupon they get when they received a hunting license. When hunters don’t tag an animal they harvest and use it on another animal, the animal’s population becomes lower than the fish and game’s estimate, he said.

“When you receive a license to harvest a big game animal … you have to sign a carcass coupon, you have to detach it and then you have to cut the dates out,” Brinegar said. “If you don’t do that, to the game warden it looks like you are trying to go and sneak that one home and go out and harvest another one.”

The Game and Fish violation records are in the process of being updated, but so far for 2017, they state there are 17 local instances where a hunter failed to properly tag a big game animal, Game and Fish records state.

Game wardens also work to insure fair hunting practices, such as patrolling areas to make sure hunters are not shooting from the road or from within their vehicles, giving the game a fair chase, he said.

“Another game warden and I ran a decoy operation and I think we had eight shooters, all of them shot from the road and two of them shot from their vehicles,” Brinegar said. “Not only is that not legal, it is not ethical — there is no fair chase involved.”

Game and Fish records state there are 13 local instances so far in 2017 of hunters shooting from a vehicle or public road.

When game wardens come into situations where animals are confiscated from hunters, the game and fish department tries to donate the animal to people in the community who need the food, Brinegar said.

“You may get your animal confiscated or you may just get a ticket if we think you just made a mistake,” Brinegar said. “I had to seize an elk from somebody that ran the check station and I think was trying to sneak one home and go get another one.”

A new concern is the use of newer long-range guns for hunting that typically are used for shooting sports, he said. It is not illegal for people to hunt with long-range firearms, thought.

“One of the things that is really disturbing that we are seeing more of is a lot of the newer guns are long-range,” Brinegar said. “You increase the chance of wounding animals, animals getting away and I see that a lot and it is really disturbing. The closer you are, the better shot you are going to take.”

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