Hunters are responsible for knowing game laws.
But if that’s true, as I believe it is, isn’t it up to the state game and fish agencies to make those laws reasonably accessible and, if it’s not too much to ask, clear enough to be understood by an average person?
The well-publicized case of Ted Nugent’ s plea agreement, reached in Alaska April 24th, highlights both the potential penalties for not knowing a regulation and a game and fish agency’s ineffective measures to let hunters know about it.
According to reports, Nugent “wounded” a bear (though apparently only very slightly) on a bow hunt in Alaska in 2009. He made a good-faith effort to follow the bear and found nothing but slight amounts of blood. A few days later he killed a bear. The court determined that the first bear counted against his one-bear limit and Nugent was therefore in violation. And since he transported the second bear the court slapped him with a misdemeanor violation of the Lacey Act. He’s paying a $10,000 fine and agreed to various other punishments.
It’s been widely reported that Nugent did not know about the law stating that the wounded bear counted against his limit. (Nor does the law define “wounded.”) But what really shocked me was to learn the judge in the case didn’t know about it, either.
As reported by AP, “The judge said he wasn’t aware of the ‘sort of one-strike policy, either.” He added, “It (the regulation) probably is not widely known, and if there is a side benefit to the agreement reached here today—since apparently newspapers are interested in Mr. Nugent and his doings – this probably will serve to alert a great many hunters to that very issue and may in fact, prevent violations in the future and court activity for a whole slew of folks.”
I hope every state game and fish agency in the country reads that statement and understands that hunters should not have to depend on court cases and news stories about celebrities in order to know what the regulations are. The vast majority of hunters actually want to obey the laws and we read dozens to hundreds of pages of regulations every year to understand them. But if a law is so obscure that a judge doesn’t know about it, then the people writing the regulations are not doing their job.