Ready, set, hunt! Looks like another windy deer opener tomorrow, but don’t let that stop you from heading afield. Thanks to some parental sporting event duties this year, I’m putting off my firearms hunting until the 3-B opener in the southeast, but good luck to everyone else this weekend. Chatting with a fellow hunter yesterday reminded me of a column I wrote a year ago that deserves mention on the eve of opener 2014.
While sitting in your deer blind, it sure is tempting to text your fellow hunters, isn’t it? Many, maybe most, deer hunters carry cell phones these days, but most have no clue that they cannot use electronic devices – including cell phones – to assist in the taking of a deer. The law plainly reads (2014 Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook, Page 28) “Using walkie talkies, cell phones, remote control of other radio equipment to take big game or small game is unlawful.”
Last fall, I called Region 3 Minnesota DNR Enforcement Captain Greg Salo about where one draws the line in using a cell phone afield, and he said the key phrase is “to take.” Say you’re hunting with a youngster who gets cold and wants to head back to the hunting shack. You send a text or call a hunting companion to watch for Junior’s return. That’s legal. My dad shoots a buck in the next valley and needs help dragging it. He sends me a text or a call requesting assistance. That’s legal, because the deer already has been taken.
OK, maybe my oldest son headed in for lunch, now wants to return. He texts that he’ll try and jump a deer out of the CRP field adjacent to my blind en route. Illegal, because his actions could assist me in the taking of a deer. Yes, Salo noted, there are ways to get cute with the above, like maybe Junior decides to take the scenic route back to the hunting shack, or developing some double-secret jargon to outwit the law. Salo’s advice: Use some common sense, don’t get cute trying to skirt the plain reading, and you won’t get crossways with this law.
My experience with state conservation officers suggests they want to see the public using these devices to help stay safe afield. Moose hunting in the Boundary Waters a decade ago, I spoke with an area CO beforehand about carrying hand-held walkie-talkies to maintain contact with our base camp. While cautioning me not to use them to discuss hunting strategy, he encouraged me to bring the walkie-talkies for safety purposes.
Salo agreed with my concern that few hunters understand the electronic device law. He’s heard hunters talking freely about texting each other while hunting, and he stops them to explain the law.