Big game hunters come in many sizes and shapes, but the infractions they commit against the law are pretty standard.
The six most commonly seen illegal offenses were recently shared by Oregon State Police trooper Seth Cooney who is based in the Enterprise office.
Tops on the list of repeated offenses is the illegal use of a person's game tag to physically tag an animal shot by another. Cooney questions the ethics of such hunting which often comes in the form of a husband out hunting and carrying the wife's tag while she remains at the hunting camp. This violation, as are all violations of the Oregon State fish and wildlife code, can earn the perpetrator a Class A Misdemeanor ticket good for a maximum jail time of one year and/or a fine of $5,000. "You simply cannot shoot another person's animal," said the trooper whose focus for the OSP is in the area of fish and wildlife.
Troopers in the field, said Cooney, have the discretion to drop the Class A Misdemeanor charge to a violation. If they do so the base fine set on the ticket is $311 for the illegal taking of big game. Violators may either pay the fine or go to court where a judge has the authority to either raise or lower the base fine.
The second infraction on Cooney's list is the taking of big game without a valid tag. This may come in the form of hunting in the wrong unit or simply not hunting with a legal tag.
Number three comes when the hunter fails to respect the rights of private landowners and takes an animal in violation of criminal trespass. Technically the violation is assessed from where the kill is taken, not from where the hunter fires his weapon. An example of a violation would be if a hunter was standing on open hunting Boise Cascade land and shooting an animal without permission on privately closed land. Cooney says that if he comes upon such an infraction it is mandated by state law that he seize the animal.
Next on the list is when the hunter, whether intentional or not, exceeds the bag limit. This often happens when a hunter gets excited and shoots more than one animal. Related infractions include tagging the kill of another or the wasting of a game animal.
Number five on the list is the taking of a big game animal with the aid of an artificial light. This includes both illegal spotlighting of animals after dark or the use of headlights to aid in a kill.
The final most commonly seen illegal offense is the taking of big game with a prohibited weapon. The most commonly seen incidence of this offense is the shooting of big game with a rifle during bow and arrow hunting seasons.
Cooney says that elk and deer decoys are sometimes placed in locations and at times where and when hunters should not be hunting, such as along roadsides on private property. He says that such decoys are not legally construed as entrapment.
He concludes by saying not to carry any loaded weapons on an ATV, not to litter, not to drink while hunting and to abide by all road closures. Road closure maps can be obtained from any Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife office and in the latest Oregon Big Game Regulations pamphlet distributed free wherever hunting licenses are sold.