State Enacts Sensible Changes in Hunting, Fishing Regulations

Article excerpt

Byline: Inside the Outdoors By Mike Stahlberg The Register-Guard

A bowhunting acquaintance once confided that he routinely breaks the law by carrying a .357 magnum revolver in his pack while archery hunting in the Eagle Cap Wilderness.

"I'd rather get ticketed by a game warden than mauled by a bear," he reasoned.

Turns out the regulation he thumbed his nose at - which prohibits having a firearm on your person while bowhunting - is itself illegal, and apparently has been since at least 1995, when the Legislature adopted Oregon Revised Statute 166.170.

That law gives the Legislative Assembly, and only the Legislative Assembly, the authority to regulate the sale, acquisition, transfer, ownership, possession, storage, transportation and/or use of firearms.

Members of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission were informed earlier this month that they do not have authority to prohibit possession of any type of firearm or ammunition during hunting or trapping seasons. That fact came to light during a "legal review" of hunting and fishing regulations.

The review's finding casts doubt on regulations intended to protect the sanctity of archery seasons, muzzleloader hunts and even waterfowl hunts (in which the mere possession of shells containing lead shot has been a violation).

Understand, nobody is saying the commission does not have the right to regulate what weapons and ammunition can be used in various hunts and/or seasons.

What has been challenged are its rules concerning possession of certain types of firearms and ammunition.

Rules that were adopted, for the most part, simply to make it easier to enforce the regulations against the use of non-approved firearms or munitions.

(It's easy, for example, to prove a duck hunter possessed some shotgun shells filled with lead; proving that he fired the lead-filled ones rather than steel-filled shells he also carried is something else.)

Informed that it had overstepped its legal bounds, the commission authorized a temporary rule suspending all firearm and ammunition possession restrictions in the 2003 big game regulations. …