Ignorance of Labyrinthine Laws Is No Excuse; Nonsensical Hunting Rules Do Nothing to Aid Conservation

Article excerpt


Not a day goes by when an American outdoorsman doesn't confide in me that because of the increasingly complex, illogical hunting and fishing regulations across the nation, it would not surprise him if he had unintentionally violated a game law at some point. Other outdoorsmen routinely express their frustration about regulations that serve no purpose and cannot possibly be explained in terms of wildlife management.

America increasingly is drowning in just such strange, goofy regulations and requirements. As logic crusader John Stossel recently exposed, our federal government releases roughly 80,000 pages of new regulations each year - confusing, ambiguous, weird, illogical regulations that serve no meaningful purpose other than to attempt feebly to justify bureaucracies already off the rails. It's way past bizarre.

The you don't need to read it, you just need to sign it health care bill argued before the Supreme Court was more than 2,700 pages of extraordinarily complex rules and regulations. Sarcastically, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia stated that having to read the bill was a violation of the Eighth Amendment's cruel-and-unusual-punishment clause.

Regrettably, state hunting regulations also have been ravaged by the overregulation beast. In Alaska, the hunting regulation book is 128 pages long. The Alaska trapping regulation is 48 pages.

Alaska is not alone. Numerous other states have seen incredible expansion of their hunting regulations over the past few decades. In Texas, the summary of hunting and fishing regulations is 85 pages. The hunting regulations in California are roughly 140 pages long.

Even with an increasing mountain of often confusing and complex hunting and fishing regulations, sportsmen have a legal and ethical obligation to know and abide by them, no matter how goofy they may be. I have said this for decades and will continue to do so as we fight to make the regulations sensible.

I have hunted in Alaska for almost 40 years. It is a spectacular, beautiful place that offers incredible big- and small-game hunting cherished by sporters from around the globe.

In 2009, I returned again with my sons to Alaska to hunt black bear. I was unaware that the specific region where I hunted had a new and unprecedented requirement that a bear-hunting tag was considered to be filled even with a nonlethal hit on the animal. For 60 years, every tag regulation in every state and Canadian province has declared that you tag the animal upon taking possession of the animal.

The first arrow I shot on that hunt was an obviously nonlethal shot in which the arrow glanced off the animal's rib, as seen clearly on stop-action video. …