By BRUCE AUCHLY
Each fall tens of thousands of Montana men and women spend anywhere from a few hours to a several weeks hunting. Most have a wonderful time; a few run afoul of the law.
Here are 10 problem areas, courtesy of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks game wardens, that hunters seem to stumble over year after year:
- Trespassing. Hunters must have permission of the landowner before hunting on private land. In Montana, private land does not have to be posted for a hunter to be guilty of trespassing. Ask first.
- State law makes it illegal for anyone to shoot on, from, or across a road or right of way. The right of way generally lies between the fences on either side of the road. It’s also known as the shoulder or borrow pit.
- Make sure of sunrise and sunset times. Big game season runs from one half hour before sunrise to one half-hour after sunset. Use only the sunrise-sunset tables supplied by FWP, not the times in the local newspaper or on television.
- After taking a big game animal, hunters must validate their hunting tag. Proper validation means completely cutting out the date and month on the tag. It also means thinking ahead so you don’t, say, put a deer tag on an elk. Excitement is no excuse.
- Hunters must use their own tags when shooting an animal. Transferring licenses between spouses or using a family member’s tag is illegal. Some states allow party hunting, not Montana.
- Drive only on established roads. On public land, stay on the road. On private land, drive only where the landowner tells you. Driving off a road is a sure way to make an enemy of a private landowner and probably get a ticket.
- Hunters and anglers are required to stop at all check stations, going to or coming from the field, with or without game. Even if you are out fishing, you must stop at all check stations. Driving by a check station not only hurts FWP’s efforts to gather data it is illegal and can result in a ticket.
- When transporting a big game animal, evidence of the animal’s sex must remain naturally attached to the carcass. This is especially important early in the season when the heat of the day may lead a hunter to remove the hide from an animal’s carcass.
- Don’t shoot from a vehicle. Ethics and sportsmanship define hunting. It’s not very sporting, and frankly it’s dangerous, to shoot from a pickup window or truck bed.
- Big game hunters must wear at least 400 square inches of hunter orange above the waist and visible from all sides. Although it’s not required for bird hunters, it’s a darn good idea to put on some orange, at least a hat or vest.