As big game season begins, wildlife troopers warn hunters about using tech in the field
Alaska's big game hunting season begins this month and 2019 includes new regulations and a warning to hunters about how they use cell phones in the field.
August and September are the busiest months for moose, sheep, caribou and bear hunts in Alaska, according to Alaska Wildlife Troopers detachment commander Capt. Rex Leath.
Troopers say about five out of every 100 hunters in Alaska break the rules. The most common violations are not punching a harvest ticket right after a kill or not salvaging the appropriate amount of meat, according to Leath.
However, in recent years he says cell phones and drones have created new kinds of violations and unfair advantages.
For example, calling or texting another hunter to share the location of animal or guide someone to an animal in the field is illegal. Drones also may not be used for hunting.
“If you call your friend on your cell phone and say, 'Hey I see a really big moose across the road, you should go look for it,' your friend cannot go harvest that animal that day and neither can you,” Leath said. “Same thing with unmanned aerial vehicles or drones. You can’t use a drone during your hunt prior to harvesting an animal and then go harvest an animal.”
Wildlife troopers say as technology has become more reasonably priced, they’ve seen an uptick in its use. The state is putting additional resources in the field and training troopers to identify technology violations, according to Leath. He said the penalty could be serious if hunters are caught.
“Let's say you use a cell phone to identify an animal to go harvest an animal illegally that same day. You very well could be looking at obviously losing that technological device that you have, your firearm or what was used to harvest the animal, the animal itself, potentially any vehicle you used to harvest that animal whether it be a boat, an airplane or a road vehicle, as well as paying a civil fine for the compensation of that animal,” Leath said.
Before heading out, wildlife troopers urge hunters to make sure they are familiar with all the regulations that apply to the areas and game species they plan to hunt.
Rules can change slightly year to year so it’s important to stay up-to-date. Hunters can pick up a free copy of the Alaska State Hunting Regulations booklet at any Alaska Department of Fish and Game office or where licenses are sold.
The regulations may also be viewed online at the department's website.
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