Cumberland Times-News

January 5, 2013

Violators violate no matter the system

Michael A. Sawyers
Cumberland Times-News

— I’ve heard it. You’ve heard it.

Shoot, you may have even said it yourself.

It goes something like this. “The checking in of deer by telephone or computer allows more people to take deer home without the state knowing about it.”

I totally disagree.

People who are going to kill deer and not check them in are going to do it no matter what system is in place. I believe that this violation is a constant, or at least as close to a constant as you can get.

Maybe we could set up a separate phone number for hunters to call when they don’t check in a deer. That way we could have better mortality totals.

I believe the majority of hunters want to check in their deer. For one thing, they don’t want to violate a regulation and for another they are proud of killing a deer and want to make it official. They want to be able to talk about their success beyond the small circle of companions who know they committed a tort.

I don’t think a person who has legally checked in deer his entire hunting life is going to think, “There is a new check-in system now so I am going to violate.”

The Maryland Wildlife & Heritage Service considered, during the most recent regulation-changing session, getting rid of the requirement that hunters fill in a harvest report card when they dispatch a deer. I, for one, am glad that regulation remains.

So, not only does the hunter have to put a field tag on the deer, but he or she must put information on the harvest report card. If not done, each is a separate violation.

It is the harvest report card that represents the greatest deterrent to not checking in a deer.

The way I see it, a violator wants to get the deer home without anybody knowing about it. The deer will be field tagged. That’s no big deal, right?

The poacher just discards the tag after reaching safety. After all, they are not numbered and you can even make your own tags if you want.

However, the violator doesn’t want to fill out the harvest report card, because that will show that a deer has been killed and mess up his or her next trip afield.

NRP officer: Sir, I see on your harvest report card that you killed a buck on the opening day of rifle season. Why are you still out here hunting on the second day?

Violator: Well... errrrr... mmmm... duhhh!

Or...

NRP officer: Sir, I see you are on your way home with a field-tagged deer, but you haven’t filled out the harvest report card.

Violator: Well, I, uh, filled out the field tag and then, I, uh, uh, lost my pen. Yeah, that’s the ticket, yeah, I lost my pen.

NRP officer: No. That’s not the ticket. This is the ticket.

I think the electronic checking in of deer and turkeys is great. I’m hoping West Virginia soon goes to a similar system.

Stick an arrow through a buck at last light, track it for a couple hours, take a couple more hours to get it out of the woods and you can have one heck of a time finding a check station at a grocery store or gas station or hardware store that is still open.

In fact, the frustration of not being able to find an open checking station and the need to get home (maybe you work the next day) could cause a hunter to throw up his arms and take the deer home without registering it with the state.

If that same scenario happens in Maryland, just tag the deer, fill in your harvest report card, pull out the cell phone and check in the deer.

Once you get the confirmation number, just add that to the harvest report card.

You are already bushed, so not making an excursionary journey looking for a wee-hours check station is a blessing.

I had trouble getting into my Maryland DNR license account online, so I checked in my two deer and one turkey this fall via telephone. I’ll have to talk with somebody in licensing to see why I’m having trouble online.

The phone checking was very easy. One tip: Check in the deer before you gut it or your cell phone can get messy.

My favorite story about checking in deer is a true one from Lewis County, W.Va.

A husband drives his wife to a mom-and-pop store where she checks in an 8-point buck.

The clerk asks the woman where she harvested such a nice buck.

“Wait a minute,” she said. “I’ll have to go out to the truck and ask my husband.”

Contact Outdoor Editor Mike Sawyers at msawyers@times-news.com.