American Hunter - June 2013 - 25

Photo: Mitch Kezar / WindigoImages.com

I quickly explained that I was a hunter
education instructor and certainly was
not trying to break the law. He in turn told
me to take the two shells back to my car,
and I would not receive a citation, which
I promptly did.
As I walked out into the marsh I realized that the search of my backpack and
my shotgun had been performed without
a search warrant and probable cause, and
I never gave permission to search my
backpack. When I got back in, I called
Fish and Game to complain. From my
work with several police departments, I
knew that if that warden had been a police
officer, he would have lost his badge.
What I learned is that game wardens
in most states have extended search and
seizure powers not given to other law
enforcement officers.
The reasoning goes like this. You want
to hunt and fish legally so you purchase a
hunting and fishing license. A warden can
ask you to prove you are legal by showing
that license as well as identification and,
whether you recognize it, as the holder of
a legal license, you agree to be searched
without probable cause or search warrant.
The precedent exists based on "exigent circumstance"; since wardens typically work
alone in wild places, performing compliance checks on people who are almost all
armed with knives and/or guns, the difficulty in getting a search warrant in time
to deal with contacts in the field makes
search warrants impractical or impossible.
Laws in each state may be slightly different. In Louisiana, for example, the law
states " ... any commissioned wildlife agent
may visit, inspect, and examine, with or
without [a] search warrant, records, any
cold storage plant, warehouse, boat, store,
car, conveyance, automobile or other
vehicle, airplane or other aircraft, basket
or other receptacle, or any place of deposit
for wild birds, wild quadrupeds, fish or
other aquatic life or any parts thereof
whenever there is probable cause to
believe that a violation has occurred ... for
the purpose of ascertaining whether any
laws or regulations under the jurisdiction
of the department have been violated ... ."
Additionally, a game warden can come

onto your land and conduct an investigation without permission, and it's not
trespassing. Unless you have stocked a
lake with your own fish, planted raised
game birds or have a fenced enclosure
with game animals you have raised for
hunting, wild animals are the property of
the people, entrusted to state and federal
governments to manage and conserve.
Wardens' extended search powers
can be the source of conflict if you don't
know this. A few years ago in Wisconsin,
a hunter education instructor was found
to be telling his students they should not
hand over their firearms to wardens for
inspection and they should order them
off private property when they do not
have search warrants. He was asked to
stop teaching this and alert all his former
students to his error. When he would not
follow this directive, his hunter education
credentials were revoked.
Via email, I asked Wisconsin hunter
education administrator Timothy Lawhern,
former president of the International
Hunter Education Association, if anything
had changed in the four years since that
incident. His reply: "No change from how
we have done business for many years. The
issue in Wi a few years ago came from a
disgruntled dismissed Hunter Ed volunteer
instructor. Bottom line is he was wrong."
Lawhern himself had to write the letter to all the instructor's former students
that informed them to always follow the
commands of a law enforcement officer,
no matter the circumstance and even if
it meant giving the officer the firearm
and not blocking him/her from entering
private property without a search warrant
or probable cause.
So, if you meet a game warden in the
woods, ask him what you should do. The
warden should treat you courteously, but
he or she has the right to search. Both
parties should show each other proper
respect and everything will unfold as
quickly as possible.
And who knows, because the warden
spends more time in the field than you
probably do, he or she may have some
tips about where you are most likely to
be successful.

americanhunter.org ❘

23 ❘ june 2013

Photo: Kyle Jillison

"As I walked out into the marsh I realized that
the search of my backpack and my shotgun
had been performed without a search
warrant and probable cause ... "

News from the Field

■ WVU named NCAA National Champs!
"You could cut the air with a chainsaw,"
said Kentucky head coach Harry Mullins
as he recounted the tense events of the
2013 NCAA Rifle Championship held in
March and hosted at Ohio State University, in which the West Virginia University rifle team took first place. The
two-day competition pits eight teams
against each other in two disciplines, air
rifle and smallbore. Teams shoot both
disciplines, and the two-day aggregate
scores are added together to determine
the winner.
West Virginia's nine-point lead over
Kentucky won them the title with a total
score of 4,679. That is the second-highest
score in NCAA history. Petra Zublasing, a
senior at WVU, led the Mountaineers to
victory, scoring top place in both smallbore and air rifle categories, and went on
to win both individual titles. "Watching it
is still worse than competing," said WVU
head coach John Hammond.
■ Dogs Allowed for Lions in South
Dakota A new law signed in March by
South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard will
allow dogs to be used by hunters in the
pursuit of mountain lions. South Dakota
has a year-round resident season for
mountain lion hunting.
■ Wolf Kill Confirmed in Kansas The
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS)
confirmed that an 80-pound animal
killed by hunters in Trego County, Kan.,
last December was indeed a western
Great Lakes subspecies of the gray
wolf. According to Kansas Department
of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT)
officials, a sustainable population of
wolves does not exist in the state,
though unofficial sightings are becoming more frequent. The last documented
wolf appeared in Kansas in 1905, according to the KDWPT. The USFWS has yet to
determine if the recent wolf killed was
captive-bred or wild.


http://www.WindigoImages.com http://www.americanhunter.org

American Hunter - June 2013

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American Hunter - June 2013 - 2
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