Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wildlife Division kept busy with citations during gun deer week

With the Ohio’s seven-day general firearms deer-hunting season under its belt the state’s wildlife officers can reflect on how participants behaved themselves.

Or misbehaved as once again commissioned officers with the Ohio Division of Wildlife spent some of their time issuing citations.

Not that these law enforcement agents had a quota to meet. It’s just that sometimes people do bad things that warrant a ticket, says Jim Lehman, the agency’s law enforcement administrator.

And even though the first few days of this year’s gun season was wet, windy and miserable the number of citations issued was on par with previous seasons, Lehman said.

In all, the state’s commissioned wildlife officers performed 7,951 contacts and made 909 arrests, up only two percent, Lehman said.

Count trespassing without written permission as the top ticket item with the state’s wildlife officers issuing 133 citations.

“It is a high priority for us, given the amount of private property in the state,” Lehman said.

Other frequently encountered violations included unplugged guns (Number Two at 131 citations), and failure to properly tag a deer (Number Three with 122 citations), no deer permit (Number Four with 102 citations) and not wearing blaze orange (Number Five with 62 citations).

The failure to wear an orange garment is typically written when another violation occurs as the hunter is often trying to avoid detection, Lehman said.

“Obviously someone who is hunting with a rifle or else hunting without a deer tag likely won’t be wearing hunter orange,” Lehman said.

Yet concerns about using the new deer check-in system would result in unintended violations did not crop up as much as Wildlife Division officials first thought, Lehman said.

Calls to the Wildlife Division inquiring about the new check-in process and other matters were up 44 percent, Lehman said.

“Many people called to inquire if they were filling out the tags properly, and that was encouraging,” Lehman said.

Lehman said also that it appears the bulk of successful hunter employed the telephone to check in their animals, though Lehman believes using the Internet is even easier.

As for hunters not properly caring for their paper document while dragging out a deer, that issue will be looked at during the officers’ debriefing procedure, Lehman says.

Lehman did say that many hunters employed some rather unique tools to weather-proof their filled-in deer tags. This effort included using a zipper-style of plastic holder given away by wildlife officers that featured a clear side and an orange side along with a hole for attaching with a string or plastic cable tie.

Importantly, Lehman says, it is not the object of the wildlife officers to see who can write the most tickets. If an agent determines that nothing is deliberate and the hunter makes a good faith effort he more often than not is given a pass, Lehman says.

Carelessness or intentionally trying to evade the law is a different matter all together, Lehman says also.

“That’s what is nice with this system; it allows you to have (the information) right at the officer’s fingertips and can be dealt with right in the field or shortly thereafter,” Lehman said. “We don’t want to issue citations when they’re not necessary but this new system is a great tool.”

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

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