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 with Rob Miskosky

The Digital Age and Enforcement

A cool breeze drifted by the hunter, cooling him off. He was starting to feel refreshed, more alert now as the work getting up the tree in his self-climber had been strenuous. He’d been in his stand now for about 30 minutes. The welcomed breeze was strong enough to keep the flies away from his perch 18-feet up the large poplar tree. His bow was well positioned above his head and to the right. His backpack was still attached to the rope he had pulled it up the tree with but it too was easily accessible on his left. It was early afternoon and he was prepared for several hours in his perch before darkness would fall, such is the life of a bowhunter—long hours, heat, bugs and flies, but it was a small price to pay for an extended hunting season.

The hunter leaned back against the tree and cinched his safety harness a little tighter. “Okay, enough noise,” he thought to himself. “You’ll scare everything out of the country.”

He had a moose tag in his pocket as well as a white-tailed deer tag, but the moose was what he was after, hence the spot he had chosen with his treestand—a mineral spring that was laden with tracks. His trail camera had photographed three bulls of different sizes, three cows and two calves using the mineral spring. The odd deer had shown up as well but nothing he wanted to waste his tag on. He was after a bull moose, preferably the smallest one.

Time marched on and the hunter soon found he had been sitting for nearly four hours. He had claimed a granola bar from his pack and a small juice box had fulfilled his thirst, brought on by the heat of the afternoon sun that was now starting to wane in the western sky. The cooling breeze had disappeared and flies had been tormenting him, he had drawn down the fly net over his face but it had made him hot. It wasn’t a fair trade off and he found himself switching between it being on or off. Miffed at the shuffling noises he was making, he cursed the flies and heat. Soon it would be cooler though and comfort would be returned, if he could last that long.

A sudden noise to the left of the mineral spring snapped him back to attention. The noise was distinct; he knew he wasn’t hearing things but now there was nothing but silence. His mind raced and his heart thumped. With care, he slowly reached behind him and as slowly as he could, he brought his bow to his lap. And then a twig snapped! Instantly he focused on the direction the sound had come from and his fingers tightened on his bow. Still nothing could be seen. Then, like an apparition, a young cow elk suddenly appeared, cautiously moving toward the mineral spring. The hunter’s heart sank. He had no tag! He knew there was a season for elk, but he had never seen one and he’d been hunting there for years.

The young cow was walking in now just as he had envisioned the moose would. In mere seconds, it would be perfectly broadside. With a ball of excitement building in the pit of his stomach, he drew his bow and took aim. He hesitated, but then fought off the fear and let loose an arrow that found its mark. The elk bolted, running through the mucky water to the top of the mineral spring where it stopped, staggered, and then fell over less than 50-metres from the hunter’s treestand.

The hunter quickly surveyed his surroundings before hanging his bow back up on the cut-off branch above him. He then slowly reached over to his side and pulled out his iPhone while still surveying the area around him. Selecting the Internet, he keyed in, entered his password, and began the process of purchasing an elk tag. He had extra yellow tags in his backpack, all he needed now was a printer, and that was just a short distance away...

The preceding is false, of course. But is it?

In today’s electronic world, enforcement officers are faced with the task of keeping individuals honest—a task that, as we move further towards a digital age, becomes daunting at least.

So, how do those who review and set our regulations view the abuse that could be taking place with our electronic licensing system?

According to Regulations Officer, Ben Branscombe, the scenario laid out here has certainly been discussed. In his view, electronic licensing has created a host of problems for enforcement officers, and some that, most likely, have yet to be discovered.

During our conversation, I suggested that the effort to prove a crime against a perpetrator in this case would be difficult, and perhaps not worth the effort. But according to Branscombe, “There are no charges that aren’t worth our time.”

Fish and Wildlife have also informally discussed placing a time limit on the validation of your hunting licence, say 24-hours from the time the licence is purchased until the time it becomes valid. However, according to Provincial Big Game Specialist, Rob Corrigan, in this instance, it penalizes those who may suddenly find themselves available for a hunt with friends that they earlier may not have been able to attend. And he isn’t for it.

“Hunting is one activity where we are judged by our own ethics,” said Corrigan. “The guy that figured out how to beat the last system will figure out how to beat the next system. Those guys will continue to break the law regardless.

“It’s like the Hunter Host system. We know it is being abused, but what are we going to do, punish everybody and take it away? That’s not the business we are in here.”

As written in the Alberta Guide to Hunting Regulations: The hunter must carry the licence and applicable tag(s) on his or her person while hunting. What it doesn’t say in either the hunting regulations or in the Wildlife Act, at least I couldn’t find it, is what constitutes a licence. Does it have to be a physical piece of paper carried on your person, or would showing an image of your licence on a iPhone or other portable device be considered acceptable?

Until a definition of what constitutes a licence is clearly defined, by my estimation, anything goes, regardless of format.

And enforcement officers will continue to hope for compliance. ■

For previous Outdoor Pursuits click here.

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