Wildlife Decoys Used to Catch Illegal Hunters

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Wildlife decoys were first used by game wardens in Wisconsin in the 1940s and by other wildlife agencies across North America ever since.

They have been readily accepted by the courts as a legitimate tool for use by wildlife law enforcement officers to deter illegal behavior. All across Idaho they are used throughout the year, in a wide variety of situations.

The use of decoys has many benefits, but most important is that they hopefully reduce the number of live animals lost to illegal activities. Instead of a live elk standing at the edge of the timber grazing after sundown, officers place a decoy in the area where illegal activities are suspected to see if poachers appear. The courts have ruled that this is not entrapment because no one is being forced to stop and shoot in violation of shooting hours or season restrictions.

Decoys can be adapted to protect a specific segment of a population, such as large antlered deer, from being killed after the season is closed. High poaching activity can limit population growth in a certain area, risk human safety, or result in an area being closed.

Wild animals are more vulnerable to humans at night when they expose themselves to graze open fields and hillsides. Legitimate hunters see these live animals or decoys and keep on driving. Those willing to trade the honorable title of hunter for poacher stop and make a conscious decision to violate a variety of laws and regulations.

In Idaho, hunting hours each day begin one-half hour before sunrise and end one- half hour after sundown. It is illegal to use artificial light, such as shining headlights on an elk and killing it. Hence the rules for daylight hunting only, no hunting with artificial light, and no shooting from or across a public road.

These and other rules are printed in all Idaho Fish and Game hunting booklets, available free of charge or online at http://fishandgame.idaho.gov.

Farm and ranch owners frequently request assistance from Fish and Game officers about shot cattle and horses, vandalism, or vehicle or hunter trespass on cultivated ground. Officers hear the frustration and anger in the voice of many farmers and ranchers about damage on their land. Placing a decoy in the area will help protect the landowners' property.

It is important for all hunters to know exactly who owns the land that they plan to hunt on. Some private pasture lands looks just like BLM desert sagebrush land. Some private forested land looks just like national forest land. Some private wheat fields are surrounded by national forests. Some private land is enrolled in farm programs, such as the Conservation Reserve Program, in which private ground is taken out of farm production. If private land is posted against trespassing of any sort, the person must stay off the property. In Idaho, if the land is cultivated then trespassing signs are not required. Driving a vehicle off-road onto private ground is trespassing.

Most landowners who give permission to hunt do not give permission for motorized game retrieval, so ask before hunting the land. Preseason research on the hunter's part will take care of the questions about private land versus public land. If the landowner does not want people on his property, even if it is cultivated, then posting is helpful.

"No Trespassing" signs, to include no hunting, should be placed along the boundary every 660 feet. A trespass citation holds up better with the county prosecutor when signs or other methods, such as fluorescent orange paint, are used.

Concerned hunters who hate poaching can call the nearest conservation officer, Fish and Game office, Sheriff's office, or 800-632-5999. Minutes count when the victim cannot talk. Please give detailed information about the incident. Callers may remain anonymous and may collect a reward if citations are issued.