Is There A Remote Control Camera Controversy Brewing?

In the most recent issue of Outdoor News there was a commentary article by David Larson who suggests that maybe it’s time that remote controlled game cameras be regulated in Minnesota.   He contends that their use constitutes unfair chase, considering that many deer during the fall season fall into a pattern and these cameras can be used as a tool to substantially increase a hunter’s chances.

Does this smack a bit of a brewing spinning wing decoy-like controversy?   Is technology such as this really all that bad?   Should a hunter who spends $200 on a fun new toy feel guilty of a device that mostly helps to build anticipation for the upcoming season?

If you read the article you will see that Mr. Larson and his hunting partner witnessed another hunter travel past them only to make a shot in the woods a short time later.   As a result, the Johnny-come-lately hunter ended up shooting a nice 10-pt buck after a short time spent in the woods.   They then witnessed him carry something out of the woods in a burlap bag, although they have no concrete evidence as to what the bag might have contained.

Later on as they related their story to hunting buddies they all began to speculate that it must have been a game camera hidden in that bag he was removing from the woods.   To this group it seems as though a game camera is the only plausible explanation as to why this “lucky” hunter could have pulled off the stunt with such efficiency.

Okay, I have some big problems with Mr. Larson’s derogatory remarks about the use of an infrared game camera.   To me it seems as though he has a bucket full of sour grapes having missed out on the opportunity of a nice buck, so he vents his anger toward regulating a device that may or may not have been used.   He forgets the fact that sometimes in deer hunting it is better to be lucky, than it is to be savvy with deer knowledge…and this is particularly true during the silly season we know as the rut.

As deer hunters, when we fail to achieve our objective of bagging a nice deer we always turn to searching for an excuse.   If you’ve read my blog you will know I am just as famous for this as the next guy.   Still, I don’t advocate the regulation of a device without any solid evidence that a game camera may have been used.   And even so, who is to say that a game camera used by a hunter for scouting constitutes unfair chase?  Why stop there…maybe a GPS unit, maybe a digital rangefinder, and maybe artificial game calls should all be banned.   Each device could be considered a tool to help aid a hunter gain greater success over a hunter who chooses not to use one.   Where do you draw the line?

I happen to believe that the individual sportsman must make those ethical decisions himself.   If Mr. Larson doesn’t feel the use of a camera is fair, then I suggest he not use one when he is hunting.   He crosses the line; however, when he suggests that maybe I shouldn’t be using one as part of my hunting preparation.   Even with the use of a camera there is no guarantee that a deer is such a creature of habit that it will react exactly the way I have patterned it with a camera.   Moreover, that camera can tell me if there is even a buck in the area where I hunt.   After all, if you are a gun hunter and you only have 2-days in Zone 4 to hunt…you need to use this sort of tool to maximize your hunting opportunities.

Perhaps Mr. Larson needs to better suck it up and accept the fact that someone hunting in the same area had his lucky day.   Had that been me hunting near Mr. Larson, one of the last things I would have wanted to hear him suggest to me was that my prize buck was taken under rules of unfair chase.   This holds true even if I had used a camera.

I certainly hope that this commentary doesn’t spark a new controversy over the use of these game cameras.   I find it hard to imagine that these cameras can be used in some illegal or unethical manner that needs to have regulatory control.   As far as I’m concerned, the hunting rules (or synopsis) is already thick enough with rules and regulations that control many of the ways we conduct ourselves outdoors.   We can live without a regulation telling us that snapping a few pictures of deer before the hunting season arrives is worthy of a citation.

© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Two-way Radios To Hunt Coyotes?

If you’ve never hunted coyotes with a group of hunters I strongly encourage you to give it a try.   Here in Minnesota state law allows hunters to apply for a free permit that allows the taking of unprotected animals (see page 31 in the 2004 Minnesota Hunting regulations book).   With this permit you can legally use two-way radios to communicate and coordinate a hunt or an attack.

By Minnesota law, it is unlawful to use radios or cellular telephones in the taking of big game or small game.   But animals such as coyotes that are unprotected are fair game even with radios…but you have to seek the permit first.

To obtain a permit contact your regional Minnesota DNR Office at one of the following locations:

DNR Wildlife Office
(Northwest – Region 1)
2115 Birchmont Beach Rd., NE
Bemidji, MN  56601

DNR Wildlife Office
(Northeast – Region 2)
1201 E. Highway 2
Grand Rapids, MN  55744

DNR Wildlife Office
(Central – Region 3)
1200 Warner Rd.
St. Paul, MN  55106

DNR Wildlife Office
(South – Region 4)
261 Highway 15 South
New Ulm, MN  56073

The question often comes up doesn’t using radios constitute unfair chase?   I suppose you could look at it this way, but the fact of the matter is these critters are unprotected for a reason.   Even when using radios it can be a sometimes unimportant tool in achieving success.   What it does, however, is keep everyone in the game plan.   Often times when you are predator hunting you are not hunting in close proximity.   In fact, two hunters might be a mile or more apart.   Using radios allows everyone in the hunting party to coordinate a game plan and stick to it.

When January rolls around we’ll get into predator hunting and the use of two-way radios at greater depth, but for right now hunters need to coordinate their hunting parties and begin making application for the permits.   When you contact your regional office simply ask for the “Application For Permit To Use Radio/Cellular Telephone Equipment To Assist In Taking Unprotected Wild Animals.”   How’s that for a simple title?   Typically you will need to declare your radio serial numbers and channels you plan to use, along with some pertinent personal information.

Generally the permits I’ve been getting are good for two years and they cover all the radio equipment that you own, if you declare it.   Begin the process now because it can take two to three weeks to get the completed permit back.   Good predator hunting can begin as early as mid-December, so it pays to act early.

© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Give Babe Winkelman A Break

Last fall, Babe Winkelman, a nationally known outdoorsman and communicator was cited for the alleged illegal use of two-way radios while deer hunting on his property in northern Minnesota. He claims that the use of the radios in his hunting party was for safety reasons…which, in my mind, is a perfectly legitimate reason for their use.

Yet, a local conservation officer who had been monitoring those communications saw it differently and made a citation. Eventually Babe petitioned the court with an Alford plea which essentially doesn’t admit to guilt, but concedes that the evidence of the case would likely point towards a conviction. Babe paid his dues which included a $200 fine and a community service component consisting of writing an article about hunting ethics. Click here to read more.

But this posting isn’t about whether Babe was right or wrong with the use of his electronics last fall. Certainly with the evolution of technology we will all be faced with new challenges that might at times put us on the wrong side of the law. Indeed, I am frustrated with the folks who are now condemning poor Babe as a lawbreaker. I’ve read that several of these individuals are calling for groups, such as the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, to “cut all ties” with the Babe. These are the folks who truly disgust me.

Let me state that I do not personally know Babe, although I once heard him give a lecture to a group of outdoor writers at a convention in Maine. It was truly one of the most inspirational talks I have ever heard. Babe described how early in his career he was to lecture a group of fishermen…but that things started off all wrong. As I recall the details, Babe was so nervous…that he tripped and fell face-first on the stage. Talk about a dramatic entry!! The entire audience was laughing…and this budding outdoors communicator was suddenly at a pivotal point in his career. His choices? Well, he either must pick himself up and now overcome the tremendous stage fright or walk off to never be heard from again.

Obviously, we all know which choice was made by Babe. He didn’t give up…in fact, over the course of 25+ years as writer and TV host I dare say he has inspired many of us to explore and better appreciate the great outdoors. Babe’s enthusiasm for the outdoors was evident whether you saw him in person or on TV.

I ask you this question…do we need more Babe Winkelmans in our outdoor world or should his illegal, albeit unintentional, actions from last fall be used against him to castigate a truly great outdoorsman? Consider this…place all of the positive things Babe has done to encourage enjoyment of the outdoors experience on one side of the scale. Now place his alleged law violation on the other side of the scale. Do the two even come close to balancing out? I DON’T THINK SO!!!!

To those individuals who choose to cast stones at this great outdoorsman I have but one thing to say. Babe Winkelman promotes the outdoors positively and touches the lives of more people in one week…than any of the nay Sayers will achieve after a lifetime of whining about another person’s success. Rather than bring a person down for making an honest mistake…let’s encourage him on, to learn and to grow from the experience.

I wholeheartedly encourage the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association to continue their alliance with Babe as their official spokesperson. He’s a man of great character who deserves far better treatment than some individuals in the outdoor world have given him after his mistake.

© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction Without Prior Permission.