Mistakes happen; ethical hunters own up to them

Yesterday, I wrote about how impressed I am with our state’s chief game warden, who did the right thing after making a mistake while he was hunting. But what should you do if you make a similar mistake?

It’s not hard to accidentally make a mistake while you’re hunting. Wild animals don’t always behave predictably, the weather can make things difficult, or you can simply get the many rules confused.

Mistakes can happen. And if you hunt long enough or often enough, you will make one. The important thing is how you handle that mistake. As I said yesterday, Wyoming’s chief game warden, Brian Nesvik, was hunting with his son a few weeks ago, and an honest mistake resulted in an overlimit on elk, which is a serious game law violation.

As long as you handle it right, if this happens to you, it’s not the end of the world. The first thing you should do, according to Nesvik, is to take care of the edible portions of the animal. No matter whether it’s a perfectly legal harvest or a mistake, you need to make sure that meat isn’t wasted.

The very next thing you need to do is to get ahold of a game warden, if you can. Nesvik had a satellite phone, which made it a lot easier to call. If you can’t call the Game and Fish right away, you can pack the meat out, so it doesn’t get ruined by predators, and try to call the warden again when you get closer to civilization.

You might have to pay a fine, like Nesvik did, or you might be cautioned to be more careful in the future. The meat from the extra animal will be confiscated, but you’ll get to keep the meat you had a valid license for.

But whatever you do, don’t try to sweep the incident under the rug. Do the right thing and call it in. And learn from it. Make sure you don’t get yourself into that situation again.