Are You Really a Law Abiding Sportsman or Woman?

By Ian Bartelmez, WWA Education Committee Chair

This article originally appeared in Wisconsin Waterfowl Association’s November, 2019 Newsletter edition.

Hi everybody, time sure flies, doesn’t it? Today I escaped from work just early enough to cut the grass for (hopefully) the last time, get the snow blower out for a test run (although by the time you read this we’ll have gotten our first snow of the season), and as I was running it some blind grass came out of my snowblower that I should have noticed when I cleaned & stored it for the season (okay, so this is the first time I’ve done anything with it since the last snowfall, stop judging, the bluegills were biting!). Anyhow, as I thought about all the things I had to do that day, and a few I still need to get to, it occurred to me – wow, time really does fly! From our late, wet spring and putting the snow blower away to getting the mower out for the first time, then suddenly turkey season came and went, we put up new nesting structures at Big Muskego, my oldest daughter graduated high school, the WWA State Shoot came and went and wow, I’m in NoDak killing ducks and thinking about where to sit with my bow – and suddenly we may (did) get snow.

WWA Canine Life member Jade Bartelmez with one of her legal birds in North Dakota

What does that have to do with being a legal hunter? Well, with all the hustle and bustle of life, and trying to find time for the outdoors, do you know how many wood ducks or hen mallards we’re allowed? Uh oh… better check the book, app or whatever source you use. This year I started using waterfowl harvest tags in NoDak and at home. Do you really know the rules for claiming and transporting your birds? If you have five, and your buddy who has three cripples a duck, or any game bird, and then his gun is empty, and you are a good friend and swat it for him, who does the bird belong to? Well… he crippled it and you killed it. Congrats, my friend, you are limited out and he has three to go, and you better case your gun.

So, those great day pile pics? Sorry, guys and gals, they are actually not legal unless each bird is tagged/labeled with who killed it. Party shooting until you have a 4-man limit because Billy can’t hit the side of a barn? You… are… violators! These are things we all have done at some point and we either knowingly, or not, broke some laws.

I can already hear you saying, “What? No way! I’m not a violator!”. But, have you really read all of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act? Probably not. That skinny little waterfowl booklet? Again, probably not. You know hours and season dates and limits (maybe) by heart, but…

Jade with all of her birds, tagged and claimed

So here’s where we are at – the way it is worded, and I checked, is that birds must be easily identified as to whom they belong until you reach your permanent domicile, or they are “processed for immediate consumption”. Now, here in Wisconsin, the wardens don’t usually ask who shot what, so if there are three of you in the boat and you have sixteen birds – okay, have a nice day. Now here is where it gets tricky: my NoDak birds in transit? They need to be assigned to me. Lil’ Buddy I introduced you to last month? His need to be assigned to him. If you are stopped by a USF&WS Warden he can make a great trip into a very expensive nightmare. Both the USF&WS and state agencies are starting to crack down on migratory bird ownership and transportation.

So that’s it, I made you aware, now go forth and make sure you are doing it the right way. Nobody wants to be a bad guy, so let’s make sure we are representing our sport and fellow waterfowlers in the best possible way.

Okay, that’s enough “did you know?” finger shaking, so I am going to wrap this up with a hearty good luck to you this month out on the marsh, corn field and/or deer stand. Have a happy, safe and legal hunt and a happy Thanksgiving.