With fall hunting seasons rolling out almost every week now since Labor Day weekend, I field, hear and read many discussions on rules, regulations, poaching and “what if” scenarios.
Sometimes they’re as simple as what to do or who to call if you witness something suspicious, like someone shooting at ducks during what might be before or after legal hours.
The simple answer is, if you’re in doubt, call and you’ll find out if the act truly was breaking the law, or in the case of shooting hours realizing that sunrise and sunset times change dramatically from east to west across North Dakota. What is early near Dickinson is well within the boundaries near in Fargo.
Beginning my career as a game warden, and now frequently working with current wardens, I’ve learned that at times we tend to overlook the obvious question of “who to call,” and what to call about.
Fact is, I can understand the hesitancy of reporting a possible game violation because often a hunter might question what they saw, and if it was legal or illegal.
If you see or encounter a game and fish violation, the first thing you should do is make sure of what you witnessed, and write down the time and describe the place in as much detail as possible. Jot down a description of the vehicle and license number if you see it, and a narrative of what you observed and who did what. Was it the passenger who shot out the window, or did both the driver and passenger shoot?
After writing down all the pertinent information, call 800-472-2121. This is the 24-hour access number to State Radio dispatch in Bismarck. It is also the North Dakota Report All Poachers hotline number.
If the crime just occurred, time is of the essence. Even if you have the local game warden’s office number, chances are he or she is out in the field. By calling the toll-free RAP number, the dispatcher will call page or track down other law enforcement if necessary, who might assist until the game warden arrives.
People who encounter game law violations should not attempt to stop or apprehend the suspects. Professional law enforcement officers are best suited to address those situations.
North Dakota has one of the nation’s smaller game law enforcement divisions. High interest in hunting and outdoor activity make it important for citizens to get involved when they witness wildlife crime.
North Dakota wardens on average cover about 2,700 square miles in their districts, so it’s obviously impossible for wardens to be everywhere at once.
For this simple reason, game wardens appreciate the RAP hotline and vigilant citizens. Callers may remain anonymous, and information leading to arrest and conviction can yield rewards ranging from $100 to $1,000.
RAP is a unique, user-funded program. Judges may order equipment used by offenders forfeited to the state as part of a sentence upon conviction. Funds for rewards are generated by an auction of confiscated equipment including guns, binoculars and even vehicles.
This cooperative arrangement between the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, State Radio, North Dakota Wildlife Federation and concerned citizens is a necessity for the state’s wildlife law enforcement officers.
Think of poaching as stealing. This fall, if you witness a game law violation, instead wondering what you can do, know that a call to the RAP hotline is always a good first step.