Unless you’re a grizzled old prospector or mountain man that shoves his freshly killed deer or elk onto the back of his mule and slogs back to his cabin, the transport of your harvest from field to homestead is going to involve some form of modern transportation. And most likely that transportation is going to take place on our modern highways and byways. Please be aware that this transport is subject to a number of very specific legal requirements.
In order to stay within the limits of the law, there are a number of factors that you need to be aware of. Even though these requirements are clearly listed within the state’s game and fish manuals, many people (yours truly included) often breeze through these handbooks much too casually and often miss vital details. This can be a costly, embarrassing, and completely unnecessary inconvenience.
As a preface to discussing the unique requirements for transporting your game animals, let’s examine the nine most common game violations committed unintentionally or knowingly by sportsmen and women:
- Failure to keep “evidence of sex” naturally attached to the carcass or portion of eatable meat, if boned
Failure to provide “proxy statement” for game taken by another person
Failure to “validate and attach tag” to game immediately after harvest
Failure to “stop and report” at a game check station, with or without harvested game/fish/fowl
Shooting from or across a public highway right of way (Better check this requirement carefully)
Hunting or taking game in a “closed season.” (Be sure to check opening and closing dates carefully)
Possessing the “wrong class license” for the game pursued
“Party hunting” — taking a game animal for another person to put “their” tag on
Trespass-hunting, fishing, etc. on private property without written consent or another lawful form of permission granted by the landowner. Be sure to bone up on Idaho’s new trespass law, if you’re recreating in the Gem State
Before getting into the specific requirements for the legal transport of game animals, let me share a short story with you. The main character of this sad tale is yours truly, and the incidents involved are entirely true (as clearly as I can recall them). Several years ago, I was returning home from a week-long deer and turkey hunt at my elder brother’s home in northern Idaho. The turkeys had remained uncommonly elusive, but I had managed to tag a nice plump whitetail doe.
As is our fashion, we had let the harvested deer hang for a couple of days before carefully butchering and packaging the prime venison. Before setting sail for home, I transferred the frozen meat from his deep freeze to several coolers that I had secured in the bed of my pickup.
Just outside of Idaho Falls, I spotted a game check station up ahead and I directed my truck into a designated “check” lane. A kind and conscientious warden came up to my window and asked, “Did you have any luck?”
“Yes,” I said proudly. “I harvested a nice whitetail doe in northern Idaho.”
“Wonderful,” the warden said. “Let’s have a look out back so that we can age and sex your deer.”
And here’s the pathetic part: Even though I had my hunting license onboard and had my validated tag with the meat in one of the coolers, I had not remembered to leave any evidence of species and sex naturally attached to a portion of the boned and processed meat!
There was an interminable and protracted moment of silence before the warden said, “Well, it’s not the end of the world, but….” And as that “but” hovered ominously in the air, the warden went on to say, “You know, since you left no evidence of species or sex, we have no way of telling what kind of processed meat you have here. You know that, right?”
“Oh my goodness, you’re absolutely right,” I stammered back, as the realization of what I had done kicked me right between the eyes.
The warden must have believed the stunned look on my face and the fact that I had readily turned into the check station because he resumed, “Well again, it’s not the end of the world. I believe that this wasn’t a deliberate violation, so I’m going to let you keep your game and let you go on your way. But let this be a lesson to you, and don’t ever fail to leave evidence of species and sex with your processed game again.” And truthfully, I have not!
Be aware that this identification procedure applies to all species of big game, fish, and fowl. Take the time to peruse your game department manuals thoughtfully before your outing to learn what body parts are necessary to identify your harvested game specifically and legally in transport from the field to your freezer.