Fish & Game to use people, check stations to be sure hunters play fair

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) - Whether you're in it for the ducks...or the deer, it's hunting season in Idaho.

"Hunting is fantastic here," elk hunter Mark Fiechter said. "We have been gone for the past year and being back in Idaho and going up in the mountains is something I'm really looking forward to."

"Duck hunting is great in Idaho, it really is," duck hunter James Wellman said. "I do more shooting than I do hitting, but I've been known to knock one down a time or two."

General deer hunting kicked off Thursday, and waterfowl hunting will open on Saturday. However, Idaho Department of Fish & Game have already issued fines and citations to poachers who have tried to jump the gun this season.

But even during hunting season, Fish & Game has fewer than 100 officers in the entire state patrolling hunting areas. It's a hard task when you're up against hundreds of eager hunters.

"I think they do as good a job as they can for the area they have to cover," Fiechter said. It's an enormous state...they can't be everywhere at once. But I've been out in the back country and run across some Fish & Game people and had them look at my hunting license and ask me questions about it."

When it comes to making sure everyone is playing by the rules though, the department needs a little help. That's where decoys and check in stations come in.

Decoy animals are used in the off season to help catch poachers. But once the season is officially underway, officers say they don't have enough decoys to put everywhere. Instead, they focus those in known problem spots for poachers.

The department says check in stations are an effective way to check for violations. Fish & Game officers put them up near popular hunting spots to make sure you're following the rules.

Fish & Game Chief Enforcement Officer Jon Heggen says to plan a little extra time on your way home to stop at one of the check in stations.

"When you see a check station don't be in a rush to see the World Series or a Friday night football game," Heggen said. "Just make sure that you stop at those check stations."

However, the check in stations are voluntary. Heggen says you can choose to drive past, but if officers suspect you're carrying game home without checking in with them, they can track you down and pull you over.

If you are caught violating hunting laws, you'll get a citation. Most hunting charges result in misdemeanors, so the dollar amount will vary on your fine. But more serious violations like poaching could cost you up to $1,000.

Fish & Game says their strongest weapon they use to catch poachers and other rule-breakers is actually tips they get from other hunters and people in the area.

"We're really only as effective as the citizens that are out there," Heggen said. "They're our eyes and our ears."

If you're hunting and notice someone is poaching, you're encouraged to contact Fish & Game's 'Citizens Against Poaching' tip line at 1-800-632-5999. There is also more information on their website.