The words “game warden” often ring fear into the hearts of sportsmen, but they don’t need to if you’re obeying fish and game laws. Discussions with three wildlife officers who have 40 years experience resulted in these ideas about how to do the right thing when you’re approached in the woods or on the water.
What a game warden wishes you knew:
• When hunting out of a boat, all boating rules apply. Most violations waterfowl hunters receive are usually boating violations.
• The agent knows more about the situation than you think — he’s likely been watching long before approaching you.
• You can buy a hunting or fishing license 24 hours a day. There is never a reason not to have a license.
• A state’s hunting and fishing rules and regulations guide is a summary; it doesn’t contain every law on the books. It is the sportsman’s responsibility to know the laws that govern the activity in which they are participating.
• It’s also the sportsman’s responsibility to know whose land he is on, whose land the animal he’ s shooting is on and whose land the animal he’s recovering is on.
• If you do not have permission to be on that land, you are trespassing. Period.
• If you have any doubts about a rule or law, call the toll-free number of your state wildlife agency’s enforcement division and ask for clarification. For the MDWFP, it’s 601-432-2400.
• Violation of game laws affects everyone. If you see a violation, report it. In Mississippi, call 800-BE-SMART.
What sportsmen need to know:
• In a hunting situation, the threat to wildlife agents is high because there is always a gun involved.
• Once an enforcement agent identifies himself, go ahead and unload your gun, open the breech and set it down. Gun safety is important. Be aware that you are being approached by a law-enforcement officer, so do not handle your gun in an unsafe manner. Put everyone at ease by unloading and setting the gun down.
• If you’re carrying a handgun or another concealed weapon, let the officer know that you have another gun and DO NOT reach for it. Say something like, “Officer, I have a handgun in my field bag,” or “I need to let you know that I am carrying a handgun.” This will make the whole interaction go a lot smoother.
• If you’re driving a boat, you are the captain and you are responsible for everything that happens in the vessel. It does not matter who the actual captain is — when the agent approaches, the person standing at the helm is legally the captain and is responsible for all requirements for the boat.
5 things NOT to do when checked by a game warden
1- Under any circumstances, do not lie. Regardless of the situation, tell the truth.
2- Don’t be rude and disrespectful; if there’ s no violation, there is nothing to worry about.
3- Do not handle your gun when a game warden is approaching.
4- Don’t try to pull up to the game warden’s boat. If an agent is approaching you, shift into neutral and let him pull up to your boat.
5- Do not try and cover up for someone else’s violation.