September 20, 2020

Using Radios While Hunting in Vermont

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Three men have been found guilty by a court in Vermont for illegally using portable radios to assist them in moose hunting. A judge fined John Glodgett, 43 of Barton, his brother William Glodgett, 51 of Brownington and David Valley, 58 of Barton $252 and assessed 5 points each against their hunting and fishing licenses.

From the information available to me, it appears that the three men were hunting moose by legal permit. John Glodget was the permit holder. By Vermont law, the permit holder can name a second person who is allowed to carry a weapon and shoot a moose as well for the permittee. A third person can act as a guide but cannot be armed.

John Glodgett shot at and wounded a moose. The three men searched for the moose until darkness set in. The next morning the three men returned to search for the wounded animal.

Two game wardens were on patrol in the same area the next morning and heard the hunters communicating with each other via portable radios. The wardens tracked the chatter and located the men. They determined the three were using radios illegally to hunt moose and were charged.

Vermont law prohibits the use of portable radios and/or cell phones to hunt moose. They are legal for hunting deer. The law also states that hunters are permitted to use radios once a moose is in the possession of the permit holder. This year that law will be more precisely defined to say that radios cannot be used until after the moose has been legally tagged – I am assuming that means after the moose has been removed from the woods and taken to a game inspection station.

If this definition of the new law is accurate, this would mean the three men could sit in the front seat of a pickup truck and talk to each other about the successful hunt on portable radios. My foolish question is this. What if the three men were riding in the front seat of a pickup truck heading out of the woods having not been successful in bagging a moose and were talking to each other on the radios? Does Vermont law recognize the men riding on a back woods road, armed, permitted and ready to hunt, legally hunting moose? If so, they would be breaking the law because they are using radios before the permittee has legally tagged a moose.

This is all so silly – that is my assessment and suppositions. I understand the intent of the law. Moose aren’t as plentiful as deer and therefore authorities have to more closely monitor and regulate the management of the herd, although I believe it is all relative.

But doesn’t it make sense to find the best means possible to locate a wounded moose as quickly as possible for obvious reasons? Wardens can’t be everywhere all the time and we can only assume that the majority of moose hunters will obey all the laws pertaining to the moose hunt. Some of course will not. Isn’t it just as easy to change the law to allow the use of radios to locate a wounded moose? Is this hard to monitor and regulate? Yes! But so is any law limiting the use of portable radios and cell phones, although cell phone traffic could be looked at in determining if a call was made during hunting hours.

Wildlife management determines at what population density moose need to be. The majority of the estimated 5,000 Vermont moose are found in the Northeast Kingdom area of the state. This year just over 1,100 permits will be issued. On average there is a success rate of about 65-70%. Officials know this information as they have tracked data on the moose hunt since its inception in 1993.

Using all data available to them, they determine how many permits to issue for the upcoming season. If officials calculate that allowing hunters to use radios only for locating a wounded animal would increase the number of moose killed, then a simple adjustment of permits issued would be in order.

Would there be some abuse of this new allowance? More than likely. Probably about the same amount as goes on now.

The object here is to illiminate as much as possible moose wandering around the woods wounded and suffering.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe that laws should be enforced and tried in the courts. In the case of these three men, they broke current Vermont law even though common sense would tell you that a wounded moose needs to be found as quickly as possible.

Isn’t it time for Vermont to take a closer look at the use of portable radios? Who gets to determine if the radios are being used for moose hunting? Is it considered wrong for two or three hunters to use the radio while in the woods moose hunting to let each other know it is time to go home? What if one gets lost? Is that considered illegal use of radios? There is a lot of gray area here and no law is going to clearly define legal and illegal use of portable radios. The closest authorities can come is to ban radios and cell phones completely.

There are many practical uses for portable radios and cell phones – as much as I abhor cell phones, they do have some useful functions. I carry a radio with me when I hunt. I use it to alert my hunting partners of my intentions – “heading back to camp, going to truck to get warmed up or I think I’m lost.”

When a game animal that is being hunted needs to be strictly regulated like the moose in Vermont, then use of modern gadgets that can alter management plans also need to be strictly regulated but don’t take common sense out of the equation. Allow the use of radios for the practical purposes that make the sport safer and more ethical and increase the punishment for breaking those laws to something more than a $252 fine and a 5-point assessment against one’s licenses.

Tom Remington

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