Saturday, October 6, 2018

New Mexico trying to curb illegal hunting from aircraft

The state Department of Game and Fish is proposing a rule change aimed at preventing people from unfairly hunting with the aid of aircraft.

But the proposal has some recreational pilots around the state worried it may impede their ability to freely take to the New Mexican skies.

The proposed change within the “manner and method rule” would make it illegal for people to use aircraft to locate or assist in locating protected species, to relay the location of protected species to someone on the ground or to use the information gained for hunting from Aug. 1 to Jan. 31.

Currently, the so-called “48-hour rule” makes it illegal to use in hunting any information gained from aircraft until 48 hours after a flight.

“Really the issue comes down to fair chase when we’re dealing with our protected wildlife,” said Col. Robert Griego of the department’s field operations at a Friday meeting of the New Mexico Game Commission. “We have a pretty significant issue, primarily in the southwest part of the state where elk are being spotted from aircraft.”

For example, a pilot might locate an animal and convey a GPS point to a hunter on the ground, who can then easily find it.

Griego admits that the rule is a difficult one to enforce.

“My officers have to prove the transfer of knowledge within that 48 hours,” he said. “And unless you were there, that’s a very hard element to prove.”

Griego said of the four citations they’ve given out in the last three to four years for violations of the 48-hour rule, just one has resulted in a conviction.

Kerrie Romero of the New Mexico Council of Outfitters and Guides said she is worried planes flying over the forest, possibly just out sight-seeing, could be wrongly accused of scouting for animals.

“The only thing that will be accomplished with the rule change is to encourage hunters, who know nothing about aviation, to falsely report the tail number of any single-engine aircraft flying low and slow over the forest,” Romero said.

Ron Orozco of Animas, a self-proclaimed “law-abiding hunter and pilot,” said he wonders how extending the amount of time prohibiting the use of aircraft for locating protected animals will aid in better enforcing violations.

“If you can’t enforce it for 48 hours, how on earth are we going to do it for six months?” he said at the commission meeting.

The Game Commission will ultimately be responsible for signing off on any rule changes.

Other proposed changes in the manner and method rule include removing caliber restrictions for hunting elk, bighorn sheep and oryx and prohibiting most hunting within game-proof fences.

Original article can be found here ➤ https://www.abqjournal.com

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