Minnesota is grappling with the changes cell phones are bringing to deer hunting season, prompting the Department of Natural Resources to keep an eye out for potential problems.
“[Deer] haven’t adapted at all, but we keep inventing better, faster tools to harvest deer,” said Gary Drotts, DNR wildlife manager in Brainerd, Minn. “[Technological advances] do probably increase the harvest rates some. If so, we have to look at that and decide if we have to change anything.”
Hunters have come a long way since introducing two-way radios into the wilderness years ago. An estimated 500,000 hunters report they will have mobile devices with them this season. The increase is a challenge for agency personnel, since using phones to aid in killing deer is an activity subject to fines and other penalties.
“It isn’t even the calling back and forth or the texting. The main thing people need to remember is that it’s fine to text or call another hunter and say ‘I want to go in. It’s cold.’ Or ‘I need help dragging this deer out,’” said Tim Collette, DNR officer in the Pequot Lakes area. “But where they cross the line is you can’t use electronics to aid in the taking of big game. You can’t say ‘A deer is coming in your direction.’ Or ‘We’re making a drive. Get ready.’ That’s aiding and abetting.”
The crossing of this line is something Collette looks for when interviewing hunters about their game. Collette regularly asks how the hunter spotted the deer, trying to ferret out if the hunter got a text that the animal was coming his way.
DNR officers now often ask to check hunters’ phone for text messages, though Collette reports he hasn’t caught anyone in direct violation.
“I’ve had ones where they admitted ‘I texted and didn’t even think of it.’ But it wasn’t where they actually took a deer,” said Collette. “So I give a lot of verbal warnings that you can’t do that, it’s a violation to do that.”
The DNR does concede technology has a role in hunting, such as safety reasons like in the case of an emergency or by using GPS devices to find one’s way. In addition, the agency allows hunters to register their deer by phone or Internet, which eliminates having to drive to a registration station.
The agency likely will continue to observe and monitor how hunters use technology this season, looking for unintended consequences and unwelcomed intrusions that may threaten the natural balance.