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Ask the Conservation Officer (CO)

by Gary Hompland, Regional Conservation Officer

Question: "Some of my friends and I are going to do a backpack big game hunt and will be packing meat out on pack frames. What are the rules on waste of game meat and what will we be required to bring out?"

Answer: You may not waste through carelessness, neglect or otherwise any game bird, game animal, or game fish or any portion usually eaten by humans. The intent of this law is to ensure people utilize the meat they harvest from game animals and fish.

The big game hunting brochure spells out what edible parts of a big game animal you are required to care for. They include "the meat of the front quarters as far down as the knee, hindquarters as far down as the hock, neck meat, meat along the backbone, and meat covering the ribs."

Conservation officers encounter many hunters in the field and at check stations that leave meat from the neck, ribs, or front shoulders of game animals such as deer, elk and moose. In some cases this meat is ruined because hunters lack the knowledge to properly care for their game. More often it's deliberate waste due to neglect or because it's difficult or inconvenient to pack out.

Conservation officers are spending more time weighing and examining boned out meat to determine if hunters have complied with the waste rule. In one case a hunter returned to the kill site of a moose to recover the bloodshot meat he left. To help prove he had not wasted the moose the hunter showed the recovered bloodshot meat to the officers.

The hunter was angry, but once he showed the officers the bloodshot meat it was determined that he had complied with the rules. I frequently suggest to others that unless all the parts are packed out it will be impossible for the hunter to show he didn't waste good edible game meat. Once the hunters get home they can dispose of the bloodshot portions with a clear conscience that they compiled with the waste rules.

We also receive telephone calls about Canada geese, sage grouse, pheasants, and ducks dumped into a garbage dumpster. Officers often discover the birds have been "breasted out" taking only the choice breast meat. Waste of the leg meat is also clearly a violation of the wasted game meat law.

Hunters participating in the hunts you described must prepare in advance to efficiently salvage all the meat from harvested game animals. Some hunters have never been taught the ethical and legal imperative to utilize the bounty of their hunt. Young hunters from fractured families often have little or no elder guidance or experience.

For many, the feast provided by a deer or elk taken during the fall is a nearly religious experience. I would encourage anyone who is successful harvesting wild game and does not want the meat to donate the cut and wrapped meat to their nearest Salvation Army or church-sponsored welfare food pantry. In this way, indigent families can benefit from this delicious and nutritious food source.

Reference Idaho Code ¤ 36-1202 and Idaho Commission Rule IDAPA 13.01.08351.

If you have any further questions you may call the Magic Valley Regional Office of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at (208)324-4350 or e-mail us at the Fish and Game web site at www2.state.id.us/fishgame.