Hunting violators beware - that deer you are spotlighting or that elk you are shooting illegally might be a decoy.
In areas where Idaho Fish and Game gets complaints of spotlighting or other suspicious activity near roads, conservation officers will use "artificial simulated animals," to apprehend unlawful wildlife violators. Artificial simulated animals, commonly called ASAs, are life-like specimens of deer, elk and other game species.
Many of the citations issued to those who shoot an ASA include spotlighting, trespassing, shooting from a motorized vehicle, and shooting from or across a road. The penalties for shooting an artificial animal may include a mandatory license revocation and a fine up to $1,000 and a jail sentence up to six months. There is also a $50 minimum restitution penalty for shooting an ASA to help maintain the decoy.
The use of this tool has been upheld in the court systems across the country as a legitimate method of apprehending violators and has helped to reduce illegal hunting. More than 48 states and several Canadian provinces have been using artificial animals since the late 1980s.
"It's no different than city police watching a school-zone using radar based on reports of frequent reports of speeders," said Fish and Game Enforcement Chief Greg Wooten. "This tool is extremely important in our effort to curtail illegal activity that is otherwise undetectable."
In addition, Fish and Game also conducts impromptu enforcement check stations to check for law compliance where all hunters and anglers, successful or not, must stop. Usually conducted on less traveled roads and set up at any time day or night, impromptu check stations are another tool officers use to detect wildlife crimes.
However, one of the most effective tools for detecting illegal activity is the watchful eyes of other outdoor enthusiasts who call the Citizens Against Poaching (CAP) hotline at 1-800-632-5999. Concerned citizen can quickly call CAP, day or night, with information that is then routed to conservation officers for further investigation. Callers may remain anonymous and may receive a cash reward for information leading to a citation. Each year, the hotline receives approximately 600 calls, which result in over 150 citations issued and $20,000 paid in rewards.