Fish and Game is taking aggressive action to catch and prosecute people who spotlight game animals. In areas where conservation officers suspect spotlighting or other suspicious activity near roads, they are using "artificial simulated animals" to bust unlawful hunters. Artificial simulated animals, commonly called ASAs, are life-like figures of deer, elk and other game species, complete with moving parts.
"Officers watch the animal and respond if someone violates the law," said Fish and Game Chief of Enforcement Greg Wooten.
Shooting from a vehicle or road is dangerous, and unethical. It casts a poor light upon hunters. Many of the citations issued to road hunters who violate game laws include spotlighting, trespassing, shooting from a motorized vehicle, shooting across the road and waste of game.
Anyone found guilty of shooting an artificial animal will lose their license, and face a fine up to $1,000 and a possible jail sentence of up to six months. There is also a $50 minimum restitution penalty for shooting an ASA to help maintain the decoys.
Judges across the country have upheld the use of ASAs and other such tools as legitimate methods of apprehending violators. Their use has helped reduce illegal hunting. More than 48 states and several Canadian provinces have been using artificial animals since the late 1980s.
"This is similar to other law enforcement agencies watching an intersection based on reports of frequent instances of failing to stop at a stop sign, or monitoring speed compliance using radar," said Wooten. "This tool is extremely important in our effort to curtail illegal activity that is otherwise undetectable."
Fish and Game Conservation Officers also conduct impromptu enforcement check stations 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 effective tool officers use to detect wildlife crimes.
One of the most effective tools for detecting illegal activity by hunters is the watchful eye of other outdoor enthusiasts. Anyone who suspects illegal activity regarding fish and wildlife is asked to call the Citizens Against Poaching hotline at 800-632-5999. Callers may remain anonymous and may receive a cash reward for information leading to a citation.