Hunting season is in full swing and lucky hunters are bringing home their takes with pride. Some of these would-be-hunters, however, will violate hunting regulations and could be facing their first ever criminal charge. This article intends to review some of the common hunting violations that our office has seen over the years and the consequences we see regularly imposed in Marion, Polk, and other Oregon counties.
First, the extensive laws and regulations for hunting create multiple different possible violations of those laws. The difference between a violation-level ticket and a misdemeanor- or felony-level citation depends on the circumstances of the violation. The distinction under Oregon law is whether the hunting violation was committed with a “criminal mental state.” The most common criminal mental state we see is the “knowingly” mental state, which we won’t discuss at length here.
With that said, the three most common hunting violations we see charged by the District Attorney are:
- Taking, Angling, Hunting, or Trapping in Violation of a Wildlife Rule or Law. While this would indicate to the untrained eye that this is taking an animal outside of your hunting tag, this is usually charged when a hunter shoots a decoy set out by the Oregon State Police. These decoys, infamously named Fluffy or Scruffy, are fully automated, meaning that they move and are meant to catch hunters not being careful about regulations. Hunters are often caught shooting Fluffy because they are shooting outside of approved shooting hours (namely 30 minutes before sunrise or 30 minutes after sunset). It seems a simple enough mistake, but Polk County alone will see more than 10 individuals shooting Fluffy each season.
- Hunting with an Artificial Light. At least in Polk County, this is often Count 2 in a decoy shooting offense. The DA will typically allege this charge because the decoy is seen as the hunter drives by the decoy, seeing the glint of the decoy’s artificial eyes from the light of their car’s headlights. The Polk County DA will generally offer dismissal of this charge if the charged hunter pleads guilty to the unlawful taking charge.
- Criminal Trespass in the Second Degree (paired with option 1). This is where not knowing your hunting area can get you into trouble. To prove this, the hunter must intend to trespass onto private property with the intent to hunt on that property. Therefore, hunters should check property boundaries when they go hunting to make sure they are hunting lawfully. Hunters we know use onX Hunt to make sure they are on land where they can legally hunt.
Possible Consequences of Hunting Violations
Violation level tickets will usually involve fines, but misdemeanor and felony hunting violations have far more serious consequences. For a first-time hunting misdemeanor, Oregon law may require
- Revocation of all ODFW licenses for 36 months
- Forfeiture of the firearm used in the offense
- Restitution to ODFW, paid through the court
However, having an experienced attorney handle the case can reduce the possible penalties to violations, have the firearm returned to you, or reduce the effects of the license revocation. If you went out hunting and received a ticket or criminal citation from a game warden or Oregon State Police, call our office to talk about your options and how we can help!