Shooting down high-tech hunting

  -Our tools for the pursuit of wildlife improve faster than we do," said Aldo Leopold in his 1949 book A Sand County Almanac. But even the far-seeing Leopold might not have anticipated hunting 1990s style: Hunters locate game with airplanes and two-way radios, track animals before dawn with infrared night-vision goggles, aim with electronically illuminated scopes, and shoot with extreme-range rifles that can kill at over 1,000 yards.

In early February, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission, faced with the increasing use of these high-tech hunting tools and tactics, decided enough was enough. "We want to maintain a more even playing field between traditional hunters and those that want to do it with gadgets," said commission chairman Stan Meyer.

After a series of public meetings, the commission banned two-way radios and infrared night-vision optics for the active pursuit of game. It also outlawed hunting animals tracked from an airplane on the same day hunters were airborne.

Allen Weinert, representative for the Prickly Pear Sportsman Association and the Montana Wildlife Federation, also asked the commission to ban electronically illuminated scopes, require hunters to be at least 10 yards from off-road vehicles when shooting, and outlaw extreme-range center-fire rifles. Such weapons, he says, "are not for hunting, they are for long-distance assassination." The commission did not consider Weinert's suggested restrictions.

For more information, contact the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission at 406/454-5840.

*J.T. Thomas

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