I have a good friend who is anything but an outlaw.
When he fishes, he measures his speckled trout, and throws back any trout without significant flesh crossing the 12-inch line. When he duck hunts, he would pass up a flock of mallards sitting in his decoys rather than pull the trigger 30 seconds before legal shooting time.
But he’s killed three deer this year, and hasn’t tagged a single one of them.
“We just forget,” he told me after I gave him a light rebuke.
He and his brothers have been hunting deer since their teen years, and they simply aren’t in the habit of tagging deer after they shoot them. They load the animals onto their four-wheeler, tote them back to the camp, hoist them up with a gambrel and start harvesting the venison without the thought of a tag ever entering their minds.
That’s a big mistake that could one day cost them dearly — and unfortunately, they’re not alone.
According to Lt. Col. Keith LaCaze with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Enforcement Division, compliance with the state’s deer-tagging laws hasn’t exactly been stellar.
“As I reported at last month’s commission meeting, we’re still writing a fairly significant number of citations for failure to tag,” he said.
LaCaze said some of the violators don’t have tags on them, while others have them but simply forget to attach them to their kill. Either way, the fine is the same, and it’s more than a slap on the wrist.
Failure to tag a deer is a Class II violation, and a first offense carries a fine of $100-$350 or 60 days imprisonment, or both, plus court costs. For a second offense, the monetary portion of the penalty increases to $300-$550, plus court costs.
Many hunters mistakenly believe they can tag their deer after getting them back to the camp. That’s not the case.
“Before you load that deer onto the four-wheeler, before you drag it out of the woods, it must be tagged,” LaCaze said.
And the tag isn’t legal until it’s filled out in pen and attached to the deer.
“That means hunters have to bring along a piece of string or a zip tie,” LaCaze said.
And, of course, a pen.
“It’s a lot easier to write with a pen than it is the tip of a lead bullet,” LaCaze said.
But the legal obligations don’t end there. After the tag is filled out and attached to the deer, the hunter has 72 hours to report the kill via the internet or toll-free number. After reporting the deer, the hunter is given a confirmation code that must be written on the deer-harvest report card included with his tags.
My buddy, who diligently attempts to follow every game law, at least has remembered to report his deer after the kills.
I just hope he starts to remember to put his pen to use filling out a tag before he moves his deer so he doesn’t have to use it to sign a ticket from Lt. Col. LaCaze’s boys.