How would you define hunting? What words would you use? Would you say someone becomes a hunter when he or she makes an inaugural kill and harvest? Would you say it has something to do with tracking game animals or sitting in tree stands or blinds? And would you call a person a hunter if they were out in the woods with a rifle, but the gun wasn't loaded?
Minnesota has answered a few of these questions with a recent court ruling. The Star Tribune said the change came in response to the case of an 81-year-old hunting enthusiast named Roger B. Schmid, who was ticketed last year for hunting without a license. Schmid was questioned by a game warden in November 2011 when he was found "hunting" in a camouflaged blind with a loaded 12-guage shotgun in Stearns County, Minnesota. Schmid actually did have a hunting license, but it only allowed for the harvest of a single deer - a harvest Schmid told the officer he had made the night previous.
When the officer noted that Schmid's license did not have a "bonus permit" that would have allowed the harvest of another deer, the hunter got a ticket. The game warden assumed that since Schmid was sitting in a blind with a loaded shotgun and wearing blaze orange, he was planning on shooting a deer - whether or not he had the license to do so.
Schmid was infuriated by the ticket and tried multiple times to talk his way out of the situation. His excuses ran the range of reasoning: first, he was helping friends hunt; then, he was hunting coyote; eventually, Schmid claimed that he wasn't hunting at all, and was instead simply watching nature. That last one might have worked on the game warden had it not been for the hunting blind and the loaded shotgun Schmid had brought into the woods.
In fact, Schimd was so adamant about his innocence that he decided to take the claim all the way to trial. There, he informed the court that he had not been hunting or nature watching at all. Instead, he had been waiting for friends to come help carry his deer kill from the night before. Had the 81-year-old hunter tried that tactic the first time around, it might have been more successful. Coming after numerous other stories, however, the jury didn't by it. They convicted Schmid of hunting without a license. He appealed.
Now, after two long years of legal back-and-forth, it looks like the case of Roger B. Schmid has finally come to a close. A judge from the Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld the original jury ruling - and the original game warden ticket - in turn offering a more concrete definition of hunting than currently exists in state law.
Now that the court ruling defines hunting as what Schmid was doing, the term has become clearer. If the case is taken as an authority on the subject in the future, then someone in a blind with a gun can be considered hunting in the state of Minnesota. Whether or not the outcome of Schmid's case would have been different had his gun not been loaded is hard to know for certain.