There are tens of thousands of Oregon hunters facing a fine thanks to the state's reporting requirements.
In the category of largest-scale hunting fines ever assessed, this one has to be in the running: the state of Oregon recently announced that some 34,000 hunters, both in state and out of state, would be subject to a $25 fine for failing to fill out a state-mandated "hunting season report card" last year.
The Mail Tribune said if you hunted in Oregon during the 2012 hunting season, you may well be one of the tens of thousands of hunters who will be asked to pay the $25 penalty before ever again purchasing a hunting license in the state.
Luckily for small game hunters, the penalty only applies to hunters who purchased deer or elk hunting tags in 2012, and even then, it doesn't apply to all of them. The state estimates that nearly 300,000 deer or elk tags were sold by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife during the 2012 season. Of those, about 29,000 deer hunters and 17,000 elk hunters failed to file a report on their hunting season movements.
Oregon requires each big game hunter to file a survey that offers a comprehensive report of their hunting season in the state - even, as the Department of Fish and Wildlife states, if they were not successful. This report must include numerous pieces of information, including the hunter's license ID number, the two-digit number used to designate the Wildlife Management Unit the hunter spent most of the season hunting in, and the total number of days hunted throughout the season. Interestingly, the survey does not ask about harvest numbers.
The penalty could bring in a nice cash flow if the Department of Fish and Wildlife could manage to fine all or most of the guilty big game hunters. If the department received $25 for every single instance of a missing survey, the fund would total around $850,000.
However, many hunters - especially out-of-state, destination hunters who only hunt in Oregon infrequently - could easily get away with never paying the fine, since the Department of Fish and Wildlife only assesses the penalty when hunters purchase a new hunting license.
In addition, many of the hunters who failed to fill out a report may have possessed both deer and elk hunting licenses, creating a significant amount of overlap. The state assesses fines on a person-by-person basis rather than a license-by-license one, so even a hunter who fails to fill out reports for both his or her deer and elk tags would only have to pay the state fine once.
Why does Oregon care so much about big game hunter report cards? According to the organization, the reports help biologists to assess wildlife populations and to determine future harvest quotas. The reports have been required in Oregon since 2007, but have gotten a big boost in participation since the $25 penalty was instituted.
Oregon hunters who want to avoid facing a "no survey" penalty for the 2013 hunting season still have time. Reports for the current hunting season are due on January 31, 2014, and can be filed on the Department of Fish and Wildlife website.