Famed rock musician, conservationist, and political activist Ted Nugent pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a federal wildlife violation after he failed to recover a wounded black bear three years ago on an archery hunt in Alaska. Mr. Nugent agreed to pay $10,600.00 in fines and restitution and stated "I’m afraid I was blindsided by this, and I sincerely apologize to everyone for it."
Mr. Nugent, even as a well-traveled and savvy hunter, was "blindsided" by a labyrinth of hunting rules and regulations. Alaska, like every other state, gives each hunter the affirmative responsibility to know the laws that control every hunt. In Mr. Nugent’s case, he was responsible for knowing that even "wounding" a bear in Alaska is the functional equivalent of "taking" a bear and would satisfy Mr. Nugent’s bag limit even if the bear was never recovered. See Alaska Hunting Regulations here. Ignorance of the law is no defense and mistakes of this caliber can cost you thousands of dollars in fines, and perhaps more importantly, your hunting privileges.
Mr. Nugent’s case, however unfortunate, clarifies an extremely important lesson. Hunters, unlike football players or boxers, must heavily rely on their moral compass to decipher right and wrong. As Aldo Leopold observed in his flagship work, A Sand County Almanac:
"[a] peculiar virtue in wildlife ethics is that the hunter ordinarily has no gallery to applaud or disapprove of his conduct. Whatever his acts, they are dictated by his own conscience, rather than by a mob of onlookers. It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of this fact."
Already, hunting forums across the internet rage about whether and for how long Mr. Nugent should have followed the wounded bear and if he should have hung up his bow REGARDLESS of whether it was illegal to take another bear. See, https://www.monstermuleys.info/xf/threads/nugent-guilty-again.14426/. Hunters across the country offer different perspectives and most are contingent on a host of facts that no one but Mr. Nugent would understand. In fact, Mr. Nugent may have made a remarkably ethical decision. This however is of little consequence in court and clearly shows why we as hunters cannot afford to rely on our common sense notions of ethics in the wild. Our privileges as hunters may be guided by our ethics, but they are controlled by the law.
Planning your hunt, whether it’s an over-the-counter archery trip in Colorado, or a dream quest to Alaska, requires more than looking at maps. Your success is contingent on knowing the laws and following them closely. If you have a big hunt in the future, call us and let us help you figure out exactly what you need to do (and not do). Or saddle up next to Mr. Nugent.
Cody Doig, Esq.