A few weeks ago Vic and I concluded a quick pheasant hunt and then decided to move to the end of a dead end road in hopes of finding some turkeys. As we traveled down the road, a Wisconsin warden waved us down and immediately asked if I was Charlie Elk. An ice chunk quickly knotted in my gut, oh no!; has something happened to Mrs. Elk? Vic and I were out cell coverage for only a short time… The concern must have shown on my face because Warden Thiede quickly added he had run my plates on his way in, oh whew, I relaxed. Mrs. Elk has been chronically ill, so we don’t leave her alone for any extended period of time.
Warden Thiede went on the ask about our hunting success, a standard tactical question for law enforcement to get a feel as to whether or not a subject is a possible violator who is worthy of additional scrutiny. With all the changes Wisconsin has made to our licensing system, I returned a question for each of his questions to find out what exactly a law enforcement officer would know about me by only checking my vehicle plates. Besides, many wardens are a wealth of information regarding hunting pressure and game sightings; you just have to spend some quality time visiting time with them. Officer Thiede was no exception he had maps of hunting lands that are not available on the Wisconsin department’s website yet. And best of all I did not know about WDNR recently purchasing these, nor do most other hunters.
Here’s what he knew about me by just running my vehicle’s license plate number before we started conversing:
- How many licenses and tags for what species I’d bought this season and last season.
- Of course my name, address, phone and Hunter I.D. number. Hunter numbers are now our WDNR identification. Contrary to what many believed, the old back tag numbers never were quickly connected to a licensee. If a back tag number was reported, it could take hours for a violator’s identity to be reported back to a field officer.
- How many game registrations I have made, not only this year but every year since I have been hunting in Wisconsin. That’s 50+ years! An extensive list indeed.
- He knew many of the public wildlife areas I have hunted this season and last season. WDNR staff take pictures of license plates they encounter in parking zones. I assume they upload these to a database.
As Wisconsin moved towards the current online license system, many raised warnings and concerns about massive increases in poaching. However, this is clearly a false assumption. Game wardens and sheriff deputies now of instant access to real-time information. There is no longer room for a bad hunter to play around with their tags, once registered it is virtually punched out. If an officer hears about someone bagging a deer or turkey, he can quickly check a registration, if nothing is recorded the warden knows he or she is on the trail of a violator. Our new license system here in Wisconsin is very good and Go Wild is easy to use.
Good to see you’re getting some time out, sir.
Yeah, it feels good and recharges the soul.
It does indeed. When we feel we have no time, or it’d be neglecting some weighty responsibility is often when we need nature the most.
Wow, that’s quite an intensive amount of data LEO’s can pull up on a Hunter! Do Wisconsin Hunters find this invasive and strange?
I must admit the rationale for this post is to wish Mrs. Elk and yourself and Family well Sir. I am very glad your fears were not realized!
All the best for a Happy New Year for you and yours, christmas as well. Best wishes
Thanks for your kind wishes NCLW. And the same back to you and yours.
I’m not sure how many citizens realize the extent of the information law enforcement maintains on us that is readily accessible. In some states, if a hunter keeps their license and permits on their cell phones then presents the phone’s image as proof; law enforcement officer is then authorized by statute to “search” the phone. WI, fortunately, does not give an officer this blanket authority.
I have read that as well. I believe the incident I’m thinking of a hunter had handed his cell with his license on it over for the purpose of showing his license. The officer pulled up his GPS app and pulled up his travels for the day to check if he trespassed at any point in the day, since you know, it was handed to him. I believe the hunter in question had not, but I’d have been upset about it any case.