Guilty until proven innocent

By Rex Rammell

November 30th was a great day, at least until I met a game warden on the trail. I had finally harvested a nice fat cow elk on the last day of the hunt. I punched my tag and was headed home. The officer stopped me and asked for my license and tag. I respectfully gave them to him. He said “your tag is not valid for this area.” I explained to him when I bought the tag at Sportsman’s Warehouse they clarified I could hunt in any open zone in Idaho. He informed me that was incorrect. I asked him to show me the regulation. He could not, but insisted the tag was invalid. I said “fine, give me a citation; I will fight it in court.”
Then he said I couldn’t keep the elk. I said “but I haven’t been proven guilty.” He didn’t care. He said “I have to take your elk.” I asked him why. He said it was evidence. I replied “can’t you take a picture or do you intend to mark her as an exhibit and display her in the courthouse?”
He said “I’m taking your elk.” I said “you better get your gun out, because you’re going to have to shoot me if you want this elk.” I then explained to him, if he wanted the elk he would need a warrant. He backed off and said he would follow me out, which he did without giving me a citation.
Meanwhile, he called ahead and had two state policemen, two deputy sheriffs, and another game warden waiting for me in Idaho Falls. After arguing for an hour whether the elk was contraband and whether they had the right to confiscate the elk without a warrant or not, I finally gave in and let them take her, still without a citation.
However, that wasn’t good enough for them, they had to release a press statement all over Idaho implying Rex Rammell had been caught poaching an elk and had threatened an officer.
Question: If I get shot, who threatened who?
The rules are ambiguous and I am not the only hunter confused by them and misinformed by Sportsman’s Warehouse. But what really angers me is their “guilty until proven innocent” attitude. I had an “A” tag that was required to hunt in Tex Creek. My greatest violation could only be hunting in the wrong zone. Can that possibly be grounds for confiscation of my elk? Shouldn’t I have the right to argue my case before being found guilty by a game warden on the trail? What is it with these Nazis? Honest mistakes are treated as harshly as blatant violations. And wouldn’t a suitable fine be sufficient if I actually did break the law by mistake? Why do they need to take my elk?
I think it is time to turn management of the PEOPLE’S fish and game back to local control by fishermen and hunters at the county level. After all, they actually know what is going on with the fish and game and would like them to be plentiful. To that end I will continue to fight.

Rex Rammell is an Idaho Falls resident and a former Republican candidate for governor.