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Hatch asks for decision in non-resident hunter case
Dennis Anderson, Star Tribune
January 27, 2005 ANDY0128

Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch on Thursday asked a federal court in Bismarck N.D., to declare illegal North Dakota's restrictions on non-resident hunters of game birds.

Hatch, speaking in an interview, asked that the court grant a favorable judgment in a suit he filed last March that claims the restrictions are unconstitutional.

Claiming the ''real victims'' of restrictions against non-resident North Dakota hunters - and similar attempts by Minnesota to retaliate against North Dakota anglers - are owners of cafes, sporting goods stores and outfitting businesses, Hatch said ''our issue is the free flow of commerce. The ability of people to make a living.''

In recent years, North Dakota has limited the times and places non-resident bird hunters can seek game in that state. Some North Dakotans say the nearly 30,000 non-residents who hunt ducks in their state each fall and the outfitters who serve them are squeezing out ''average guy'' hunters who have limited access to hunting spots.

About half of North Dakota's waterfowlers are from Minnesota.

An effort in the last Minnesota legislative session to similarly limit North Dakotans who fish in Minnesota didn't pass.

Chances that Hatch's lawsuit might succeed were perhaps buoyed last year when Arizona's restrictions on non-resident elk hunters were ruled in violation of the Commerce Clause.

A decision is expected within a few months, according to Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Lawrence Pry. A subsequent appeal - by either side - is likely, Hatch said.

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A win might be a loss
Dennis Anderson, Star Tribune
January 28, 2005 ANDY0128

Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch on Thursday asked a federal judge in Bismarck, N.D., to declare illegal North Dakota's restrictions on non-resident bird hunters.

Seeking summary judgment of a lawsuit he filed last March, Hatch said North Dakota's restrictions on when and where non-resident duck and pheasant hunters can seek birds violate the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

In an interview, Hatch said the "real victims" of restrictions against non-resident North Dakota hunters -- and similar attempts by Minnesota to retaliate against North Dakota anglers -- are owners of cafes, sporting goods stores and outfitting businesses.

"Our issue is the free flow of commerce," Hatch said. "The ability of people to make a living."

In recent years, North Dakota has limited the times and places non-resident bird hunters can seek game in that state. Some North Dakotans say the nearly 30,000 non-residents who hunt ducks in their state each fall and the outfitters who serve them are squeezing out "average guy" hunters who have limited access to hunting spots. About half of North Dakota's waterfowlers are from Minnesota.

An effort in the last Minnesota legislative session to similarly limit North Dakotans who fish in Minnesota didn't pass.

Chances that Hatch's lawsuit might succeed perhaps were buoyed last year when Arizona's restrictions on non-resident elk hunters were ruled in violation of the Commerce Clause.

Unknown -- if Hatch succeeds in his effort to throw out North Dakota's non-resident bird-hunting restrictions -- is whether game management would benefit or lose. The fear here is it would be the latter.

In defense of filing the suit, Hatch said Thursday that rules arbitrarily set to discriminate against non-resident hunters and anglers -- whether in North Dakota or Minnesota -- are unfair and illegal, and should be struck down.

Hatch said North Dakota makes no claim its non-resident bird hunting regulations were implemented to protect wildlife.

"If they raised that argument, fine," he said. "But no one in North Dakota is saying these rules have an effect on game management."

In briefs filed Thursday, Hatch said North Dakota developed its rules because it believed it had a hunter problem, not a wildlife management problem.

Discrimination on that basis is illegal, Hatch said, because hunting and fishing are big businesses, and people have a right to move freely among states engaging in those businesses.

Joining Hatch in the lawsuit is U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, who in an affidavit claims that, "Because of my busy schedule, it is virtually impossible for me to choose a zone and a date in advance [to hunt in North Dakota]."

Lame and silly as Peterson's complaint is, North Dakota -- and all states -- soon might see significant changes in non-resident hunting restrictions. Is this good? Certainly non-resident elk hunters in Arizona believe they benefited when that state last year was forced, essentially, by a court to issue about 800 more tags to out-of-state hunters.

Yet despite Hatch's insistence that regulations affecting hunters can somehow be apart from those affecting wildlife, the issue today that most affects both is access to good hunting land and the opportunity to enjoy it without being overrun by other hunters.

North Dakota does have a hunter problem, and it's been brought on by an ever-rising number of non-resident waterfowlers.

Most of those hunters, as noted above, are from Minnesota --and most travel to North Dakota because a) the duck hunting is no good here, and b) on occasions when you find a few ducks in Minnesota, you find a host of hunters chasing them.

Perhaps, in fact, there is nothing about game management that does not center on hunter management.

In Europe, these issues have long since been settled, as, historically, only the gentry have access to shooting. So, too, in other states, Texas being one, where only people who can afford to buy or lease hunting land can shoot.

North Dakota, in establishing what Hatch claims are unconstitutional hunting restrictions, has tried to do something similar: retain the state's good hunting, first for its residents and secondarily for a limited (though still large) number of non-residents.

No hunter I know would forgo that system in favor of one granting unlimited access to everyone -- and with it a loss of quality hunting.

It's possible Hatch will win his lawsuit, and perhaps a new, improved system of managing resident and non-resident hunters and anglers will emerge in North Dakota and elsewhere.

It's also possible Hatch might win -- and everyone else loses.

Dennis Anderson is at [email protected]
 

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It will be loss but they dont care. Most of these guys come and blast everthing is site for a couple of weekends and then leave. To them it is take take take and then wonder where the ducks went. That is what is happing in south dakota where we have been going for 20 years. It is now loaded with out of staters blasting every duck in the area out of the area. Last year was the fewest ducks in the area i have ever seen and I wonder why.Ducks dont stay where they are harrassed.
 
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