The Department of Natural Resources has proposed rule changes to clear up ambiguity regarding possession limits for legally taken fish and wildlife that have a bag limit, without adversely affecting wildlife species or unnecessarily encumbering legal anglers and hunters.
"There are varied opinions and interpretations of the existing possession limit rule that cause confusion within the fishing and hunting public" said Col. Scotty Wilson, director of DNR Law Enforcement. "Therefore, we're seeking a rule change to clearly define possession restrictions where a bag limit is established and at what point legally taken wild animals no longer count toward a possession limit."
The Natural Resources Commission, an autonomous board that must approve rule changes requested by the DNR, granted preliminary adoption of the proposed change at its July 19 meeting. The measure is open for public comment on the NRC website (www.in.gov/nrc/2377.htm), which also includes full text of the proposed rule language. Public comments will be included in a report to the NRC prior to consideration of final adoption at a future date.
A nine-month review of current regulations by two DNR divisions – Law Enforcement and Fish & Wildlife – prompted the agency to seek the change, which would exempt from the possession limit restriction legally taken wild animals that have been processed and stored at an individual's primary residence.
Several other state wildlife agencies that were contacted as part of the review already have adopted similar rules.
Currently, daily bag limit is defined (Indiana Code 14-8-2-18) as the quantity of individual wild animals that may be taken in one day of a specified season or during the entire season. For example, the daily bag limit for Northern pike is three. The daily bag limit for rabbits is five.
Confusion begins with possession limit, which is intended to be twice the daily bag limit.
However, common questions asked of the DNR point to the challenge of a universally accepted definition:
- Does possession limit apply only in the field, while at camp, cabin, or hotel?
- Does it include fish and wildlife stored at my home in my freezer?
- Do last season's rabbits still in my freezer count against this year?
- If I currently have two times the daily bag limit in my freezer, can I hunt/fish for that species again before using some of it?
- If not, what are the requirements for becoming legal? Do I have to eat it, give it away, or simply dispose of it to become "legal"?
- Does part of a wild animal, such as two hind legs of a rabbit, count as a full rabbit?
Current fishing regulations complicate the issue, depending on where fish are caught. Daily bag limits only apply to public waters. Fish taken from private ponds or impoundments may be taken in any quantity.
"This proposal will clarify language that seems to make criminals out of someone simply because he or she is an avid and successful hunter or angler" Wilson said.
These changes would not apply to migratory birds and waterfowl. U.S. Fish and Wildlife authorities interpret possession limit to include processed and stored specimens. Wilson said, "At this time we feel it would be too problematic to have state and/or federal laws that contradict each other on these particular species."