Two-way radios have no place in a hunt. Ed Dentry Column


Mar 11, 2001
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Two-way radios have no place in a hunt

By Ed Dentry

Scripps Howard News Service

The radio chatter in remote parts of the Gunnison National Forest was downright entertaining on a slow day of elk hunting in the second rifle season.

It also was downright unethical.

I humored my hunting partner when he handed me one of those newfangled, affordable, lightweight two-way "sport" radios that seem to be springing out of packs and pockets everywhere in the mountains. I plunked the device in my day pack with no intention of using it unless someone got lost or needed help hauling a large, heavy critter back to camp.

Partner agreed likewise to keep a low profile on the airwaves. We both would rather listen to the chatter of jays and ravens than human voices in the backcountry.

When I did switch on the power I was amazed to discover how popular the multichannel communicators have become. Partner wasn't there. But the woods were alive with conversation. And that wasn't just idle chatter on Channel 6.

Several hunters were receiving directions from a spotter on an opposite slope. The eavesdropped conversation went something like this:

"Where's Bob?"

"He went back to camp?"

"Well, he walked right by a 5x5 bull."

"He said he didn't see anything."

"It's in the aspens about 300 yards below you. Head for that big rock. From there you should be able to put the sneak on him real easy."

What's wrong with this picture?

Hunters with an ounce of ethical sense should recognize the two-way radio stalk as violating even the sloppiest interpretation of the rules of fair chase. Employing "sport" radios to ambush an elk or any other animal turns the devices into poor-sport radios and worse.

In some states, using walkie-talkies to locate big-game animals is illegal, as it should be. Montana recently issued a warning to its hunters, saying such misuse of two-way radios is on the rise. Apparently, some hunters also are using two-way radios to warn their buddies where wildlife law enforcement road check stations are located.

Montana law prohibits two-way radio communication as an aid in hunting or chasing big-game animals or as a tool to evade check stations. Big Sky Country equates the misuse of radios with the use of other techno-toys, including night vision devices, motion-tracking instruments, cell phones or aircraft in spotting animals and relaying information to hunters on the ground.

"The bottom line is that these laws protect our strong commitment in Montana to fair chase and ethical hunting," said Beate Galda, enforcement chief for the state's Fish, Wildlife and Parks department.

Our hunting heritage deserves better than to be dirtied by electronic game players.

An elk wins this round

I rooted for the elk. The good news was that, even with all that radio quarterbacking to assist their dubious woodsmanship, our wiley posse of at least four and possibly six hunters seemed unable to pin down the bull for a shot. For half an hour their tactical struggles sounded like a Laurel and Hardy skit involving a piano and a long flight of stairs.

Finally the spotter reported seeing the bull elk sneaking to within a few hundred yards of the gang's camp. Bob must have been taking a nap; he didn't answer the call to arms.

The elk sneaked off. It happens to the best and worst of us.

Contact Ed Dentry of the Rocky Mountain News at

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