Well, most of you have probably heard or seen the news (old news) about Ted Nugent’s recent run in with CA DFG regulations.  On Friday, he and his camera man entered No Contest pleas to the charges, accepted the fines, and are in the process of moving on.

I was going to move on past this one too, since it’s getting so much coverage already, such as this post by my friend and fellow Skinny Moose blogger, Dan “Moose” McLaughlin.  But as I read the various posts on other sites and see the comments and pure vitriol, I decided that I would be remiss if I didn’t cover it too… at least to some extent… for a couple of reasons.  First of all, I’ve spent a bit of time offering commentary on the good, bad, and ugly of several hunting programs.  This is right in context with some of those commentaries, since the violations were filmed, produced, and aired on national television.  In fact, this is how the violations were discovered… a CA DFG warden saw the episode and watched as Nugent arrowed a spike buck! 

Another reason I thought I’d throw my two cents into the fray is that this did happen right here in CA, my (current) home state.  Hell, Moose is all the way back in NC and he got the scoop on me.  How slack am I?  So…

Here’s a quick synopsis of what went down, for anyone who hasn’t seen this yet.  Last fall, Nugent came out to the El Dorado County foothills to shoot a blacktail buck for his TV show, Spirit of the Wild.  In the process of filming the episode, Nugent and co. violated three DFG regulations.  He shot a spike buck, hunted with the use of bait, and he failed to have his tag countersigned. 

California game laws require that a buck has at least one fork in the upper 2/3 of one antler.  Brow tines do not count as forks.  Of the regulations violated, this one is probably the most clear.  I haven’t seen the episode, so I don’t know the circumstances around the killing of the spike buck.  I do know that it’s very possible to mistake a spike for a forked horn on first glance (I’ve done it several times), but to make the mistake and take the shot at bowhunting range just seems careless.  But there must have been some kind of extenuating circumstances, because he was not charged for shooting the spike.

Baiting rules seem pretty clear also.  Food baits are not legal.  Scent attractants are.  The bait in question is C’mere Deer, a spray product that emulates the scent and flavor of food.  When sprayed on rocks or stumps, deer are attracted to the scent, and actually lick or gnaw the scented object.  In the eyes of CA DFG, this constitutes a food attractant.  It’s a technicality, right or wrong, that tends to confuse a lot of CA hunters.  Nevertheless, a professional guide should understand the regulations. 

Countersigning the tag is probably one of the most oft-broken rules out there for deer hunters.  The law requires the successful hunter to have the tag signed by an authorized official as soon as possible after harvesting the animal.  The signature is basically a testament that the official saw the animal, and that it is legal game.  The CA Fish and Game website has a list of authorized officials, and it includes law enforcement officers, fire officials, DFG wardens and biologists, butchers, notaries public, and many, many more (the glaring ommission, in my eyes, is that licensed guides cannot countersign a tag).  However, many hunters don’t bother with this step, either because it’s inconvenient or they simply don’t know about it.  Of course, if I had an illegal deer in my possession, I probably wouldn’t go get the tag signed.

With the possible exception of the first, these violations aren’t particularly heinous.   Why the uproar?   

Nugent brings out the extremes in people.  Folks tend to love him or hate him with extreme prejudice.  Personally, while I’m a pretty big fan of his music, I’ve never liked his political grandstanding, in-your-face, all-or-nothing approach to politics.  Like some other musicians from the 70’s (e.g. Charlie Daniels), his recent right-wing patriot extremism flies in the face of the personna many of us fans recall from his heyday and seems fairly disingenuous.  I’ve always seen him as something of a buffoon, politically, spouting off whatever comes out of his head with the same aplomb as his impromptu, on-stage raps.  His hunting program follows the same balls-to-the-wall approach, and there’s a zeal there for the kill that can be somewhat off-putting to many viewers.  This last is relevant, because I have a feeling it’s part of the reason for the current fiasco.  Kill first, think later. 

But at the end of the day, I don’t know what happened.  I wasn’t there.  I haven’t read the court records, and Nugent hasn’t (to my knowledge so far) offered up his own explanation. 

So it raises the question… does he deserve one of these?