Author Topic: Gray areas explained.  (Read 1032 times)


  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2561
  • Set the example... Don't be one!
    • Mobile Amateur Radio
Gray areas explained.
« on: January 19, 2016, 02:45:46 PM »
I wrote the following email to the New Mexico Game commission:

I am aware there is a proposal to change the rules with regard to using artificial light to hunt Raccoons. Although I do not hunt raccoons, I would like to legally hunt non protected species after dark, including feral hogs and coyotes, using a night vision scope.

The current law prohibits any hunting after dark, except with special authorization, yet some local game wardens say the law doesn’t apply to non protected species like coyotes. Since I do not wish to violate any Game & Fish law, I would at least request a clarification on the legality of using night vision devices to hunt non protected species.

Alan Applegate,
Roswell, NM

Here is the reply:

Mr. Applegate,
            It is illegal to hunt any protected species from the period of ½ hour after sunset until ½ hour before sunrise (except migratory birds which is sunset to ½ hour before sunrise) regardless of the device used.  It is a violation of shooting hours and can be cited/arrested under 17-2-7 or 17-5-4 for furbearers.  Protected species include all of the animals defined as protected wildlife species and game fish under 17-2-3, all of the animals defined as furbearing animals under 17-5-2, all of the bird species listed under 17-2-13, all of the species of hawks and owls listed under 17-2-14 and all of the animals listed as threatened or endangered species on the state or federal list as set by the NM game commission.
            The question of hunting unprotected species (non game) at night is a bit more complex.  17-2-31 reads as follows:
17-2-31. Use of artificial light while hunting prohibited.
It is unlawful for a person or a group of persons together in possession or control of a firearm or other implement to throw or cast the rays of a spotlight or other artificial light into any field, pasture, woodland, forest or prairie where big game or domestic livestock may be, or are reasonably expected to be, whereby any big game animal or domestic animal could be killed by aid of an artificial light.  However, the following shall be exempt from the provisions of this section: 
A.     an officer authorized to enforce the game and livestock laws of the state; 
B.     a government employee acting in an official capacity; 
C.     a landowner or lessee or employee of such landowner or lessee, while on the land owned or leased in connection with legitimate activities; or 
D.     a person who has received a permit or authorization from the department of game and fish to conduct such activities.
            Based on this statute the use or casting of any artificial light while hunting on BLM or anywhere else would be illegal if big game or domestic livestock are present in the area or could reasonably be expected to be found there.  Artificial light could consist of not only visible light but also infrared light.  Therefore the use of any device which casts light (whether visible to the naked eye or not) would be illegal even when hunting unprotected species such as coyotes or feral hogs unless a permit has been issued by NMDGF.  This includes but is not limited to lasers, infrared light and all forms of visible light.  The only other exemption is for raccoon hunting. DEPARTMENT AUTHORIZATION - RACCOON HUNTING: A validly licensed furbearer
hunter is authorized by the department to hunt for and take raccoons by use of artificial light while hunting at night
with a rim-fire rifle or handgun no greater in size than a .22 caliber, shotgun, bow or crossbow during open season.
The artificial light used for raccoon hunting must be a headlamp or hand held flashlight. It is unlawful for any
artificial light to be cast from a vehicle while raccoon hunting.
            There is, however, no specific statute or regulation which would prohibit the use of light gathering devices such as night vision or thermal imaging (as long as they are not utilizing the above mentioned infrared lasers or lights in conjunction with these devices).  Therefore if a person is using night vision or thermal imaging and the device casts no artificial light and the species being hunted is not subject to shooting hours and they are in an area where the hunting can legally take place then it is not a game law violation to shoot or hunt for unprotected animals such as coyotes or feral hogs.  There may be separate local county ordinances, state regulations or federal laws which would prohibit this hunting depending on who owns the property you are hunting.  It is your responsibility to check with those agencies if you are hunting anywhere other than private property.   
            One additional consideration in answering this question is the issue of negligent use and the illegal killing of livestock.
30-7-4. Negligent use of a deadly weapon.
A.     Negligent use of a deadly weapon consists of:   
(1)     discharging a firearm into any building or vehicle or so as to knowingly endanger a person or his property;   
(2)     carrying a firearm while under the influence of an intoxicant or narcotic;   
(3)     endangering the safety of another by handling or using a firearm or other deadly weapon in a negligent manner; or   
(4)     discharging a firearm within one hundred fifty yards of a dwelling or building, not including abandoned or vacated buildings on public lands during hunting seasons, without the permission of the owner or lessees thereof.   
B.     The provisions of Paragraphs (1), (3) and (4) of Subsection A of this section shall not apply to a peace officer or other public employee who is required or authorized by law to carry or use a firearm in the course of his employment and who carries, handles, uses or discharges a firearm while lawfully engaged in carrying out the duties of his office or employment.   
C.     The exceptions from criminal liability provided for in Subsection B of this section shall not preclude or affect civil liability for the same conduct.   
Whoever commits negligent use of a deadly weapon is guilty of a petty misdemeanor.   
of negligent use.
30-18-12. Injury to livestock. (1998)
A.   Injury to livestock consists of willfully and maliciously poisoning, killing or injuring livestock that is the property of another.   
B.   As used in this section, "livestock" means cattle, sheep, buffalo, horses, mules, goats, swine and ratites.   
C.   Whoever commits injury to livestock is guilty of a fourth degree felony.   
  History: Laws 1998, ch. 35, § 1.
            Just because it is legal to shoot does not mean it is safe.  Hunting/shooting at night carries a heavy responsibility to not injure or kill other public land users, protected wildlife or livestock.  There is often no way for a shooter to know whether a camp, vehicle, person or livestock is in the direction of their shots in the dark.  Misidentification of a target or careless handling of a firearm is not acceptable.  If you choose to hunt at night for coyote or hogs you may be stopped by law enforcement for investigation since your activities are highly suspicious and are often indicative of illegal hunting activities.  I would highly recommend you contact the local Conservation Officer prior to going out so that he or she is aware of what you are doing and where you will be hunting to alleviate any potential conflicts.  I have included the contact e-mail for the Roswell Officer, Tyson Sanders, on this message.
I hope this answers your questions.  If you need further assistance let me know.
Ty Jackson
Captain - Field operations
#1 Wildlife Way
Santa Fe, NM 87507

This fairly well defines how New Mexico handles their night time hunting activities. I suspect some other states are somewhat stricter, and some a whole lot more lax. Whatever the rules in your state, it is nice to know that at least in New Mexico, they're willing to define, and indeed to help potential hunters.

  • Roswell, New Mexico

I have an Omega compressor. If you're a fellow Guild member, and you pass through Roswell, NM, I'll fill your portable tank as a courtesy.


  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 28
Re: Gray areas explained.
« Reply #1 on: January 20, 2016, 07:10:56 PM »
Jeez, it is easy to get lost in that much gray area.  When I was a Deputy Sheriff we could enforce game and fish laws if needed, i.e. no Game Warden immediately available.  Our statute book was thick, mostly traffic, alcohol, drug and general statutes, the game and fish section was rather small.  The best rule of thumb is what you did...if in doubt, ask.


  • Global Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2019
Re: Gray areas explained.
« Reply #2 on: February 01, 2016, 02:29:31 PM »
One almosts wishes the states all would adopt one set of rules and regs.  But they need to work for everyone.  The other states could take a page or 2 from AZ and VA and their air rifle/gun hunting laws.

  • Aurora, Colorado
Joe the P-Dawg Slayer!!!!!