Earth to Matt, Earth to Matt, come in Matt!’’ ‘‘Yes, Dad, what’s up?’’ ‘‘Your father’s aging bones require transport. Hasten hither with the truck and pick me up at the old pump.’’
‘‘I’ll be there in about 20 minutes. Anything else?’’ ‘‘Yes, you can have a cup of hot coffee waiting. Have my lunch prepared. Set up the chairs. I’m perspiring a bit. You can wipe my brow. Do you do foot massages?’’ ‘‘Do I do what? Whose father is this? My father knows better than to even think about asking for this stuff … just because he’s too lazy to hike all the way back to the truck himself. See you in 20 minutes. Bye.’’
Enter the world of hand-held radios — the old geezer’s friend.
Come hunting season in Montana and Wyoming, they’re handy things to have, though you do have to remember to use them legally.
For example, my call to Matt on our hand-helds last week was perfectly legal — and helpful.
Similar legal and helpful messages could have been: ‘‘Matt, I have fallen in a deep, dark hole and busted my clavicle — HELP!’’ Or, ‘‘Matt, I am totally lost out here on the prairie without a tree in sight so I can check for moss on the north side — HELP!’’ Or, ‘‘Matt, good grief, you make a lousy sandwich. I’m starving out here. Bring candy bars, now — HELP!’’ Or, perish the thought, ‘‘Matt, believe it or not, I actually got a nice buck. Bring your muscles and the game cart — HELP!’’ All these things are helpful for hunters who are on the dark side of 50, but have strapping, young hunting partners willing to come to their cries of help. In fact, these things are helpful for hunters of all ages..
‘‘They’re extremely popular. Most guys pack them,’’ said Jim Kropp, Enforcement Division chief with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks in Helena. ‘‘You can use them for safety purposes, to call your buddies or your kids. You can have contact with them on their locations.’’
Bring the coffee Despite all the legal uses of hand-held radios, Kropp said that too many hunters keep trying to use them for illegal activities.
‘‘They’re legal to use as long as you’re not calling someone engaged in hunting and telling them where game animals are and how to get them,’’ Kropp said. ‘‘You cannot use them to hunt. Hunt means to pursue, shoot, wound, kill, chase, lure, possess or capture big game or upland birds.
‘’It’s based on hunter ethics, and it’s wrong to direct people to game,‘‘ Kropp said.
All too often, that’s what people do. Sometimes, they just come out and tell their partners where to go and what they’ll find when they get there. Other times, he said hunters have developed secret codes to transmit information.
‘’We’ve had numerous cases where people pre-dispose ideas and create codes,‘‘ Kropp said. ‘’At Gardiner, a guy was screaming, ‘‘Get over here with the coffee! Get over here with the coffee!’’ When the guy came over, he didn’t have coffee, but his rifle came out.
‘‘Another time, there were some nonresidents and they were whispering because they were close to where the elk were. Their buddy in the truck starts giving the NASDAQ report. Obviously, that was a code,’’ he added. ‘‘Hunters would say ‘Get over here. They’re right in front of us.’ Basically guiding each other in one way or another, telling them which direction to go.
“In some places, there’s an equal amount of abuse with cell phones. That’s illegal, too,” he said. “It’s using two-way communications to direct hunters to game.” Checking in OK Kropp said legal uses can be as simple as, “Let’s meet on the ridge for lunch.” Or, “Johnny, I haven’t heard from you in a couple of hours. Are you OK?” Their effectiveness in transmitting these legal communications over distances depends a lot on the quality of the units purchased and the terrain in which you use them.
Armed with Motorola radios, which were labeled for usage in a 16-mile range, Matt and I were able to communicate easily over the several miles that we were apart in antelope country. We came through loud and clear as I whined about my aching bones and his lousy sandwiches.
For a weather junkie like me, the hand-held also had a weather band on it that I found extremely useful for getting updates from the National Weather Service. To me, that would be reason enough to carry them. You can’t know too much about the weather when you’re many miles back in the mountains or far from paved roads.
“There are certainly legitimate uses for the radios,‘‘ Kropp said. “We see lots of dads hunting with kids. And you can use them when game is down to have someone help you retrieve it. At that point, the actual hunting is over, and using them for that is just fine.
‘‘People should remember that most of the radios are pretty limited — 3 to 5 miles is the max. It depends on terrain. You can buy better ones that have more range. Some of the cheaper ones have less,’’ he said.
‘‘The thing to remember is simply not to use them to direct other hunters to game,’’ Kropp said. ‘‘Game wardens do monitor the channels. And what we typically get to deal with is the bad stuff.’’
In short, use them correctly and they’re a great tool for hunters. Use them wrong and it’s both unethical and against the law.