Why Should Spotlighting Deer Be Illegal?

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The Pennsylvania Game Commission is considering prohibiting recreational spotlighting for two reasons. The first is to help catch poachers, and the second is to improve public safety, according to Outdoor News. The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal notes that Texas game wardens report that spotlighting and then shooting deer is not only illegal but considered a very serious hunting violation because it is thought to be unsportsmanlike behavior.

Spotlighting is the practice of observing wildlife in the dark by shining a flashlight on the animal. Spotlighting is also commonly used by poachers to illegally take game in the dark. Spotlighting for observation is currently legal in some states, including Pennsylvania, but the Pennsylvania Game Commission reports that recreational spotlighting makes it more difficult to find poachers. If recreational spotlighting was illegal, then any spotlight seen in hunting territories is going to be a poacher, notes Outdoor News. The members of the Commission also worry about recreational spotlighters being accidentally shot by poachers using high-caliber rifles in the dark.

Spotlighting as part of actual hunting is illegal in most places. The rationale seems to be that it is cheating. Texas game wardens described hunting via spotlighting as "easy", "cheating," and "unfair," notes Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Pete Thomas, writing for the Los Angeles Times, describes someone arrested for spotlighting and shooting an elk as "cowardly" and not a legitimate sportsman.