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Doug Leier: Hunters can help with fight against meth

Remember as a youngster accompanying your dad on a hunting trip, wondering what you may uncover? I recall one deer season we found an actual weather balloon in a pasture. While it wasn't the buck of a lifetime, I didn't find it sitting at home on...

Remember as a youngster accompanying your dad on a hunting trip, wondering what you may uncover?

I recall one deer season we found an actual weather balloon in a pasture. While it wasn't the buck of a lifetime, I didn't find it sitting at home on the couch watching TV. I was just as excited to tell my friends at school about my discovery as any deer I've shot. Cradling it like a pet rabbit, I turned the weather balloon into the local post office, never to be seen again.

Outdoor outings often bring other surprises, some good, some not so good, some that you can laugh about later, some that remain a serious concern.

For example, I can laugh about the time I once got turned around while hunting in North Dakota's Turtle Mountains, and eventually determined I was hiking in circles around the same pond. I never laugh about the time I had shot pellets whiz by, seemingly across the back of my head.

Safety is always part of hunting, but nowadays people in the field may have more to worry about than just themselves and their hunting partners. In the last decade or so, I've seen first-hand the drugs and other crime that have expanded into the countryside.

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It has nothing to do with hunting, but hunters should be aware of the potential dangers, and the opportunities to help.

The growth of methamphetamine manufacturing and use should put hunters on alert -- to avoid suspicious situations, yet note those circumstances and report them to law enforcement. With 80,000 of us in the field for deer season in a couple of weeks, hunters can do a great service for law enforcement, and the entire community.

Our intent is not to commission a force of undercover drug agents, but to inform hunters of the dangers. According to North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, meth labs are commonly found in rural areas.

"The manufacturing of methamphetamine lends itself to being found anywhere from grain bins to old barns," Stenehjem said. "Just about anywhere. It's not a matter of if. It's more a matter of when a hunter will inadvertently uncover a clandestine lab."

Some of the items hunters should recognize as possibly related to a meth lab are common household products such as cold tablets, batteries, paint thinner, battery acid and anti-freeze.

Stenehjem advises hunters or anyone spending time in rural areas to stay vigilant, and then stay clear if they come across a meth lab, or even worse, a meth dealer.

"Don't try to stop them on your own," Stenehjem cautioned. "People who are using meth and manufacturing meth oftentimes have been awake for days ... these people are dangerous and we would advise you to immediately contact law enforcement to handle the situation."

With thousands of people in the field each fall, just a few tips to law enforcement can help make the countryside, your community, and the state a safer place, a place where weather balloons and turtle shells are the only kinds of surprises hunters encounter.

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Leier, a biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in West Fargo, can be reached at (701) 277-0719 or at dleier@state.nd.us

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