Coordinating Your Coordinates

Do you feel confident with your GPS skills in the fields and mountains? For your sake, we hope you're more proficient than the man who oversees the New Mexico Game and Fish Department.

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In mid-November, New Mexico Game and Fish conservation officers performed decidedly uncomfortable field duty when they stopped and cited their boss, department director Bruce Thompson, for illegal hunting and illegal possession of a mule deer. Thompson allegedly killed the deer on private land without the landowner's permission, according to a news release from the department.

Claiming he made an honest mistake, Director Thompson said he misread the coordinates on his GPS unit and thought he was hunting on public land--instead of a neighboring private ranch.

Investigators determined based on evidence and witness accounts that both misdemeanors were committed unintentionally. However, New Mexico law does not make allowances for lack of intent.

"I have cooperated with the investigation and I will accept the consequences of my honest mistake," Thompson said in a department-issue press release. "I apparently used an incorrect entry in my GPS unit while conducting my hunt, but that is no excuse, and I expect to be treated like any other hunter who unintentionally violates wildlife regulations."

According to investigating conservation officers, Thompson allegedly killed a mule deer buck the afternoon of Nov. 17 on the Diamond T Ranch west of Roswell in Lincoln County. A hunting guide employed by the ranch owner said he saw Thompson with the dead deer, and later reported the incident to the owner, who then called a Department of Game and Fish officer. The hunting guide reported that Thompson told him that he believed he was on Bureau of Land Management land based on coordinates entered in his GPS unit.

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Thompson's hunting license was valid for public land or on private land with permission. To his credit, he has been open and forthright throughout the unfortunate ordeal, cooperating fully with investigators, answering questions and providing a written statement.

By the way, maximum penalties for the two offenses are $500 in fines and up to 6 months in jail. He also could face a civil penalty of $250 to reimburse the state for the deer.

The lesson learned? Bad data in means bad data out.

Our suggestion? Next time, Director Thompson should hunt the old-fashioned way--with a map.