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Hunting season checkpoints catch firearms, liquor violations

Utah's Department of Wildlife Resources
Utah's Department of Wildlife Resources
A Utah Department of Wildlife Resources checkpoint angered many in the hunting community, while others welcome the enforcement.

Utah’s Department of Wildlife Resources conducts checkpoints during hunting season - whether hunters like it or not.  

A recent checkpoint conducted by Utah’s DWR in Wasatch County drew a lot of attention from the hunting community. It occurred the first weekend of October, which was the start of Muzzle Loader season. That’s a primitive weapon used to hunt.

Many in the hunting community were not happy about the checkpoint, taking to social media to claim gross government overreach and saying the DWR lacked jurisdiction to issue citations.

The DWR wrote citations for open containers, driving with a loaded firearm, children not being properly restrained and illegal possession of a firearm.

DWR Captain Chad Bettridge said checkpoints go through a multi-tier process.

“There has to be so many officers on scene, so many safety officers, for safety issues as far as the public goes, as far as traffic issues and stuff like that," Bettridge said. "Plus, we have to have supervisors on scene. Plus, we have to fill out it's similar to getting a warrant. So you have to fill out paperwork, present that paperwork to a judge, the judge has to read through it, see if if he or she deems your reason to do this checkpoint valid, and then signs off on it.”

Bettridge said the checkpoints are not meant to surprise the public. They’re publicized ahead of time in newspapers and guidebooks, and signs warn drivers as they near the checkpoint.

“We set up signs and we say, hey, you know, officers are ahead. And when you come around the corner, and you see the signs, and it does, there's a bunch of officers down there," he said. "And as somebody's coming through the checkpoint, you know, we, we talked to them and say, Hey, you're doing hunting or anything like that, if if everything's legit, they're in there for maybe three to five seconds, and they move right on.”

According to Bettridge, wildlife conservation officers are certified law enforcement officers. He said these checkpoints are solely to keep the public and wildlife safe.

“I mean, if somebody comes driving down the road, and they happen to have an open container in their vehicle, we'll make sure that they're not driving under the influence," he said. "And if that if they're not to that extent, they'll receive a citation for open container in a vehicle. We may, you know, if, if they're with somebody else who hasn't been drinking, we may swap drivers or something like that, and just and get them on their way.”

Bettridge said more checkpoints are scheduled throughout the hunting season.