Hunting in Missouri, particularly in the wooded and hilly Ozarks, "is not only for recreation but it is a part of our way of life and any infringement of this right must be constitutional." So wrote Ripley County Circuit Judge Robert Smith in his decision striking down some Missouri Conservation Department hunting regulations he called vague and unconstitutional.
The regulations in question forbid using vehicles and dogs while hunting deer. For decades it has been illegal to flush deer or pursue them from a vehicle. And the use of dogs to chase deer into open areas for a better shot also has been prohibited.
But two Ripley County hunters filed a lawsuit in February claiming the regulations are so vague that even conservation agents get confused and, as a result, enforce the regulations inequitably.
While the fine legal points of this case, which the conservation commission says it will appeal, raise some hair-splitting issues, the fact remains that hunters understand -- and have for decades -- that hunting from a pickup or letting dogs loose to scare up deer is not just illegal. It's unsportsmanlike. And still prohibited by other laws, the commission says.
Let's get this cleared up.