Even though Bambi is one of my family’s all-time favorite holiday movies, I found this light-hearted take on two favorite national pastimes captivating. I never knew there was so much drama that could unfold in the workings of hunting and fishing law. Cases that seemed clear cut often diverged into muddy waters of decisions.
Some of the tales include a game warden setting up a roadblock to catch fishermen who exceeded their legal limits; the case of punitive damages from an exploding barrel of a shotgun; and a city being sued because a jogger was shot and killed by a man hunting on city-owned property.
Thirteen chapters cover cases involving everything from trespassers getting paid for their injuries to how wearing safety orange while hunting could save your life, but infringe on your religion.
Chapter 12 is a must-read. It plays out off the coast of Nova Scotia and is titled “Fish Overboard: Recovering Lost Profits.”
The book is full of advice, too. In the case of “Vicarious Liability,” the writer offers sound counsel for those choosing to take their sons hunting, “(1)Tell him that you are in fact trespassing on another person’s land, and (2) Let him know that it might be a good idea not to shoot the property owner.”
This book is part of the American Bar Association’s Little Book Series, which includes The Little Green Book of Golf Law, The Little White Book of Baseball Law, The Little Book of Coffee Law and The Little Red Book of Wine Law.
The author, Cecil C. Kuhne III, does a good job of explaining how the simple joys of hunting and fishing sometimes are not so simple. It could wind up involving those not involved in the sports. And it results in what Kuhne calls “the greatest outdoor drama playing out inside the courtroom.” The writer skillfully fleshes out the legal entanglements of the cases into bite-sized morsels of the law.
Tucked in each chapter is a historical sidebar called “hook and bullet” that features little-known and classic nuggets about hunting and fishing, from the hunting and fishing adventures of people such as Theodore Roosevelt and Edward Grey.
So, just when you thought you knew everything there is to know about hunting and fishing, this little book floats along. Mixing centuries-old wisdom about hunting and fishing with newfound details of the law, Kuhne makes a case for the reader to have a full knowledge of the pastimes. But a few more pictures and a link to news footage to some of the cases mentioned would surely extend the life of the book.
One entry dates back to 1653, Izaak Walton’s spirited salute to fishing in The Compleat Angler: “He that views the ancient ecclesiastical canons shall find hunting to be forbidden to churchmen, as being a toilsome, perplexing recreation; and shall find angling allowed to clergymen, as being a harmless recreation, a recreation that invites them to contemplation and quietness.”
You can be the judge of that.
The reader will finish this book aware of the swamps of law in which anyone could get mired. Right down to the color of your fishing rod (Chapter 6).
So, this holiday season, whether you’re slinging your gun over your shoulder or stowing your fishing gear in your tackle bag make sure you pack this one.
The Little Book of Hunting and Fishing Law is published by the American Bar Association.
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