FAIRBANKS -- Cellular phones have become one more piece of mandatory gear for many hunters these days, right there alongside the skinning knife and meat packing board.
It can save your life if you're hurt, help you get found if you're lost, and they even allow you to chat with your spouse as you sit around the campfire.
''I take mine to my moose-hunting camp and call up my wife and tell her what's going on,'' said Lt. Dave Lorring, head of the Alaska Fish and Wildlife Protection trooper detachment in Fairbanks.
But they also can land you in court if you use them for the wrong things.
According to Alaska hunting regulations, it is illegal to use radio communications to aid in the taking of game, such as talking to another hunter about the location of animals.
''(Cell phones) are in fact radio communications. They do transmit on radio waves,'' said Lorring. ''A lot of people don't think of it as such. ... But it's no different from talking to somebody on a walkie-talkie.''
Lorring recommends hunters take a cell phone into the field for safety reasons.
''We've had numerous cases where people have used cell phones for emergency reasons,'' he said. ''It's real smart to have as many things possible to make sure you stay safe, just as long as you use them correctly.''
Cell phones are a common sight in hunting camps these days, trooper Jim Low said. ''They are a nice safety item.''
But as Low pointed out, ''It's pretty easy to use them for the wrong reason, too.''
Cell phones are specifically mentioned in the Alaska Hunting Regulations.
Hunters may not ''use a pit fire, light (other than sunlight or moonlight), electronically enhanced night-vision scope, radio communication (including cell phones), artificial salt lick, explosive, barbed arrow, bomb, smoke or chemical'' to take game, according to the rules.
The words ''including cell phones'' were inserted just a few years ago, said Lorring, and troopers will be asking the state Board of Game to do the same in the state's statute book this fall.
Lorring said the biggest problem troopers encounter with radio communications is hunters using walkie-talkies or CB radios to communicate from an airplane to the ground. Low also pointed out that using headsets on snowmachine helmets to assist in the taking of game is illegal.
''If you're using it to direct anyone in on game, that's a no-no,'' Low said.
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