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Sports >  Outdoors

Fish and Game commission moves to allow blind Idaho hunters to use adaptive technology

Caleb Linck holds an external scope camera displaying the image from his stepson Jade Harlow’s rifle sights. Harlow is blind, and Linck serves as his hunting companion, using the external display to guide Harlow to his target.  (Courtesy of Rebecca Linck)
Caleb Linck holds an external scope camera displaying the image from his stepson Jade Harlow’s rifle sights. Harlow is blind, and Linck serves as his hunting companion, using the external display to guide Harlow to his target. (Courtesy of Rebecca Linck)
By Nicole Blanchard The Idaho Statesman

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission on March 24 moved forward with a rule change that could allow visually impaired hunters to use adaptive technology they say is crucial for them to be able to hunt safely.

During a special meeting, the seven-member commission voted unanimously to consider an accommodation to allow visually impaired hunters to attach electronic devices to firearm scopes. The decision came a month after two families submitted petitions requesting a change to rules that forbid the use of nearly all electronics attached to firearms. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game has said the rules are meant to preserve fair chase ethics in hunting, but the families of Tj Cartwright and Jade Harlow – both of whom are blind – said the rules prevented them from safely pursuing big game.

Both hunters had successfully used scope cameras to harvest deer in the past. The cameras attach to their rifles, providing an external view of where the firearm is aimed. A companion is then able to guide the visually impaired hunter to their target. In February, Cartwright’s wife, Kylie, submitted a petition to Fish and Game asking the agency to amend its rules.

“The petition explicitly states that she is not seeking to legalize ‘smart scopes,’ which would tell the hunter the windage, range or bullet trajectory,” Jim Fredericks, Fish and Game deputy director , told the commission at the March 24 meeting.

Though the commission voted to consider the rule change, it must go through a lengthy process before a final decision is made. That process includes multiple public comment periods and approval from the Legislature.

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