•MANY SPORTSMEN think cellphones don’t belong in the field. But game wardens are finding that honest hunters and fishermen who carry them are helping to nail poachers.

Wildlife agents in eastern Washington made 703 arrests in the fall of 2004, up from 545 during the fall of 2003 when more officers were in the field. “The difference is that sportsmen are using their cellphones to report poachers,”says Mike Whorton, regional enforcement manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. “We’re getting critical information when it’s fresh, or even while the incident is happening.”

In Iowa, state DNR officials report receiving calls from duck blinds. And in Oregon, fish and wildlife troopers estimate that 75 to 80 percent of the state’s poaching cases start with a cellphone call from the field.

Wireless companies are also doing their part. Cellular One, Verizon, and Cingular have all created quick-dial connections to poaching hotlines in states such as Colorado, Utah, and Georgia. Arkansas Game and Fish Commission spokesman Keith Stevens says that a 20 percent increase in calls in November 2004 over November 2003 is attributable to wireless companies that started offering tip lines last year–which made reporting a poacher as easy as dialing T-I-P. –RICH LANDERS