Dave's Warden Report, Vol 10


By: Jim Blankenhiem

Actually, I don't recall his name. His owner had called the sheriff's office to report him missing the afternoon of opening day of the gun deer season a few years ago. The dog was a very old mixed breed that was deaf, partially blind and walked with a limp. He, like many of his older human counterparts, found it necessary to empty his bladder at least once during the night. His owner had just let him out the door about 5:30AM when a shot rang out just to the south of his property, probably within a quarter mile. The dog was still in sight but wandered off into the darkness towards the shot. The owner waited but the old dog was apparently taking his time so he closed the door and went back to bed. He said that it happened every once in a while and the dog would eventually return and be curled up on the rug in front of the door. When the man did check again after daylight, there was no dog. He had heard other shooting nearby once back in bed but hadn't paid much attention to it. But now that his dog still hadn't returned, he became concerned and called the Sheriff's office and talked to the dispatcher. Then the dispatcher called Larry Willems, the local warden.

Larry and another warden, Jim Blankenheim, drove to a residence they figured was close to where the early shot was fired. It turned out to be a good guess as lying in front of the garage door was a forkhorn buck. Larry went to the door while Jim checked the deer. It was legally tagged and quite stiff. The "hunter" (actually we should call him "shooter") came to the door and Larry quickly learned the deer was shot earlier in the day from a blind behind the house. Larry said the wardens had received information that the shooter was using too much bait and asked if they could check the site. The shooter had no objection so the two wardens proceeded to the back of the residence. The site wasn't too hard to locate. There was a wide path leading away from the house that had an obvious drag trail on it. If that wasn't plain enough, there was a wire strung through the small trees and brush that paralleled the trail. Both ended at a small clearing. The wire entered what could best be described as a "pillbox". It resembled a partially dug-in trap (clay target) house. There was a switch in the blind and a wire ran from it out to a lamp suspended over a bait pile. The wardens tried the switch and the lamp worked. Jim went over to inspect the bait pile and found it to be less than 10 gallons. There was some blood and a drag mark along with a gut pile off to one side. Jim returned to the bait pile to inspect some hair that had caught his eye. He assumed it was going to be deer hair but as he got up to it, he knew the old dog wasn't coming home. There was another drag trail. This one led to some thick balsams on the edge of the little clearing. Under some ground level branches lay the old dog.

Larry and Jim returned to the house. Larry asked the shooter to slide into his truck as he had a few questions regarding the shooter's deer. After a while, the shooter emerged and went into his house. Initially, he had claimed to have shot the deer after it got light but finally went so far as to admit that it was actually pretty dark out and that was probably he that shot at 5:30AM. However, he was adamant about not using the light. The light, he said was used when he would sit in the blind, unarmed, to observe deer. And yes, he did shoot the old dog because it showed up after he shot the buck and didn't want to leave, thus making continued hunting impossible.

The wardens loaded the deer and left, notifying the Sheriff's Department and the dog owner of the results of their investigation. Neither warden was particularly happy about the outcome. Yes, they had solved the mystery of the early shot and the missing dog. They knew the shooter would pay the price on the DNR charge of hunting before legal hours and the county charge associated with killing another person's domestic animal. There was satisfaction in that but it was overshadowed by the fact that as the use of bait for hunting deer increases, it seems to be bringing out the very worst in many "hunters".

Not all baiters violate but all violators bait.

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