Dave's Warden Report, Vol 12

"FRED'S FORTRESS"

When the public reads reports of warden activities it is usually about wardens successfully apprehending someone that "crossed over to the dark side." It makes for great reading but I think it misleads people into thinking that every complaint is successfully resolved or that wardens catch a high percentage of violators. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. Far too many violators are not caught and more complaints are not resolved than brought to a satisfactory conclusion. The following story is about someone we sorta caught but not for all we suspected he did.

I don't have the written reports from this particular case so I am only guessing as to the time of the violation.

During October of 1992, Antigo Area Warden Supervisor Dick Streng (now retired) received a complaint that the wife and daughter of Fred Konner had registered bucks over the weekend. The complainant stated that Fred bow hunted but his daughter and wife did not hunt. The complainant stated that Fred Kenner shot both bucks.

Because Fred Kommer lived and owned land in Warden Cliff Knudsen's administrative area it should have been his complaint to pursue but since he was out of the area Dick called me to conduct the interview. Dick said that he would gladly accompany me. Fred Kenner is a very successful businessman but socially handicapped and I really didn't think it would be that difficult to obtain a confession.

That afternoon Dick and I drove to Fred's property and found him at his residence. We asked if he had time to talk to us and Fred agreed to talk with us in his home. We got around to the reason for our visit but much to my surprise Fred was not forthright with us. In other words, he lied. And he lied. And he lied. We were persistent however, and Fred eventually admitted that he had shot both bucks and his wife and daughter had tagged the deer.

Something else to remember about Fred was that his outdoor skills were somewhat limited so we suspected that for him to shoot two bucks in one weekend he had to have a baited stand. For him to actually hit two deer with conventional weapons was also a stretch. Somewhat like Barney Fife winning a gunfight with Wyatt Earp on the streets of Dodge City. It just wasn't going to happen legally.

With this in mind we decided to ask Fred where he had been hunting. Fred pointed to the north. We decided to look south for his stand the next day.

The next day Cliff Knudsen was back in the area so I contacted him and asked if he would like to look for Fred's deer stand. Cliff replied that he needed to find the stand because he had just received information that Fred had shot the bucks with a crossbow. Cliff also said that we had to be careful because Fred had surveillance cameras on his property.

Cliff and I met a couple of days later and searched for the deer stand on Fred's 135 acres, keeping in mind that we had to avoid potential surveillance camera's. The stand wasn't hard to find. South of Fred's residence we discovered a well used ATV trail. The ATV trail led to an elevated but completely enclosed deer stand that was more secure than Fort Knox. We estimated the cost of the stand to be approximately $3,000.00. Sliding glass windows offered viewing in all directions but Venetian blind's concealed the interior of the fortress. A padlock the size of a basketball secured the trap door entrance from uninvited entry. Old bait sites were located to the south and east sides of the stand. Mounted above the east side window were two motion sensor activated security lights. Both were aimed directly at the east bait pile. Power for the motion lights was supplied via Romax 3 strand electrical wire, which ran 1/4 mile back to Fred's residence. We suspected the crossbow was in the deer stand but there just was no way to confirm that without forcing our way into the stand.

Because Fred was supposed to be done bow hunting for the fall (and the lack of fresh bait at the stand indicated he was done) we put his stand as a priority for the next fall, or at least I did. Cliff was retiring in 3 months so unless another warden filled his station, I would have all of Langlade County to patrol. Some might wonder why Fred did not loose his hunting privileges. Unfortunately, a deal was cut and Fred was able to retain his hunting licenses.

Next fall, I was still the only field warden in Langlade County and catching Fred was my number one goal. In order to monitor Fred's stand without advertising my presence I had to hide my truck on some state owned land and then float a canoe downstream for approximately 1/2 mile. From that point I walked though a cedar swamp, up onto a hardwood ridge, and then through the brush until I was able to hide near Fred's fortress. I tried to hide where I could see the east window but remain downwind of the bait so I wouldn't spook any deer.

Fred showed every night for the first 7 nights. His wife would drive him out on a six-wheeled vehicle and then leave. Fred would climb up the stairs, unlock the trap door. and then disappear inside the stand. My plan was coming together except the deer failed to cooperate. The bait was disappearing nightly but the deer didn't show during legal hours. This wasn't that surprising though because Fred's stand was upwind of the bait for the prevailing winds. (Remember what I said about his outdoor skills). Surprisingly, Fred's wife arrived every night exactly at quitting time to pick him up. (We eventually heard through the grapevine that she had been upset about the previous years arrest and her penalty for Fred was even more severe than ours). She was keeping him on the straight and narrow.

I was determined to stay with it though because I wanted to catch him with the crossbow but bad luck betrayed me on the 8th night. I was making my usual approach on the hardwood ridge when I came around the corner and ran right into Fred's brother, who was grouse hunting. I checked his license, carried on a casual conversation, and left back through the swamp.

I figured that between his wife watching him closely and his brother encountering me close to the stand that Fred would now be extra careful so I was better off working other complaints. I backed off for the year.

When the new warden finally arrived the next fall I showed him the stand and the file. As far as I know Fred was never caught again. It's very difficult for a warden to dedicate so much time to one person because they just have too many complaints to work. We did hear that it wasn't a crossbow that Fred used but he had created a device, which would hold his compound bow at full draw. When it came time to shoot he really was shooting a vertical crossbow. At least Fred never had his wife and/or daughter tag another deer for him. I'm certain deer have died under the light though.

The reason I wrote this story is to illustrate how difficult it can be to catch some of these people and how easy it is for those using bait to illegally multiple bag on bucks, even if they lack hunting skills. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Baiting has become the tool of the violator, making it easier for them to violate and harder for wardens to catch them. Not everyone who baits is a violator, but all violators bait.



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