Dave's Warden Report, Vol 14

"700 Acres of QDM"

On November 6, 2000, at approximately 1:00p.m., Conservation Warden Bill Lazarz and I started to investigate a 700-acre parcel of land owned by Lee Holtz. The investigation was predicated upon years of accumulated information about illegal hunting activity. I had asked Bill Lazarz to join me because this was such a large tract of land and it would have taken one person too much time to search thoroughly. As it was it still took the entire afternoon to walk the property and we finished after dark.

We did find four different baited sites and all were baited with an excessive amount of bait material. It was assumed that those sites would be hunted on November 18, 2000, which was the opening day of the deer gun season. Based on our information we anticipated finding nonresident hunters hunting without licenses in addition to the illegal baiting.

I recruited Randy Falstad (Wausau Environmental Warden), Jeff Dauterman (Recreational Specialist Warden from Antigo), and Antigo Warden Bill Lazarz to assist me.

On November 18, 2000, at 3:00p.m. Randy Falstad and I approached the baited stand located towards the south end of the property. Bill and Jeff were starting on the north end of the property. When Randy and I neared the first stand we could see it was occupied so I left Randy to make the contact while I continued on to the second site. Twenty-five minutes later I too made contact with a hunter overlooking another of the illegal bait sites. It turned out the hunter was the owner of the property. He was very decent and acknowledged that he had too much bait. We walked back to his house together and had a nice conversation as we walked. When we arrived at the house Randy was waiting. His hunter was the caretaker of the property. Both hunters were licensed but had been hunting over bait sites exceeding the 10-gallon limit.

When we returned to the vehicle we made radio contact with Bill and Jeff and they informed us that they too had made contact with a hunter over one of the illegal sites. We agreed to meet along the north side of the property. When we met with Bill and Jeff they informed us that their contact was from Illinois but he had a non-resident license. I then asked Bill if he had checked the fourth baited site and he stated that he had forgotten about it. It was now after legal shooting hours but we weren't that far from the site so Randy and I hustled back onto the property. I was not surprised at all to find a hunter comfortably sitting in an elevated tree stand overlooking the bait 13 minutes after closing time. This was probably the largest of the sites, with an automatic feeder dispensing corn, adding to the few hundred pounds already on the ground. Again, the hunter was pleasant to talk to but when we asked him to come down, he got very active, but never came down. We waited. He stalled. We waited patiently; suspecting there was a very good reason for his delay. Finally, our suspect worked his way down to the ground. When Randy checked his back tag Randy discovered the license belonged to a she and not our nonresident hunter. He readily admitted that he knew he was going to hunt months ago and his father's girl friend went out and bought a resident license so he could use it.

Four hunters contacted and all were found to be hunting illegally. One other non-hunter was cited for loaning a license to another.

The reason I chose this story was it clearly illustrates the problems associated with deer baiting and feeding. The enforcement problems are obvious. We did not plan to work these hunters for after hours hunting but I am quite confident that we would have found all to be hunting late if we had given them the opportunity. The borrowing and loaning of licenses is not unique to baiting situations but certainly is more prevalent on private land where the hunter feels more secure. The violations associated with baiting and feeding are an enforcement nightmare. But the scenario we found on Holtz's has become quite troublesome for the DNR and its efforts to properly manage the deer herd. The caretaker Randy made contact with showed Randy where he feeds deer throughout the year so he and his wife can watch them. He would never think of shooting their pets. (I'm not sure why he thinks the deer feeding on his bait pile 200 yards from his house were not those same pets but so goes the mind of a baiter).

The property owner told me his hunters only shoot mature bucks, they don't shoot does. Far too many landowners interpret this as QDM but it is simply quality buck management. When I walked the property on November 6th, I was impressed with the amount of deer sign. The property was loaded with deer. A public resource was being monopolized by a private landowner due to baiting and feeding. A short distance away, on public land, the deer sign was scarce. (I know, the baiters always say, well, what about the food plots.) I have never seen food plots hold and nocturnalize deer like baiting and feeding does. It is also much easier to dump some bait then work up and maintain a food plot. When those hunters on the public lands don't see deer during the deer season, they don't blame the private landowners who are baiting them, they blame the DNR and claim they don't know what they are talking about. If you were a deer, where would you stay? On a few hundred acres with an over abundance of food and very little pressure, or on public land with lots of pressure? It is just common sense. Add the threat of disease spread and it would seem very logical that we should get rid of deer baiting and feeding. Enforcement problems, management problems, disease, the privatizing of a public resource, why don't the legislators understand?

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