Dave's Warden Report, Vol 15

The T-Zone

On December 8, 2000, I was on routine patrol for the late T-Zone gun hunt. The rules for the special T-Zone were simple. If hunting in one of the many Deer Management Units open for the special four-day hunt (Dec. 7 through Dec. 10) hunters had to wear blaze orange and only antlerless deer could be harvested. The hunting hours and baiting rules were the same as other deer hunts. Hunter Choice, Bonus Tags, and T-Zone tags were the legal licenses for the hunt.

At approximately 4:20 p.m. I was driving east on Shingle Mill Rd., Oneida County, when I observed a small blue pickup truck parked on the north side of the road. This was located in Deer Management Unit 38. Unit 38 was open for the T-Zone season. A single set of boot tracks in the fresh snow lead from the truck north on a woods road. I assumed it was a deer hunter so I parked and waited to check the hunter when he returned to the vehicle. Shooting hours ended at 4:35 p.m. that evening but when the hunter had not returned to the vehicle by 4:40 p.m. I decided to follow the tracks to his stand. It was always my policy to not interfere with someone during legal hours. If the hunter was hunting legally it was their time. After hours was my time.

I followed the boot tracks north through the open hardwoods for approximately 200 yards until coming to a recent clear cut. The boot tracks continued through the clear cut. Across the clear cut I could see an evergreen thicket. I assumed the hunter was in the thicket so I just waited where I was.

At 4:50 p.m., 15 minutes after legal shooting hours a single shot was fired from the evergreens. I resumed following the boot tracks at that point figuring the hunters attention would be focused either on a dead deer or looking for blood. The tracks continued through the clear cut and finally into the standing timber. The tracks continued down the woods road for approximately 70 yards then turned west into the tall evergreens where I had heard the shot. Since it was now very dark I waited where I was, not wanting to be another shadowy target for the hunter. After a few minutes I observed my suspect walking towards me from the west. I flicked my flashlight on to let him know I was there and told him that I was a conservation warden. I asked him if he had hit or missed the deer. He replied that he had missed.

I then asked him where his bait pile was and he pointed to the north. We walked a short distance to a pile of corn and potatoes that appeared to exceed the 10-gallon limit. I was a little confused though, because there were no fresh deer tracks or man tracks in or around the bait pile. I then asked him where the deer was when he shot. The late hunter then lead me down hill to another large bait pile of corn and potatoes. After checking the area around the bait pile I found where fresh deer tracks had approached the bait and also where the hunter had tracked a fleeing deer to the north. I followed a short distance beyond the previous boot tracks and saw a drop of blood. I turned to the hunter and told him he had hit the deer. He acted surprised. That is what sent a warning flag up for me though. His reaction seemed to be an act. I then asked him if he had shot at a buck or doe.

The hunter (who we shall call Tom) shuffled his feet, looked at the ground, and meekly replied that he shot at a doe. I knew at that point he had shot at a buck. I invited Tom to follow me on the trail and less than 75 yards later we walked up on his nice 8-point buck.

He was charged with illegal deer hunting and eventually convicted, loosing his DNR privileges in addition to paying for a lawyer and over $2,000.00 in fines.

This violation was brought to you by baiting and feeding.

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