Dave's Warden Report, Vol 16

Bow hunting the "Late" Season

Prior to deer baiting I (retired warden Dave Sabrowsky) and other northern wardens could patrol every day in December and be lucky to find a bow hunter in the woods. That was not all bad, because December was a time when most wardens tried to utilize unused vacation to catch up with family and prepare for the holidays. Not only did the deer get a rest but so did the wardens.

Slowly but surely though, the bow hunting fraternity started to realize that post rut bucks (as well as other deer) were extremely vulnerable to baiting during the December hunting season and more and more archers were taking advantage of this opportunity to shoot bucks. After talking with numerous informants and investigating complaints it became obvious to me that December was no longer a time for catch up but just another fall month to work.

In December of 2002, I was patrolling Northern Langlade County, looking for hunting activity when I observed some fresh tire tracks exiting county forest lands. (One thing about working in December, we usually had snow so it was harder for hunters to hide their activity). I decided to investigate. What I found were two baited sites. Both sites were of legal size. A portable ground blind had been erected by one of the baits. The other bait pile was located approximately 1/2 mile south of the first and a portable elevated tree stand overlooked this second bait pile. Although the bait piles were under the ten-gallon limit, December hunting had become synonymous with late hunting and also with hunting without valid tags. (See stories #4 and #15).

I called Warden Bill Lazarz from Antigo, told him what I had found, and asked if he wanted to help me the next evening. He agreed, so the next day we met approximately one hour before quitting time. Since Bill had not been to the sites I decided to let him approach the ground blind, figuring it was the easiest to find. After describing the approach to the ground blind, Bill and I drove a short distance to the area where our hunters had been parking their vehicle. A vehicle was parked so we waited until the closing of hunting hours. At the close we started our walk. Bill headed towards the north bait and I cut through the timber to the south. Sixteen minutes after shooting hours ended I was within 70 yards of the elevated stand. I had to approach from the direction the bow hunter would be facing and admittedly, walking towards an armed hunter in the shadows of the darkness makes me nervous. I decided to wait and let the hunter make the first move.

His first move was to shoot his bow. I could not see the deer but heard it blow after he released his arrow. I quickly approached and turned my flashlight on. The hunter was in the process of hanging his bow prior to his decent. An arrow was sticking in the ground right in the middle of the corn pile. I couldnít see any blood or hair on the arrow nor was there any blood in the snow around the bait site. I guessed a miss.

I identified myself as a conservation warden and asked, "shooting kinda of late arenít you?"

The late hunter replied, "Oh, I always like to take a practice shot when I quit for the day." After suppressing a laugh I asked him to come on down so I could check his license. While he climbed down I retrieved the arrow from the corn pile and observed a very expensive hunting head ruined due to contacting the ground.

When the suspect walked up to me I told him that I had never seen anyone practice with these heads before. I then asked if he had shot at a buck or a doe. He said he had shot at a doe but wasnít sure if he hit it or not. We checked around but could not see any evidence that he had connected. I then asked for this license. He then admitted that he did not have a valid license. He had filled all his tags that year.

When I asked him what he was going to do if he had shot a deer he said he had a partner with an open tag.

We then walked back towards the vehicle and found his partner with my partner. He had been contacted and was found to be hunting after hours too.

These two really didnít have much right that night. There is no group hunting with a bow and what if both had shot a deer that evening. Both were hunting after hours and one without a valid license.

When I titled this story "Late Hunting" I didnít just mean late season. This type of activity is just too common with baiting. Greed and unethical behavior are synonymous with baiting.

Not all baiters are violators but all violators bait.

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