Dave's Warden Report, Vol 4


Not everyone who baits is a violator, but all violators bait.

At the end of my last story (Big Roast) I promised to follow up with another story of a sow (bear) and cub shot illegally over a deer bait site. Unfortunately I have to put that story on hold. We had a jury trial scheduled for March 11th, but it was postponed until June. Although I change the names of the defendants I still do not want to do anything to compromise the trial. This really is not a problem because we have plenty of experiences of baiting violations.

On December 28th, 1995, at 11:30 a.m. Conservation Warden Tom Wenninger (now retired) and I were working Pelican Lake checking ice fishermen when we received a complaint via the cell phone concerning illegal bow-hunting activity by a Joe Misthedeer. The complainant wished to remain anonymous but claimed that Joe had killed a deer with bow and arrow on December 27th and that deer was untagged and in an old milk-house. The complainant gave us the suspect's address but asked that we not go to the residence because Joe would know where the information came from. (Kind of like saying, "here's my complaint but don't do anything about it"). The complainant also stated that Joe was planning to hunt that night for a big buck from a stand behind the house.

Because of family commitments Tom and I had only the one afternoon to work this complaint. We drove south and did locate the suspect's house but did not enter the property to honor the complainant's request. Since we didn't know where the suspects' bow hunting stand was located we decided the best course of action would be to drive east and south of the suspects residence and then back west, hoping to find a deer trail in the snow. I would then follow that deer trail and hopefully that trail would lead to the suspects stand.

We did locate a deer trail approximately 1/2 mile south of the suspect's residence so I exited the truck. While Tom stayed with the truck and hid near the area, I followed the trail to the north. Approximately 300 yards north of my starting point I did find a baited site. The deer had cleaned up the bait but the sign was very fresh. An elevated deer stand was located in a large maple 50 feet northeast of the bait site. The time was 3:05 p.m. I called Tom on the portable radio to advise him of my status and also told him I would hide nearby with the hopes this was the suspects stand and he would come tonight. I found some thick balsams downwind of the site where I could watch the stand and hunkered down. I didn't have to wait long.

At 3:25 p.m. I heard a snowmobile operating north of me traveling west to east. The snowmobile stopped approximately 100 yards north of my position. At 3:30 p.m. I observed a thin young man approach the bait site. He was wearing blue jeans, a red jacket, and carrying a five-gallon bucket. The suspect dumped the contents of the bucket at the site. He then quickly left the area. I heard the snowmobile start up and then driven back to the west. It was now 3:40p.m.

Hunting hours closed that evening at 4:45 p.m. I decided to stay because wardens (including me) had been receiving more and more complaints that December bow-hunters were not entering their stands until after hours. I guessed right.

At 4:25 p.m. I again heard a snowmobile approach from the northwest, stopping where it had before. At 4:30 p.m. the young thin man returned. This time he was dressed in dark clothing and carrying a compound bow. I could not see a quiver or arrows however. The suspect attached the bow to a line and then climbed up to the stand. He pulled the bow up and then settled in. I don't know where he got the arrow but an arrow was now nocked on the string. It was now 4:35 p.m. and getting dark.

I was tempted by curiosity to stay until he came down, just to see how long he would stay, but it was so dark at 5:00 p.m. I decided to make contact. When I shined my flashlight on the suspect (it was Joe), he tried to keep his back turned to me so I couldn't see him remove the arrow and lay it on a large diameter branch. He wasn't successful. After identifying myself as a warden I asked him to bring the bow and the arrow down with him.

When Joe got down to the ground I found him to be very easy to talk to. I'd ask him a question, he would politely lie, I would point out the lie, and then we would move on to the next question. Joe was guilty of hunting without displaying a back tag, did not have a valid license, was hunting after hours, and was operating an unregistered snowmobile.

Not everyone who baits is a violator but all violators bait. Baiting has become the tool of violator made it easier for the violator to poach and harder for the warden to catch the poacher. Would this incident have taken place without bait? Maybe, (although I never experienced it until baiting) but not to the degree of frequency it occurs with legal baiting. The most unfortunate aspect is wardens are trying to spend time with families in December and use up vacation that they couldn't use earlier. The violators are taking advantage of this and the honest sportsman again loses.

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