Dave's Warden Report, Vol 6


On Friday, November 21, 1997 Conservation Warden Patrick Neal was investigating a complaint given to him by Conservation Warden Dave Zebro. Warden Zebro was the warden assigned to Pembine, Marinette County, and Warden Neal, from the Milwaukee area, was working with Zebro for the opening weekend of the deer gun season.

Warden Zebro had observed several large bait piles on a piece of property located in the township of Pembine. Warden Neal would be working these large bait piles on opening day but wanted to learn the property prior to the opener. At approximately 11:00a.m. Neal entered the property to locate the bait piles and determine if the bait piles were still in excess of the legal ten-gallon limit.

At approximately 11:40 a.m. Warden Neal located a large bait pile (corn, carrots, apples, cabbage, and a deer mineral block). The bait pile was approximately ten feet wide by twenty feet long and approximately eighteen inches deep. Neal guessed that the bait pile consisted of over fifty gallons of bait. As Neal started to look for a second bait pile he heard a vehicle entering the property. Neal hid himself in a small clump of trees as the vehicle went past. Neal observed the vehicle park next to the deer stand overlooking the bait pile Neal had just come from. Two individuals were observed unloading hunting equipment from the vehicle and placing the items in the deer stand.

After approximately ten minutes Neal observed a man walk away from the deer stand and one individual still seated in the deer stand. Approximately 11:56 a.m., a single shot was fired from the deer stand. Warden Neal observed the man standing in the road looking towards the deer stand. Neal decided to approach and identified himself as a State Conservation Warden. Neal immediately asked the individual who had the gun and the individual stated "My son". Neal told this individual that he wanted to talk to his son but asked for identification first. The individual identified himself as Rick Smith, from Green Bay.

As Warden Neal and Rick Smith walked towards the deer stand they observed a young man walking down from the deer stand carrying a semi-automatic rifle equipped with a scope. Neal identified himself as a State Conservation Warden to this individual and asked the young man what he had just shot at. The young man replied, "A deer".

Warden Neal asked the young man if he had a hunting license and the young man showed Neal a hunting license which identified him as Rick Smithís 12 year old boy Lee. Warden Neal asked if the rifle was still loaded and Lee Smith stated it was. The rifle was then unloaded. When asked what type of deer Lee had shot at, Lee replied that he had shot at a buck but didnít think he had hit it.

Warden Neal and father and son then walked down to the site where the buck had been standing and Neal observed a different bait pile from the one he had seen earlier. This bait pile contained fifteen gallons of bait material similar to the bait Neal had observed earlier. An examination of the area revealed that Lee had missed the buck and struck two trees next to the bait pile.

Another loaded rifle was retrieved from the deer stand. The two LP gas heaters were on. Warden Neal interviewed the father/son hunters and learned that the father had told the son to shoot a deer if the opportunity presented itself. Earlier that morning as they were driving to the grandfatherís property the father had told the 12-year old son they might shoot a buck today.

Most wardens have a feeling of satisfaction when catching someone intentionally breaking the law, especially someone hunting over illegal bait piles during the closed season. Because this case involved a 12 year-old graduate of hunter safety class there was no satisfaction. Just a feeling of sadness. This is what we are teaching our kids?

As I stated in an earlier story, baiting has lead to an increase in hunting on Thursday and Friday before season. Baiters have a tendency to feel they are owed a deer because they have been feeding/baiting throughout the fall and know that if they donít get the buck on opening day the neighbors will probably get it. There were always a few that hunted early but baiting has increased this type of activity.

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

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