Dave's Warden Report, Vol 9
By: Jim Blankenhiem
Most felons have a few things in common. They tend to be greedy. They often want to get something without working for it. And of course, they really have little regard for the law. If they happen to hunt, you can count on these folks using bait. These traits were well illustrated during the 1997 deer season for wardens Larry Willems and Jim Blankenheim, both of Rhinelander.
Prior to the season, Larry Willems and the Oneida County Sheriff's Department suspected a local felon might hunt during the upcoming gun deer season. This was of interest to the Sheriff's Department because convicted felons are not to possess a firearm. They also suspected that the felon was back at growing and processing marijuana which is what got him in trouble the first time around. Larry checked into the license sales in Oneida County and, sure enough, there was a gun deer license issued to the suspect. Unfortunately, it is not illegal for a convicted felon to purchase a gun deer hunting license. Larry also suspected that the suspect may hunt in a swampy area adjacent to his home. He found a road that came reasonably close to the area and entered from the opposite direction the suspect would. After a search, he found a sturdy elevated blind with a bait pile nearby. Larry retreated back to his truck and planned to return on opening day.
It was about mid-afternoon when Jim dropped off Larry on the road leading to the suspect's house. Larry was not sure of the blinds location when entering the tag alder swamp from the opposite direction he did prior to the season but soon was relieved to find a trail leading out into the swamp. He found a few spilled kernels of corn and knew he was headed in the right direction. Soon he came upon the elevated stand. He could see it was occupied. He radioed Jim that he was going to make contact with the suspect. Larry approached cautiously, knowing that the man in the blind most likely had a loaded rifle that he was not supposed to have. As he approached, Larry couldn't help but notice a buck hanging from the stand. When he reached the stand, he saw another buck lying on the ground. Neither deer was tagged. The man in the stand was, in fact, the convicted felon and he did have a loaded rifle. Larry questioned him and the man admitted to shooting both deer. One for himself and the other for a supposedly nearby hunting partner, who Larry later determined, had not been present all day. The deer were removed from the woods and the Sheriff's Department notified. They responded with a search warrant. The subsequent search turned up several more firearms in the felon's home along with marijuana being processed in an outbuilding.
Greed? Two untagged bucks and hunting for a third. Little regard for the law? At least 4 very obvious criminal violations. Not wanting to work for a deer? Baiting allows a "hunter" to leave as little to chance as possible. Deer are easily trained to come to a specific spot for food. It's just a matter of waiting for one of acceptable size to appear.
Not all baiters violate but all violators bait.