Suspect located after social media posting, hotline complaint

UP field reports

A sampling of field reports from Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers in the Upper Peninsula:

Sept. 20 to Oct. 3


Conservation Officer Zach Painter received a Report All Poaching complaint involving a video posted on social media of a subject intentionally running over a flock of geese with his truck. CO Painter located an address for the subject in Gogebic County. CO Painter interviewed the subject and learned that the event took place in Iron County, Wis.

CO Painter contacted Wisconsin Game Warden Robin Miller who had already located a goose that had been run over by a vehicle in the same location. COs Painter and Dave Miller returned and re-interviewed the subject. A full confession was obtained, and charges are being sought in Wisconsin.

COs Jenni Hanson and Byron Parks assisted the Ontonagon County Sheriff’s Office search for an unstable, assaultive 18-year-old male who fled into the woods. While traveling to a mental facility, the suspect assaulted his mother, causing the vehicle to crash into the ditch, and then took off on foot in Stannard Township.

The suspect had been known to take hallucinogenic drugs prior to the attack. The COs, along with MSP troopers from the Wakefield Post, MSP K-9 units from Calumet and Iron Mountain Posts, and local friends and family searched the area. After about 10 hours in the rain, the subject was located without incident. He was placed under protective custody and transported to Aspirus Ironwood Hospital.

CO Jared Ferguson was patrolling Dickinson County when he observed two kayaks on a local river system fishing. CO Ferguson contacted the two individuals and found both subjects did not have personal floating devices. During the contact, one individual was questioning why he should have a PFD on a kayak. At that moment he flipped his kayak in the water and was submerged. The individual was not questioning the law after he had to swim with the kayak in hand, back to shore. A citation was given for no PFDs.

COs Shannon Kritz, Jeff Dell, Jared Ferguson, Anna Viau, and Sgt. Brian Bacon proctored a hunter safety field day in Menominee County. About 30 participants were educated on Michigan’s hunting laws and ethics, safe firearm gun handling, archery equipment, and tree stand safety. At the end of the day participants took the written examination and earned their Michigan Hunter Safety Certificate.

CO Jeremy Sergey checked a group of four waterfowl hunters on Lake Levasseur on opening day of duck season. Upon checking one of the individual’s ammunition, CO Sergey discovered the hunter had all lead shot shells in his possession. CO Sergey also examined the vessel they used and discovered there was only one PFD for the four individuals on the vessel. Citations were issued for the lead shot and for failing to have PFDs for each person onboard.

COs Cody Smith, Josh Boudreaux, Dave Miller, John Kamps, and Jeremy Sergey assisted troopers from Negaunee and Calumet, along with Marquette County Search and Rescue in a search for a missing kayaker. The kayaker was last seen paddling Lake Michigamme and had not been seen by her boyfriend in quite some time. When it got dark the boyfriend decided to call 911 and report that she was missing.

The COs responded to the scene with multiple patrol vessels and combed the lake with flashlights and thermal imaging until 4 a.m. but were unable to find the missing kayaker on the 6.7 square mile lake. At that point visibility was low from rain and the search was called off until daylight by Marquette Search and Rescue. Upon continuing the search at daylight, the kayaker returned to the camp she departed from. The COs made contact to find out where she had been. Realizing she was lost; the kayaker had paddled to shore when it was dark. She attempted contact at a camp with the most lights, but nobody was home. Wet and cold, she forced entry into a screened porch where she tried to warm up. Still cold and with no phone, she broke a window and took refuge inside the camp for the night.

When she woke in the morning, she microwaved her cold wet clothes before hiking the road knocking on camp doors for multiple miles before finding someone to give her a ride to camp. The COs recovered her kayak and returned it to camp for her.

CO Cody Smith was patrolling a well-known waterfowl hunting location when he observed an individual in jeans, a flannel shirt, and a hunter orange vest. Striking the CO as odd waterfowl hunting apparel, CO Smith contacted the individual. CO Smith asked if the individual was hunting grouse and waterfowl. The individual responded that they were targeting waterfowl. When asked how much experience the hunter had with waterfowl hunting, they responded saying they were just getting into it.

CO Smith checked the hunter’s license and shotgun and discovered they were missing a plug and a federal duck stamp. When asked about both violations, the hunter stated that they thought you couldn’t have four shells in their gun, so they only put two in to be safe and that they thought the waterfowl license was all that was needed to hunt waterfowl. CO Smith educated the hunter on what needed to be corrected before the next duck hunt. The hunter was also informed that ducks have great vision and hunter orange was not needed.

CO Josh Boudreaux was patrolling northern Marquette County when he came upon a group of subjects on ORVs that stated they were trying to get back to Ishpeming and were turned around. CO Boudreaux had the group follow him back through a series of two-tracks until he intersected a main road, then directed them south towards the correct trail, which they could follow back to their vehicles.


COs Mark Zitnik and Cole VanOosten were on patrol during the opening day of waterfowl season in Alger County when they heard a large amount of shots coming from a remote creek. The COs were able to locate the hunters and it was determined that one of the hunters was in possession of toxic/lead shot. A citation was issued to the hunter for possessing toxic shot while waterfowl hunting. This was the subject’s third citation for this offense.

CO Cole VanOosten responded to a complaint of ORVs tearing up an ORV parking area near Newberry and as he neared the parking area, a large group of ORVs left the parking lot. As he was following the group, the ORV in the rear was swerving in the middle of the road and attempting to drag race the others in the group. The ORV nearly hit CO VanOosten’s patrol vehicle on multiple occasions without the operator even noticing. A traffic stop was conducted, and a citation was issued for careless operation of an ORV.

CO Robert Freeborn assisted the MSP and local agencies in apprehending a subject with outstanding felony warrants. The officers received a tip that he was seen in a local retail store. The subject fled the store just before the responding officers arrived. After searching the area, a deputy located the subject in a parked car at another retail store.

Upon seeing the deputy, the subject fled on foot from the car into a wooded area that led to a residential neighborhood. CO Freeborn and an MSP trooper set up a perimeter in the area the subject would most likely run toward. After a few minutes, CO Freeborn observed the subject looking around a house right at the officers. CO Freeborn and the MSP trooper pursued on foot and apprehended the subject in a backyard of a residence. The subject was also found to be in possession of methamphetamine.

After the arrest, it was determined the acquaintance the subject was with had outstanding warrants as well. The acquaintance was found shortly after, hiding in a family member’s residence.

CO Robert Freeborn appeared on the TV show “Ask the DNR.” CO Freeborn addressed several pertinent hunting and ORV questions from callers. Even though the show was via Zoom, it was a successful show and many questions were answered by several Department of Natural Resources employees.

COs Chris Lynch and Steve Butzin had a case recently adjudicated on one of two suspects involved in a fish spearing case. The suspects were caught with the speared fish and then eluded the COs on foot. The suspects were quickly appended. This suspect was fined $3,550 with $1,070 of that being restitution for the illegal fish, the suspect was ordered 250 hours community service in lieu 60 days jail, placed on probation, and fishing privileges revoked until 2022.

COs Chris Lynch and Steve Butzin recently had a case adjudicated on an illegal eight-point buck. CO Lynch conducted a taxidermy inspection and located a suspicious eight-point buck that was brought in. After some follow up, CO Lynch developed a suspect. COs Lynch and Butzin interviewed the suspect who confessed to illegally taking the deer. The suspect was fined $6,990, with $6,000 of that being restitution for the deer, five days in jail, probation, hunting privileges revoked until 2025, and the crossbow was forfeited.

CO Steve Butzin was on patrol in the Garden Peninsula when he observed a fire creating thick black smoke in a ditch at the front of a residence. CO Butzin went to the residence and waited near the fire, which consisted of building materials and plastic, for a short while. It was apparent that no one was attending the fire. Contact was eventually made with the homeowner who started the fire. A citation was issued for open burning prohibited materials and a warning was given for failing to attend a fire.

After leaving the residence, a short while later CO Butzin observed a vehicle that was not able to stay within its lane of travel. The driver of the vehicle was contacted and found to be operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated. The driver was arrested and lodged at the Delta County Jail.

Conservation officers are fully licensed peace officers who enforce laws related to fish and wildlife, state parks, trails and forests, and outdoor recreation activities such as off-road vehicle use, snowmobiling and boating. They also are first responders to a variety of natural disasters and emergencies.


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