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Trail camera identifies hunter blocking access

UP field reports

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

Oct. 4-Oct. 17

DISTRICT 1

CO Shannon Kritz received a tip that somebody was continuously blocking access to state property. CO Kritz went to the location, walked down the road beyond the blockage, and discovered that it led to a hunting blind with no name or address on it.

CO Kritz placed a trail camera to monitor the area and to see if somebody would block the road again. A week later CO Kritz drove by and observed that once again, a large tree had been cut down across the road in question. CO Kritz checked the trail camera and was successful in capturing pictures of a suspect. CO Kritz developed a suspect and conducted an interview.

The suspect admitted to blocking the road and also admitted that he purposefully cut down the largest tree he could find since somebody was cutting up the smaller trees he had placed previously. A civil infraction citation with issued for obstructing access to state land and warnings given for cutting trees on state land and for not having identification on the hunting blind.

CO Shannon Kritz received a Report All Poaching complaint from a person who was experiencing hunter harassment. The complainant explained that he was checking his trail camera pictures when he noticed he had a picture of somebody who appeared to be spraying something on his bait pile.

CO Kritz developed a suspect by comparing the picture to nearby homeowners and set up additional trail cameras by the hunter’s bait to see if the suspect tampered with the bait again. A week later, CO Kritz was on foot patrol in the area when she saw her suspect walking in the area of the complainant’s hunting stand. The suspect had a spray bottle in his hand and quickly turned around and returned to his house when he saw the CO.

CO Kritz checked her trail cameras, which had captured pictures of the suspect back at the hunter’s bait. She interviewed the suspect later that evening and he admitted to spraying the hunter’s bait pile because he was frustrated that hunters had moved in on where he used to hunt on state land.

CO Kritz asked the suspect if he ever tried to talk to them and he told her that he had not, but that he was hoping the Round Up would deter them. A report will be submitted to the Menominee County prosecutor for charges of hunter harassment.

CO Dave Miller happened to be in the right place at the right time when an individual stopped his truck, placed an uncased gun out the window, and aimed at a ruffed grouse. CO Miller contacted the subject just before he shot and issued a ticket for possessing an uncased/loaded gun in/upon motor vehicle.

CO Jeremy Sergey was patrolling snowmobile trail 5 when he came across an unresponsive individual locked in a vehicle while the vehicle was running. CO Sergey initially suspected carbon monoxide poisoning as he could smell exhaust and observed that the individual had very shallow breathing and was slumping over.

CO Sergey called for EMS and was about to break the window when the individual regained consciousness. It was determined the individual had very low blood sugar and EMS was able to successfully treat the subject. Once the medical emergency was concluded, the CO addressed the fact that the subject was in possession of open intoxicants and that the vehicle had no insurance or plate. The vehicle was towed, and a citation was issued for the possession of an open intoxicant in a motor vehicle.

DISTRICT 2

CO Robert Freeborn was patrolling a remote two-track road where one side of the road was public, and the other side was private. CO Robert Freeborn observed a pickup truck parked along the two-track on the public land side that appeared to be set up to haul pine boughs. CO Freeborn located a subject on private land cutting balsam fir boughs that are sold to make Christmas wreaths.

CO Freeborn knew the landowner and was fairly certain the subject was trespassing. When asked, the subject stated that he did not have landowner permission and did not realize he was on private property. CO Freeborn walked the subject back to his vehicle and showed him the no trespassing sign directly across from his pickup truck that he walked by.

The subject admitted to seeing the sign and stated that all the balsam he was cutting was too good to be true. CO Freeborn contacted the landowner via phone and confirmed that the subject did not have permission to be there. The 11 bundles of balsam boughs were loaded into CO Freeborn’s truck and the subject was issued a citation for recreational trespass. The 11 bundles weighed 320 pounds with a value of $96 and were given back to the landowner.

CO Michael Evink responded, along with MSP troopers from Newberry and Manistique, to the report of an overdue hunter. The hunter was supposed to return to camp for dinner but did not. The hunter told his friends that he was going to hunt the southern edge of the Seney Wildlife Refuge. When the hunter did not return, his friends called 911 to reported him missing and gave what clothing and vehicle description they could. His cell phone was pinged, and a large amount of time was spent in the area where it pinged. Unfortunately, it pinged where he last had cell service and was nowhere near the man or his truck.

One of the troopers on scene was able to contact the hunter’s wife and get authorization to access the vehicle’s navigation system. Once the navigation system was accessed, the vehicle’s location updated, which provided an accurate location of the truck. After locating the truck, an MSP K-9 unit was able to track and locate the cold and lost hunter.

The hunter was supposed to return around 6:30 p.m. for dinner, the police were called around 8 p.m., and the hunter was located just before 4 a.m. the following day. The search was complicated by rain and cool temperatures.

CO Cole VanOosten followed up on an anonymous tip of potential over-limits of otters being taken out of Alger County. An investigation was conducted, and it was determined that the suspect trapper had used tags from another individual to trap additional otter for the past four years. It was determined that over the last four years the trapper had trapped eight otter over his limit and another individual had loaned him otter tags.

A report was generated and submitted to the Alger County prosecutor for taking an over-limit of otter and for borrowing the tag of another.

Oct. 18-Oct. 31

DISTRICT 1

Conservation Officer Ethen Mapes responded to a complaint about shots fired after dark near Ewen in Ontonagon County. After conducting interviews and tracking a blood trail, CO Mapes was able to gain a confession from an individual, who was also a felon. The individual admitted to shooting a deer that was standing under a yard light from the back window of a residence. Michigan State Police Troopers Evan Fazatt and Logan White also responded and assisted in the investigation.

An eight-point buck and a hunting rifle were seized, and charges are being sought through the Ontonagon County Prosecutor’s Office for taking a deer without a valid kill-tag, shooting a deer after shooting hours, and felon in possession of a firearm.

CO Anna Viau received a Report All Poaching complaint of a deer that had been taken with a bow after legal shooting hours within the city limits of Iron River. CO Viau interviewed the suspect at his residence who subsequently admitted to shooting the deer with a crossbow after legal shooting hours. CO Viau seized the eight-point deer and charges are pending at the Iron County Prosecutor’s Office and charges for Iron River city ordinance violations may also be filed.

CO Shannon Kritz was patrolling commercial forest land in Menominee County when she came across a closed gate that was posted with “no trespassing” signs. CO Kritz attempted to access the CFL from a different road and ran into another gate that was posted “no trespassing.”

The next day, CO Kritz made contact with the landowner who admitted to posting the CFL with no trespassing signs because his son was coming up to hunt. CO Kritz issued a warning for the violation of posting the property and forwarded the information to the DNR Forestry Division who will determine if the landowner must unenroll the property from the CFL program.

CO John Kamps checked two waterfowl hunters as they pulled their boat up to the boat launch. After a routine check of licenses and hunting equipment, one of the individuals was determined to be transporting a loaded firearm in a motorboat and the other was determined to have a shotgun capable of holding three or more shells. A citation was issued for hunting with an unplugged shotgun.

DISTRICT 2

COs Justin Vinson and Cole VanOosten interviewed a suspect involved in several hunter harassment complaints during bear season. During the interview, the suspect admitted to several illegal bait barrels, ground blinds and tampering with a camera used in the investigation. A report has been submitted to the Luce County Prosecutor’s Office.

CO Todd Sumbera was investigating a waterfowl hunting complaint on Munuscong Bay when he observed a camouflage duck boat push multiple flocks of ducks off the water. The birds flew to and between a couple of hunters set up in layout boats, shots were fired. Shortly after, the hunters began picking up the associated party in the layout boats. CO Sumbera made contact, finding a loaded shotgun in the motorboat along with an admission of rallying birds. Citations were issued for rallying waterfowl and for possessing a loaded shotgun in a motorboat while under power.

CO Robert Freeborn was off duty at his residence when a neighbor knocked on his door advising a tree had fallen on a power line knocking the line down and starting a fire. CO Freeborn advised dispatch of the situation and blocked off the intersection where the line was down until the fire department and power company arrived on scene.

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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