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Property owner fined for generously ‘feeding’ deer

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

Nov. 1-Nov. 14, 2020

DISTRICT 1

Conservation Officer Byron Parks received a complaint through the Report all Poaching line regarding a subject over-baiting deer by the truckloads. CO Parks responded to the area described and discovered multiple full bags of carrots and beets just set on the ground slightly open.

There were piles of apples and pumpkins spread out. Lastly CO Parks found a large blue barrel laying down, with a large hole cut out of the side, inside the barrel were many gallons of corn. On opening day of rifle deer season, CO Parks returned to the area. CO Parks contacted the property owner; the owner stated he was not hunting, just feeding the deer.

CO Parks explained the regulations for feeding and baiting are both two gallons, and that feed/bait needs to be spread out on the ground at a minimum 10 feet by 10 feet. CO Parks issued a citation for exceeding feed/bait quantity.

CO John Kamps followed up on a complaint of an individual shooting several beavers on a local lake. CO Kamps walked around the lake and located a single beaver with a bullet hole in it. A suspect was developed, and an interview was conducted shortly after. After a brief interview, a confession was obtained for shooting three beaver with a .243 rifle. Evidence was documented and a warrant is being submitted through the prosecutor’s office.

CO John Kamps was traveling on a state highway when he was approached head on by an ORV traveling against the flow of traffic and along the highway. A traffic stop was initiated, and CO Kamps immediately noticed there were two people riding on the single passenger ORV and that the adult passenger was holding a cocked and loaded crossbow in one of his hands. The pair was cited for operating an ORV with a loaded crossbow and for operating double on an ORV.

DISTRICT 2

At the beginning of her shift in Alger County, CO Andrea Dani observed a large, scattered pile of trash along a road through the Hiawatha National Forest. CO Dani found receipts identifying the name of the owner of a specific vehicle. CO Dani contacted the driver, who stated he needed to clean out his car and did not think about it. The driver was issued a civil infraction citation for littering and given two days to clean up the mess.

CO Steve Butzin was on patrol when a call of a missing 5-year old child with special needs was reported in the Bark River area. While searching with an MSP K-9 unit to locate the child, a deceased 8-point deer was discovered. After a short while, the missing child was located and returned to his family safely. CO Butzin followed up with the property owner of the property where the deer was found to see if they were looking for a deer. Ultimately it was determined that a nonresident unlicensed hunter had shot the deer and was unable to locate it. Charges have been requested and are pending through the Delta County Prosecutor’s Office.

Nov. 15-Nov. 28, 2020

DISTRICT 1

CO Ethen Mapes responded to an ORV trespassing complaint near Bruce Crossing. Upon investigating ORV tracks onto the complainant’s property, a gut pile was found. CO Mapes followed the ORV tracks to the neighbor’s property where a large bait pile was found as well as an untagged deer.

The owner of the deer admitted that he did not want to spend the money on an out-of-state deer license. Citations were written for over-limit of bait as well as possession of an untagged deer.

CO Shannon Kritz received a Report all Poaching complaint about a property owner who was blocking access to state land with fence posts and fake Department of Natural Resources signage. The roadblock was removed but on the second day of gun season, CO Kritz was patrolling the area when two hunters told her that the roadway was blocked again. This time, the suspect had cut down multiple trees and used a tractor to block off the roadway.

CO Kritz was able to follow the tractor tire prints back to a camp. CO Kritz interviewed the landowners and one person confessed to blocking off the access road to the state land, so their hunt was not interrupted, since his son was coming up to hunt on opening day. CO Kritz issued a citation to the individual for cutting trees on state land.

CO Shannon Kritz responded to a report of a lost hunter with the Menominee County Sheriff’s Department. The hunter suffered from a medical condition which caused him to become disoriented in the woods. The hunter was quickly located along a roadway by the first responding deputy and was transported to the hospital for treatment.

Earlier in the fall, CO Jared Ferguson found ORV tracks going around a DNR Grouse Enhanced Management Site gate in northern Dickinson County. CO Ferguson recruited the help of Cpl. Brett DeLonge to help him with the complaint. While waiting for the ORVs to come out, CO DeLonge stopped another ORV in the area for no ORV registration.

Cpl. DeLonge, while talking with the operator, was able to find out his hunting partner was behind the GEMS gate with a harvested 8-point deer. CO Ferguson and Cpl. DeLonge were able to locate the hunter, who also had an unregistered ORV. Citations were issued for unregistered ORV and operate ORV in a closed area on state land.

CO Jared Ferguson was patrolling a county road in northern Iron County when he observed a side by side operator coming at him without his seatbelt on. CO Ferguson made a traffic stop on the ORV and found the individual in possession of a loaded rifle in the front seat. The hunter stated he was hunting on his way back to camp and when CO Ferguson asked for his deer license, he stated he left them at home. He was cited for a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle and no license in possession.

While filling out the citation, CO Ferguson observed a set of lights coming at him which turned out to be the man’s hunting partner who also had a loaded firearm on a motor vehicle, no helmet, and an unregistered ORV. He was cited for loaded firearm and given warnings for the ORV infractions.

COs Josh Boudreaux and John Kamps wrapped up a multi-week investigation regarding an individual who had been sabotaging another person’s tree stand on public land, which stemmed from a dispute over a hunting area. The suspect was cutting the straps in such a way that when the individual went to step onto the hang-on stand’s platform it would give way, potentially causing them to fall 15 to 20 feet.

Fortunately, the victim was able to prevent himself from falling and quickly left the area where he then contacted the local COs. Cameras were placed watching the stand once it was reset and pictures were captured of the suspect once again cutting the straps.

After multiple search warrants were executed with assistance of the DNR’s Special Investigations Unit, an interview was conducted, and the COs received a full confession from the suspect. Charges are being sought through the Marquette County Prosecutor’s Office for multiple misdemeanors including hunter harassment, malicious destruction of property, and felony counts of assault with intent to cause great bodily harm less than murder.

CO Josh Boudreaux and Sgt. Mark Leadman responded to a report of a convicted felon hunting with a firearm in Ishpeming Township. The subject had just recently been released from jail. The COs located the vehicle and using information obtained from CO John Kamps, located the blind containing the hunter. Upon contact, the individual, who was dressed from head to toe in camouflage, stepped out and informed the COs that he wasn’t hunting, he was just out watching for this, “massive 10-point buck” so that his brother, who wasn’t currently out hunting, could shoot it.

The individual claimed he didn’t have any weapons with him until CO Boudreaux asked to check his blind. The man finally admitted he had a firearm but thought he was OK to hunt because a friend told him he was a non-violent felon. The individual’s firearm was seized, and a report was generated for submission to the Marquette County Prosecutor’s Office.

DISTRICT 2

CO Cole VanOosten was patrolling Mackinac County when he observed a traffic violation in which a traffic stop was conducted. It was determined that there were three deer in the back of the truck. Two of the deer were improperly tagged with a combination license and one of the deer, a 4-point, did not meet the requirements for either of the combination tags held by the hunter. The deer was seized, and a report was generated for review by the Mackinac County prosecutor.

COs Justin Vinson and Cole VanOosten responded to a complaint of an over-limit of bait in northern Luce County. Upon contact with a subject, it was determined that there was a large amount of bait at the site as well as an artificial light placed above the bait. The COs observed drag marks exiting the woods as well as some blood on a nearby all-terrain vehicle. An untagged doe was discovered hanging in a tree and the subject stated the deer had been shot the night before with a rifle.

It was determined that the deer had been shot over an hour after shooting hours and the hunter had used the light at the bait pile to aid in shooting the deer with a rifle. Another deer carcass was located in a nearby garbage pile. The individual stated that he had shot the deer during bow season with a rifle and he did not have a license to take the deer. The subject had not had a hunting license for over six years.

Interviews were conducted and it was determined that there had been four deer illegally taken from the site in the last year. Property was seized and a report was submitted to the Luce County Prosecutors Office for review.

CO Mark Zitnik received a RAP complaint regarding a buck that was stolen from a camp’s buck pole. CO Zitnik responded and found that a large 11-point buck was stolen from the camp’s front yard during the middle of the night. After interviewing camps nearby, CO Zitnik believed he had a suspect. CO Zitnik interviewed the main suspect and parties involved and strongly encouraged them to return the buck.

That night the buck was indeed returned to the camp, alluding that the buck was in fact stolen by the suspected party. The investigation is ongoing, and a report is being submitted to the Alger County Prosecutor’s Office.

Nov. 29-Dec. 12, 2020

DISTRICT 1

CO Anna Viau recently participated in a youth trapping event in northern Iron County held by the local nonprofit Hardcore Scripture Outdoors. The event provided area youth with the opportunity to learn trapping skills, regulations, and to trap a variety of animals. CO Viau met with the group to discuss trapping regulations and ethics, as well as answer any questions they had about being a conservation officer.

CO Jared Ferguson was in northern Dickinson County when he was waved down by a civilian in a motor vehicle. The citizen was concerned over a bear that he thought was sick and needed to be put down. CO Ferguson explained to the concerned citizen that the bear was lethargic because his hibernation was interrupted, most likely due to the logging operation taking place. CO Ferguson advised him to leave the bear alone and it will find a new place to hibernate and sleep the winter away.

CO Jeremy Sergey was patrolling commercial forest land near the Marquette and Menominee County lines when he came across an individual walking on a two-track. When the individual saw CO Sergey, he looked up to the sky and said, “Oh, thank God.”

The individual told CO Sergey he had his two kids, his dogs, and his wife back at his truck and that his truck was stuck. He also said his wife had diabetes and he was very concerned for her. CO Sergey assisted the individual and was able to help get his truck unstuck. The individual was stuck several miles from any paved road and thought he would have been hiking for several hours. The individual was very grateful and said in all his years he had never seen a conservation officer in the area where he was stuck.

CO Cody Smith received a Report all Poaching complaint about what sounded like a rifle shot the last day of muzzleloader season in Baraga County. CO Smith called the complainant and got a description of the vehicle, along with the location where the vehicle sped off from after the shot. CO Smith responded to the area and observed a vehicle matching the description. CO Smith could also see two individuals in the wood line with flashlights.

Contact was made and the subjects denied shooting at any deer and had no explanation for their search of the area. A subsequent check of the vehicle resulted in the discovery of a loaded rifle. CO Smith once again questioned what they were doing at the scene and why the firearm was loaded. After more denials about shooting a deer, they were given a citation for possession of a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle and the rifle was seized. Once the individuals left, CO Smith performed a thorough search of the woods and located a freshly killed doe.

Upon examining the deer CO Smith saw there was no exit wound. He conducted a necropsy and was able to recover a copper jacketed bullet that matched the ammunition type of the seized rifle. A follow up interview by both COs Cody Smith and Dave Miller resulted in the subject confessing to shooting the doe directly from the vehicle. The case is being forwarded to the county prosecutor for multiple charges.

DISTRICT 2

CO Cole VanOosten was on patrol when he received a call from a trapper who stated that he had already caught his limit of fisher and had caught another fisher in his traps. The trapper stated the fisher was still alive and wanted assistance in releasing the animal. CO VanOosten was able to assist in successfully releasing the animal, unharmed.

CO Robert Freeborn was looking through social media posts and came across a potential illegal deer. After several, CO Freeborn along with CO Michael Evink were able to locate the suspect. When questioned, the suspect confessed to taking the 8-point without a license and using their significant other’s tag. The rifle was seized as evidence and the deer was also seized and given to a local meat processor, who processed the deer free of charge, to be donated to a family in need. A report was submitted to the local prosecutor office.

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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