It appears that not everyone has heard about the enhanced restitution on deer poaching or they just figure they will not get caught. In 2014 Governor Snyder signed a bill into law that increases the restitution for whitetail bucks killed illegally. If the illegal buck has less than 8 points the restitution was increased from $1000 to $2000. In addition, if it has between 8 and 10 antler points, then its additional $500 per point. If the buck has 11 points or more than the restitution is $750 a point, plus the $2000.
On November 19, 2014 Donald Neering of Essexville shot an 8 point buck at his camp in Crawford County. The only problem is that he shot it over a lighted bait pile located behind his camp at 10 pm.
Someone heard the shot and called the Report All Poaching Hotline. Conservation Officers John Huspen and Chuck McPherson responded to the complaint. The deer camp owned by Donald Neering is in an isolated area in Crawford County located off the Blue Bear snowmobile/ORV trail system.
When the Officers arrived at Donald Neering’s camp they found an illegal bait site (very large) behind the camp with a light over it. The Officers also noticed fresh blood in the snow near the garage door.
After making contact with Neering they were invited into the house. They observed a rifle lying on the couch in the living room, the rifle was loaded. They informed Donald Neering that they needed to speak with him about the deer shot on his property. He stated no deer had been shot. The Officers noticed a spent bullet casing on the table and again he said no deer had been shot.
After looking at the fresh blood on the bait pile CO Huspen asked Neering what kind of deer he shot and he said an 8 point. CO Huspen asked if it was in the garage and he was told no. Neering was asked what time he shot the buck and he said 6:30 pm.
Donald Neering allowed the Officers to look inside of his garage and the officers discovered fresh blood on the floor and a wheel barrel full of what appeared to be the organs and blood of a deer. Neering told the officers he gave the deer to his friend Andy Peek. Andy had already departed for his home with the deer.
Collin Andy Peek was contacted by phone by Neering and was told that the officers were requesting that he return with the deer.
Further conversations between the officers and Donald Neering revealed that he shot the buck at about 10 pm the previous night. They shot the deer just for meat, and when asked why they didn’t shoot a doe? Neering said they don’t shoot does or little bucks, he only shoots bucks, 6-points or bigger! He stated a bigger buck had come in to the bait pile but he couldn’t get a shot at it.
Donald Neering had several good bucks hanging on the wall in his camp and was charged in 1983 in Roscommon County for hunting with an article light.
Brendan Curran, the assistant prosecutor with the Crawford County Prosecutors Office charged Donald Neering with the following charges.
Count 1: Take a deer after the legal shooting hours.
Count 2: Exceeding the 2-gallon bait limit.
Count 3: Make use of an artificial light to hunt.
Count 4: Taking a deer without obtaining a hunting license.
Collin Peak had placed his deer tag on the buck; he was issued a ticket for placing his tag on the deer. Officers seized Donald Neering’s Model 94 Winchester Lever Action 30-30 rifle.
Donald Neering pled guilty in January, 2015. The enhanced restitution for an 8 point buck would be $6000 he was also fined $945. He served five days in the Crawford County Jail and lost his hunting privileges for five years.
Collin Peak pled guilty to the tagging violation and was fined $263.
There are more and more of these types of cases that our Conservation Officers are making since the law changed last year. These types of cases are becoming more public and hopefully at some time these folks are going to learn it just isn’t worth it. Certainly it isn’t worth the cost!
Conservation Officers working the same area used a deer decoy in an area that they have had issues and had pretty good results. The first vehicle that drove past the decoy turned around and came back and the driver shot the decoy twice while still sitting behind the wheel. The second vehicle drove by and while still moving shot at the decoy from the passenger seat. The third vehicle had a loaded firearm inside, came to a stop, got out and shot the decoy once.
All subjects were issued citations for various violations.
One final note, Conservation Officer Ken Kovach received a complaint that Scott Malinowski of St Clair County had already shot two bucks in October and then killed an 18 point buck. After an investigation Scott Malinowski was charged with taking an illegal deer (his third buck). He pled guilty and his restitution alone for the buck will be $15,500 not including court costs. You could have gone to Saskatchewan three times and hunted trophy bucks for what he is going to pay for violating!
Author Jeff Pendergraff is a retired Captain from the LED of the MDNR.