State conservation wardens are investigating several cases of deer poaching across Wisconsin. The incidents occurred during the weeks leading up to the nine-day gun deer season that ended Sunday.
Todd Schaller, chief conservation warden for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, said wardens have been investigating deer poaching in Price, Eau Claire and Waushara counties. He said they’re also investigating a case that occurred on the border of La Crosse and Vernon counties.
Deer poaching involves illegally killing deer out of season, without a license or with the use of lights by shining.
"Common threads seem to be multiple deer, so it’s not just going and taking a particular deer," Schaller said. "I think another common thread is multiple suspects."
Schaller said the agency didn’t have a good system in place to track deer poaching in the past, but he said incidents seem to be on the rise this year.
"Sometimes we get complaints where somebody goes out and poaches a trophy deer or a trophy buck or somebody goes out and takes a deer for meat purposes," he said. "This is a case where they just seem to be shooting multiple deer for no real connected reasons."
In Price County, around 60 deer were targeted by two adults and a group of 13 juveniles in separate incidents around the same area, according to DNR conservation warden Joe Paul. He said the two adults ran over around 15 deer with a vehicle, and they also shined and killed 18 deer with a spotlight. The killings occurred mostly around Ogema and Prentice.
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"There’s groups within that larger group that are responsible for the majority of the what we’ll call 'thrill killing,' where they just went out to shoot for something to do," Paul said. "There was never any intent of taking any portion of the animal to utilize it for consumption."
Paul said some deer were harvested for meat but others were left behind in fields. He said the agency also seized a vehicle used to poach deer after repeated violations.
In Eau Claire County, DNR conservation warden Ken Thomson said they’re investigating around 10 people, mostly young men 18 to 21 years old, for shooting deer out of season. He said they found around 15 deer dumped in the county forest near Augusta.
"These numbers — it’s not common at all," said Thomson. "It’s not uncommon to maybe have two separate deer shot like this, but to have a group of people involved in shooting multiple deer is not common."
Thomson said most of the suspects were licensed hunters who were using firearms out of season and shining deer at night. Other incidents have also been reported in Bayfield County and Lincoln County.
"These poaching incidents are truly not reflective of the hunting community as a whole," said Schaller.
Schaller said no charges have yet been filed in the cases. Wardens are wrapping up investigations and reports before referring them to county district attorneys. People can be fined more than $2,000 per incident for killing deer with the aid of lights or face up to 90 days in jail. Hunting, fishing and trapping licenses are revoked for three years for those convicted of deer poaching.