Woods and Waters An outdoor blog by John McCoy

Deer importer’s penalties total $485k

Justice served

I’ll bet James Schaffer of Charleston, S.C., regrets the day he paid to have 54 white-tailed deer illegally trucked in from Ohio.

In 2009, Ohio authorities slammed Schaffer with $250,000 in fines and penalties. Yesterday, a U.S. District Court hit him with an additional $235,000 fine for violations of the federal Lacey Act.

In addition, Schaffer will have to serve six months’ electronically monitored home confinement and will have to donate 500 hours’ worth of public service to South Carolina’s state park system.

The Charleston Post and Courier has the full story.

Hat tip: J.R. Absher at The Outdoor Pressroom.

See someone baiting turkeys? Turn him in!

Turkey gobbler
Turkey gobbler

Charlie Nichols, a friend and sportsman from Cross Lanes, sent an e-mail and asked that I share it with readers. Here it is:

Baiting of wild turkeys is illegal in West Virginia. The W.Va. Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation offers a $100 reward to people who submit information resulting in the arrest and conviction of those who illegally bait wild turkeys.
All information remains confidential. The NWTF also offers a $200 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of wild turkey poachers.
Call the W.Va. Division of Natural Resources’ Law Enforcement Section with your information; conservation officers will follow all legitimate leads. Once again, all information is kept strictly confidential.

W.Va. deer poachers face higher penalties

buckfinesIn the past, if someone illegally killed a trophy West Virginia buck like the one pictured at left, chances are the poacher would have paid a fine of $20 to $100, court costs, and a “replacement fee” for the buck of $200.

Now if he poaches that same buck, he should expect to pay a lot more.

A bill passed earlier this week by the West Virginia Legislature greatly increases trophy-buck replacement fees. A buck with a 14-to-16 inch antler spread, for example, would draw a $1,000 replacement charge. A spread of 16 t0 18 inches would bring a $1,500 fee, 18 to 20 inches a $2,000 fee. Antlers with spreads of 20 inches or greater would draw a maximum fee of $2,500.

Division of Natural Resources director Frank Jezioro hopes the higher fees will help reduce the number of trophies being poached, particularly in West Virginia’s four bow-only counties. Closed to firearm hunting since 1979, the counties — Logan, McDowell, Mingo and Wyoming — have developed a widespread reputation for producing big-racked whitetails.

Gov. Joe Manchin still must sign the bill into law, but by all indications he’s willing to lend his signature to such worthy legislation.

W.Va. DNR: Feeding corn to deer harms other wildlife

deerfeeder.jpgThe lead story in the Sunday Gazette-Mail’s outdoors page this week is titled “Popping the corn myth.” It describes how corn, being set out to bait or feed deer, could be harming West Virginia’s turkey population.

The culprit? Aflatoxin, a toxic substance secreted by a mold commonly found on corn. The low-priced corn often used in deer feeders contains levels of aflatoxin too high to allow it to be used for cattle food. Curtis Taylor, wildlife chief for the state Division of Natural Resources, believes aflatoxin is reducing turkeys’ ability to reproduce.

Pa. landowner dead after dispute with bear hunters

An apparent trespassing-related dispute with a group of bear hunters has left a Red Lion, Pa., man dead and one of the hunters wounded.

Frank N. Shaffer, 63, of Red Lion, was killed when he apparently confronted the hunters as they crossed property owned by his family. Paul H. Plyler, 23, of Summerville was wounded in an apparent exchange of gunfire.

The Philadelphia Inquirer has an Associated Press synopsis of the story.

Hunting loss becomes Pawlenty’s PR loss

Lesson to politicians: If you shoot at an animal, you’d darned well better kill it. Media outlets are hammering Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty for shooting a buck and failing to find it.

According to an Associated Press report, Pawlenty shot at the deer from about 200 yards away — a long shot, for sure, but easily within the range of most modern center-fire rifles. After the shot, Pawlenty and members of his hunting party appeared to do everything right. They waited 30 minutes to allow the buck to settle down, found blood at the place where the buck was standing when it was shot, and followed the blood trail until it petered out.

Pawlenty had to leave to fulfill a speaking commitment, but members of the hunting party searched the woods for two days and never found the deer.

Now Pawlenty’s enemies — including some in the media — are making political hay from the Republican governor’s misfortune. The headlines have been brutal: “Gov. Pawlenty shoots deer, leaves it to die,” wrote one blogger. “The buck apparently didn’t stop anywhere,” wrote another.

Note to self: If you ever get famous enough that people pay attention to your hunting trips, make every shot count.

Hat tip: J.R. Absher at The Outdoor Pressroom.

Hunting fatalities continue decline

huntersafety.jpegHere’s an interesting tidbit:

Hunting fatalities are becoming significantly less frequent. In 2007, the last year for which it has figures, the International Hunter Safety Education Association said there were only 19 fatalities nationwide. By comparison, there were 41 fatalities in 2005.

The best number, of course, would be zero. Let’s keep working toward that.

vidcam.jpgIn the “almost too dumb for words” department, there’s the tale of four New Yorkers arrested for turkey poaching in Connecticut.

It’s bad enough they were doing what they were doing; it’s even worse they were stupid enough to videotape themselves.

The Hartford Courant reports the four were hoping to sell the video to a cable outdoors TV program.


Moral: Turkey calling and cannabis don’t mix

cannabis.jpgFrom a West Virginia Division of Natural Resources news release:

     Two Barbour County men have been found to be in violation of wildlife and drug laws following their arrest by Division of Natural Resources conservation officers. Both received fines and one was sentenced to jail.
     On Tuesday, April 21, 2009, Barbour County Conservation Officer Andy Lyons located two turkey bait sites near the community of Junior, W.Va. Officers Lyons and Robert Waybright checked one of the illegal bait sites on the opening day of spring gobbler season Monday, April 27, and found two Belington, W.Va., residents, Charles M Hutzler, age 49, and Gregory Skidmore, age 35, hunting turkey over bait. Approaching the site, the officers detected a strong odor of marijuana coming from the hunters’ blind.
     During the investigation, Hutzler admitted to killing two jake (juvenile male) turkeys approximately two weeks prior to opening of the gobbler season. A consent to search Hutzler’s residence was obtained. The officers not only confiscated two jake beards from the illegally killed turkeys but also seized the talons, skull, and cape of an illegally possessed hawk. In addition to drug paraphernalia, 18 potted marijuana plants were seized from Hutzler’s laundry room.
     Skidmore and Hutzler were taken before Barbour County Magistrate Kathy McBee.  Hutzler was charged with felony cultivation and manufacture of a controlled substance. Magistrate McBee set Hutzler’s bond at $10,000 and he was taken to the Tygart Valley Regional Jail. Hutzler was also charged with two counts of illegal killing of turkey, one count of hunting turkey over bait, and one count of illegal possession or parts thereof of a hawk.
     Skidmore pled guilty to two charges; he was assessed a $100 fine and $159.53 court costs for hunting turkey over bait and placed on six months probation and assessed $159.53 for possession of marijuana.
     The hunters’ blind, chairs, decoy turkeys, tripod/video equipment and two shotguns (one 12 gauge and one 20 gauge) were impounded.
     West Virginia State Police and Barbour County Sheriff’s department personnel assisted in the search and disposition of evidence.

Ex-trooper: Poaching rampant in So. W.Va.

kensmall.jpgSince I’m a Logan County native, I thought I had a pretty good grasp on just how widespread deer poaching is in Southern West Virginia.

A recent interview showed I don’t really have a clue.

The interviewee, George Kennedy (pictured), lives in the McDowell County town of Iaeger. He and his brother, Wells, have an 800-acre hunting lease, and they battle constantly to keep poachers out of it.

It helps that George is a retired state trooper. When he moved back to Iaeger after his retirement, he couldn’t believe how much spotlighting went on. “Every night sounded like the Fourth of July,” he said.

He started patrolling his property. He caught three spotlighters in the act — carrying  rifles, spotlights and with deer blood on their hands. Since then he’s had at least two other poachers prosecuted.

Sad thing is, he believes he’s only scratching the surface.

“I’m going to say this because I’m an ex-state trooper,” he said. “For every 700 to 800 deer checked in around here, there are maybe 200 to 300 that aren’t checked in. And of the 700 checked in, maybe half aren’t bow kills. They’re rifle kills passed off as bow kills.”

If true, that doesn’t bode well for the future of trophy buck hunting in the southern counties. Until Division of Natural Resources officials increase the law-enforcement presence down there, it appears poaching will remain rampant.