Poached deer

This 2018 file photo shows the partially decomposed and scavenged bodies of more than 30 illegally killed deer discovered by the Department of Natural Resources in southern Price County.

Last fall, over 30 illegally killed deer were found in the fields and ditches of southern Price County — some with their heads removed, but many left to rot where they fell.

An investigation into the poaching led by local conservation warden Joe Paul of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources found the majority of the deer had been shot at night with the aid of artificial light in an alleged thrill-killing spree. A small number of deer had been illegally harvested and butchered, although the meat was later discarded when the case came under investigation.

Last Tuesday, six of the 13 individuals charged with game violations were found guilty by Price County Judge Kevin Klein, and received varying sentences based on their offenses. Five of the individuals are classed as juveniles (under the age of 17) and as such, their cases will be handled through the juvenile court system.

Austin Johnson of Rib Lake, 18, pled no contest to five charges, including failure to make a reasonable effort to retrieve downed game, hunting within 50 feet of a roadway's center, shooting a deer before or after shooting hours, shining wild animals while possessing a firearm, and possession of a game animal during the closed season.

According to the criminal complaint, on Oct. 4, 2018, Johnson and his friends shot a doe with the aid of a rifle and spotlight outside the gun hunting season. The deer was retrieved and butchered, but the meat and carcass was later discarded along a roadside when the case came under investigation. Further, the report states that on the evening of Oct. 19, 2018, Johnson and his friends took turns shining and shooting deer in southern Price County.

Johnson was found guilty by the court and was fined $900 for each charge, totaling $4,500. All hunting, trapping, and fishing privileges were revoked for six years. He was also required to forfeit two firearms, including a Remington 12 gauge shotgun and a 7mm Remington rifle.

Dwayne Johnson of Prentice, 17, pled no contest to two charges, including shining wild animals while possessing a firearm, and shining wild animals after 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. between Sept. 15 and Dec. 31. The criminal complaint states Dwayne Johnson was a passenger in the vehicle when Austin Johnson shot the deer on Oct. 4, 2018. On Oct. 12, 2018, Dwayne Johnson also participated in shining deer after 10 p.m. with a shotgun in the back seat of the vehicle.

He was found guilty by the court and fined $1,000 for each charge, totaling $2,000. His hunting, trapping, and fishing privileges were revoked for three years, and he forfeited a .22 caliber Remmington rifle.

Wolfgang Weinzatl of Brantwood, 17, entered a no contest plea to four charges, including shining wild animals while possessing a firearm, hunting turkeys by means other than shotgun or bow, possession of game animals during the closed season, and hunting within 50 feet of the roadway's center.

According to the criminal complaint, Weinzatl was one of the teenagers involved in the illegal harvest and processing of the deer on Oct. 4, 2018. Additionally, the report states on Oct. 11, 2018, Weinzatl assisted his friends in butchering a deer that had been killed with a firearm outside the gun deer season. On Oct. 28, 2018, Weinzatl shot a turkey with a rifle without a valid permit and left the turkey to rot.

He was found guilty by the court and was fined $875 for each charge, totaling $3,500. All hunting, trapping, and fishing privileges were revoked for four and a half years. He also forfeited a Remington 870 12-gauge shotgun.

Trevor Lutzke of Prentice, 17, pled guilty to four charges, including using a permit approved for another, possession of game animals in excess of bag limit, shining wild animals while possessing a firearm, and possession of game animals during the closed season.

According to the criminal complaint, Lutzke shot an antlerless deer with a rifle during the archery season on Oct. 11, 2018. On Oct. 14, 2018, Lutzke shot an antlered deer with a rifle with the aid of a spotlight after tracking the wounded deer after dark. Lutzke did not have a gun deer license and the gun deer season was closed. On Oct. 20, 2018, Lutzke shot another antlered deer with archery equipment and used his father's archery harvest authorization.

He was fined $875 for each charge for a total of $3,500, and had all hunting, trapping, and fishing privileges stripped for four and a half years. He also forfeited a Lauger 22.

Jared Hartmann of Prentice, 18, pled guilty to five charges, including hunting within 50 feet of a roadway's center, possession of game animals during closed season, shining wild animals while possessing a firearm, shooting a deer before or after shooting hours, and failure to make a reasonable effort to retrieve downed game.

The criminal complaint states Hartmann and his friends spent the evening of Oct. 19, 2018, taking turns shining and shooting deer from vehicles in several rural areas in southern Price County. All the deer except one were left to rot where they fell. Hartman retrieved one deer, which was later discarded on a dead end road, according to the report.

He was fined $1,000 for each charge, totaling $5,000, and all hunting, trapping, and fishing privileges were revoked for six years. He was also required to forfeit a chainsaw which had been used in the offenses.

Trey Foster of Ogema, 18, pled guilty to four charges, including failure to make a reasonable effort to retrieve downed game, shooting at a deer before or after shooting hours, shining wild animals while possessing a firearm, and hunting within 50 feet of a roadway's center.

The criminal complaint states that on Oct. 21, 2018, Foster shot an eight-point buck from a vehicle, and then used a chainsaw to remove the head and left the rest of the deer to rot. According to the report, Foster and his friends then shined and shot deer from his vehicle.

He was fined $1,000 for each charge, totaling $4,000, and all hunting, trapping, and fishing privileges were revoked for a period of four and a half years.

At the court hearing, it was noted by District Attorney Mark Fuhr that there is also a community service requirement that each individual will need to fulfill.

Prentice men charged in poaching incident

Two other men from Prentice have been charged in a separate poaching incident that occurred in 2018 between August and September.

According to the criminal complaints detailing the offenses, Darrin Peterson, 28, and Daniel Wildman, 48, allegedly used a light to shine deer off roads in rural Ogema, which were then shot at with a firearm.

Both Peterson and Wildman have been charged with two counts each of failing to obtain the required approval for deer hunting, illegally shining deer, and hunting deer out of season. They will appear in court for their initial appearance at 10 a.m., Dec. 17 at the Price County Courthouse.

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