Being the best can attract the worst and Iowa’s conservation officers get to see it all.
As Iowa’s reputation as the premier place to hunt trophy whitetail deer has grown, it has not only attracted some of the most dedicated and ethical of hunters from across the country, it has also drawn those willing to bend and break every rule to take an Iowa giant deer.
The number of cases that the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ Law Enforcement Bureau has made this year has shown a slight uptick, but what has changed has been the effort to better publicize successful prosecutions of fish and game violations.
“We are trying to do a better job of letting people know that we are finding the people who are breaking the law and actively working to prosecute them,” said Southwest Iowa Law Enforcement Supervisor Mark Sedlmayr. “Wildlife belongs to everyone. When you have people out there that are harvesting wildlife outside of the law, they are essentially stealing from the public.”
Sedlmayr said publicizing cases can help deter some crime from taking place by publicizing the ramifications of getting caught such as fines, restitution for the game and even losing hunting and fishing privileges in Iowa and 34 other states.
“The general, ethical hunters we have are getting fed up with the illegal methods some people are using to kill deer. I’ve had many hunters come up to me in the field to tell me how sick and tired they are of seeing the tactics poachers are using,” Sedlmayr said.
Other dividends gained by publicizing poaching cases is encouraging the public to call in information on illegal activity through the TIP (Turn In Poachers) hotline or local law enforcement officers and in gaining support for the Fish and Wildlife Trust Fund which pays for law enforcement activities.
“I know that when we have cases publicized in the media, people tell me how glad they are to see when someone gets caught,” said Sedlmayr.
Sedlmayr said officers have been greatly aided in their investigations by having ELSI (the electronic licensing system) available to them in the field so they can “immediately check the stories of the people we stop.”
But Sedlmayr said the detective work done by officers is still the key to the Law Enforcement Bureau’s success in finding poachers.
“Some of the cases we are making right now are people we’ve been watching for three or four years. Our officers have put in a lot of hours to make some really good cases. There’s a lot of team work that goes on out here in terms of officers helping each other out when needed to investigate a case,” Sedlmayr said.
In the past few weeks, the following are just a few poaching cases investigated by DNR officers:
• Ten individuals putting out corn and mineral in front of blinds and then using high powered rifles as well as shotguns and pistols attempting to take deer.
• Four individuals from Louisiana shooting deer without licenses or shooting bucks with antlerless tags and buying tags from Iowans to cover them.
There was also one individual from Iowa hunting with them and he was getting the tags for the group. These individuals have been doing this for the last few years.
• One person from Louisiana and one from Mississippi. Again killing buck deer with antlerless tags and getting tags from locals that were not hunting with them to cover the bucks. In that case they had also taken deer illegally in Missouri. Iowa DNR officers worked in conjunction with the Missouri Conservation Agents and charges were filed in both states.
• A turtle case in which several individuals were implicated in trading, buying and selling turtles primarily in the western half of the state. This large case started from a couple of individuals and blossomed into a case that is as far reaching as California and China. This case is still in the works as far as charges, but it is truly a good example of the large amount of money that people are making off of the wildlife in Iowa.