On opening week of the general deer season in 2016, Idaho conservation officers in the Upper Snake Region received a tip from CAP (Citizens Against Poaching).
An observant farm worker was driving east of Rexburg during spud harvest when he observed 2 individuals dragging a 5-point mule deer back to their vehicle from a potato field posted “No Trespassing.” 20 minutes before, as the sun was setting, the farm worker had taken a cell phone picture of the live 5-point mule deer while the deer was feeding in the field. The farm worker approached the red-handed individuals and told them they were trespassing. One suspect, in particular, became very argumentative, forcing the farm worker to leave the scene. Thinking quickly, the worker quickly snapped a couple of pictures of the trespassers and their vehicle license plate before leaving. Then he made the call to CAP to report the violation.
Idaho conservation officers received the call and investigated the report. Evidence collected at the scene, which included a spent 30-30 rifle casing found in the road, indicated that the trespass suspects likely shot at the deer from the roadway, a separate violation and public safety concern. Using the farm worker’s cell phone picture of the suspect’s vehicle license plate, officers were able to track down and interview the suspects in Rigby, ID. When confronted with the photographic evidence and additional evidence collected by conservation officers, the suspects admitted to their actions.
Through additional questioning, officers discovered that the suspect who trespassed to shoot the 5-point, never tagged the buck with his own deer tag. His friend, who was driving the vehicle, had put his tag on the unlawfully taken buck. Officers seized the deer and, at the landowner’s request, issued citations to Robert Messinger and Heath Wilding for trespassing to hunt. The men were also cited for possessing a deer that was unlawfully taken, transferring deer tags, and were given a written warning for shooting from a public roadway.
Both men reached a plea agreement with the county prosecutor’s office. Messinger was fined $202.00 and is on probation for one year. Wilding lost his hunting privileges for a year, is on probation for one year, ordered to pay restitution of $400 for the buck deer, and $75 for deer processing. Officers appreciate the extra mile that folks are willing to go to help make a case, but remind everyone to be very careful when confronting potential violators.