Truth Stranger Than Fiction In The Deer Woods

One of the most interesting documents prepared each year by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources issues is the chief warden’s detailed report on the state’s nine-day firearms deer season. This 50-page, single-spaced review of Wisconsin’s largest annual outdoors event reveals things like total citations written, 994; most common violation – illegal baiting – 208; number of buildings shot, 27; number of convicted felons carrying firearms, 16; and total warnings issued, 1,627.


Wisconsin hunters phone in thousands of odd and dumbfounding incidents and violations during the state’s nine-day deer season in November, including about 2,500 that resulted in citations or warnings.

Beyond the numbers, conservation wardens from around the state detail the most fun, odd, dumbfounding or downright stupid events they investigated during deer season. The Wisconsin DNR’s chief warden, Randy Stark, is too professional to hand out annual “Head-Scratcher Awards” for the funniest incidents or most outrageous offenses. But, I’m not so constrained. Therefore, I offer these awards for Wisconsin’s November 2012 deer season:

Slowest Return to Vehicle

Warden Michael Young investigated a call about a hunter lounging in a lawn chair on an Outagamie County road. The caller claimed the man was drinking beer, and wearing sunglasses and blaze orange. Warden Young soon learned the 63-year-old hunter had gotten lost while hunting, and was actually drinking water and wearing photo-sensitive glasses. But yes, he was sitting along the road. Why? The hunter was so exhausted that he would walk, stop, open his chair, rest and repeat. Young took pity and gave him a ride to his vehicle a mile away.

Fastest Return to Vehicle

Warden Dave Oginski, Ashland, saw a 15-year-old hunter running down a road in southern Iron County. The youngster said he was returning to his deer camp after shooting a doe. How far is camp? Four miles. Why would someone drop him off so far away? No big deal. The boy plays basketball and runs cross-country races, and needed the exercise. Besides, the youth said, “I don’t think they thought I’d actually shoot a deer.”


Conservation wardens stay busying during deer season, often stopping at deer camps to ensure all deer are properly registered.

Lamest Prank

Warden Ryan Propson, Appleton, investigated the theft of an 8-point buck with a 19.5-inch spread, which was taken from a hunter’s truck as he ate at a Menasha tavern. Propson and Menasha police investigated. They learned a woman saw the buck while leaving the tavern and decided to “play a prank.” She pulled the deer onto the pavement and climbed into her friend’s car. The two women then drove over the buck, breaking off one antler and wedging the other into a wheel well. They stopped two blocks later, removed the buck and dragged it into the river. Propson is pursuing charges of littering, larceny of game and waste of a natural resource.


Conservation wardens often park their trucks and walk into sites where they received tips about suspicious or illegal activity before the season.

Most Efficient Pinch

Warden Supervisor Tyler Strelow, La Crosse, and Warden Dale Hochhausen, Stoddard, stopped a truck with three occupants after a passenger shot at a DNR deer decoy. After  interviewing the shooter and others, the wardens seized several firearms and issued more than 50 criminal and civil DNR violations involving many individuals.

Most Protected Bait Pile

Warden Dan Michels, Park Falls, checked a hunter in a shooting shack to ensure he was complying with deer-baiting rules. Michels asked about a trap near a small food plot. The hunter admitted setting the trap to catch birds eating his corn bait. Michels seized the trap and issued an illegal-trapping citation.

Most Incriminating Photo, 1

Warden Pat Novesky, Three Lakes, investigated a hunter applying “deer repellent” to other hunters’ bait piles. This had been a problem for years until the suspect was caught on camera. Novesky issued a citation for interfering with lawful hunting.

Most Incriminating Photo, 2

Warden Joe Paul, Lakewood, received a tip about a poacher killing two turkeys the day before deer season. The shooter trespassed and killed the turkeys about 15 feet from a cabin window overlooking a bird feeder. The shooter was caught on camera. He had no hunting licenses and turkey season was closed. Paul is pursuing several charges.


Baiting is legal in many states during deer season, but some states restrict the amount that can be used and how it’s spread.

Most Convenient Pinch

Warden Jill Schartner, Drummond, saw two teenage boys step from their truck at dusk one day during deer season and shoot at two deer in the road 200 yards from her driveway. They marked the blood trail with orange tape before fleeing.When the youths didn’t return overnight, Schartner set up her deer stand near the roadway so she could also see her property and watch a field for deer. The boys soon returned and brought their fathers, who didn’t know they had shot the deer from the road. Confessions came quickly. One father made the boys apologize and said, “Bad enough you violate; you do it right in the warden’s driveway.”

Worst Self-Defense Excuse

Warden Judi Nigbor, Montello, received a report that a Marquette County hunter had shot a bobcat in self-defense. The hunter said he first spotted the bobcat more than 100 yards away, and shot it at 50 yards because he feared for his safety. Nigbor soon learned that a friend had texted him to shoot it and claim self-defense. Nigbor was neither impressed or convinced, and cited him for the unlicensed, illegal kill.

Who needs fiction for entertainment with so many real-life characters roaming the woods?

What is the oddest hunting story you have ever heard? Share it with us.


  1. Chris in Ohio says:

    Imagine a cold morning in the woods and you here crunching leaves of a big animal running towards you. Your adrenal starts pumping in anticipation of the deer you just know is headed right to you. The next thing you know an Ostrich is trotting right by you. That's right a tall flightless bird. Strangest thing I've ever seen in the woods. About 30 minutes later I seen 2 more running across the top of a ridge about 1/2 mile away being chased and shot at by two guys in a pickup truck. Later learned of a now closed Ostrich farm near by.


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