Robotic deer too tempting a target for Oregon poachers
Idaho Fish and Game Conservation Officers Corey Taylor (left) and Craig Mickelson pose with an poached mule deer buck seized during Operation Border Jumper. Photo Credit: Matt O’Connell, IDFG. Image by Idaho Department of Fish & Game
According to Idaho Fish & Game's Regional Conservation Educator Evin Oneale, "an early start to the mule deer hunting season in the wrong state should prove costly to several Oregonians too impatient to wait for opening day or to learn some basic geography."
Five individuals now face court appearances and potentially heavy fines for their respective roles in two unrelated poaching incidents.
Acting on tips from the public, Fish and Game conservation officer Craig Mickelson organized a focused enforcement effort (code name: Operation Border Jumper) in the Owyhee desert during the last weekend of September.
Using “Bucky,” the stuffed, robotic deer, Mickelson and his team staked out the Succor Creek area in remote Owyhee County, just east of the Oregon/Idaho border and waited – but not for long. In the early morning hours of September 28th, a group of four Oregon “hunters” rolled up the road but failed to see the decoy deer standing just a few feet away.
Later that morning, the group came back down the road and spotted the decoy. One of the party exited the truck, firing six shots at the decoy deer. When the shooting stopped, the group was interviewed and 13 citations were issued, including three citations related to an illegal 4 x 4 mule deer buck poached that morning just shortly after the group missed seeing the decoy.
The four men were charged with wildlife violations as follows:
Martine Mills (47) of Cove, Oregon was cited for attempting to take a deer during closed season, attempting to take simulated wildlife, possession/transportation of a closed season deer, hunting without a valid Idaho hunting license and hunting without a valid Idaho deer tag. He was also issued a warning for an open container of alcohol.
Thomas Rager (66) of Cove, Oregon was cited for possession/transportation of a closed season deer and hunting without a valid Idaho hunting license.
Justin Cernazanu (29) of Cove, Oregon was cited for possession/transportation of a closed season deer.
Eugene Mills (69) of Nyssa, Oregon was cited for hunting without a valid hunting license.
The 4 x 4 mule deer buck and two hunting rifles were seized in the case.
Before daylight the following morning, officers moved five miles south and set up the decoy deer along Idaho’s Palmer Creek. Around mid-morning, they watched as James Hayhurst (65) of Jordan Valley, Oregon encouraged his eight-year-old grandson to shoot at the decoy deer.
While the youngster was not charged, Hayhurst was cited for hunting without a valid Idaho hunting license, hunting without a valid Idaho deer tag, attempting to take simulated wildlife and attempting to take a deer during closed season. The rifle used in the case was seized as evidence.
All five suspects will appear in Owyhee County Court in Murphy, Idaho on Monday, October 28th.
Mickelson attributes Operation Border Jumper’s success in large part to the public’s willingness to report suspicious behavior. “We had reports last year that one or more Oregon groups were slipping into Idaho prior to the mule deer season opener and poaching deer,” Mickelson noted. “We held onto that information and used it this year to bring these individuals to justice.”
Persons with any information about suspected poaching activity are encouraged to call the Citizens against Poaching (CAP) hotline at 1-800-632-5999, twenty-four hours a day. Callers can remain anonymous and cash rewards are often paid for information leading to the successful conclusion of a case.