Sunday, February 5th, 2023
Sunday, February 5th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Running down deer results in hefty fines

Sturgeon Bay, Wis. Four Door County men and three juveniles
racked up $20,546 in fines, 18 years worth of license revocation,
395 days of jail time, and the forced sale of one truck because
they used pickup trucks to intentionally whack, smack, and stack at
least 30 deer along county roadways.

Although most of the deer were killed by running them down with
the truck, charges also included shooting from the vehicle and
roadways, illegal possession of deer, shining, obstruction, cruelty
to animals, and hunting deer during the closed season.

The four adults charged and sentenced in this case are Keith J.
Lauder, 21, Jason R. Paul, 21, Jason R. Dart, 19, and Richard J.
Paul, 18. All four are from rural Sturgeon Bay.

During the fall of 2001, warden Chris Kratcha, of Sturgeon Bay,
received a tip from a rural Door County resident that someone
witnessed occupants of a truck shining deer after 10 p.m. Although
this was not an uncommon complaint from rural Door County
landowners, what followed made the situation much more unique.

According to Kratcha, several individuals exited the truck while
the light beam still had several deer transfixed in the field. The
individuals then ran toward the deer in an attempt to force the
deer across the road. As the deer approached the road, the truck
accelerated. The truck swerved toward the deer, but did not hit hit
any of them.

With this complaint and other information, Kratcha began an
investigation into several suspicious car-killed deer cases from
Door County over the past several years. Kratcha notified the Door
County Sheriff’s Department of his suspicions and, in a matter of
days, two deputies notified Kratcha of two unlikely accidents.
These accidents led to further investigations and, with the help of
the Door County Sheriff’s Department, Door County wardens Bryan
Lockman and Mike Neal, DNR personnel, and the Door County district
attorney’s office, seven individuals were arrested, charged and
eventually convicted for their involvement in the intentional
running down and killing of deer with vehicles. Other violations
also evolved. There are other suspects who are still being
investigated.

“These poachers were running down deer for a thrill, and for
what they thought was a good laugh,” Kratcha said. “Most of the
deer ran off wounded or maimed. On the rare occurrence they could
find the deer they hit intentionally, they would take it home and
eat it. These convictions address more than just the violation of a
fish and game law; these convictions address the general lack of
respect for life found in some aspects of society today. Cases like
these start from tips, people who are aware of what is going on
around them and who are willing to report what they see happening.
Someone might be doing this where you hunt or where you live, so be
observant, and let your warden know when you see suspicious
activity.”

Kratcha said the defendants used older Ford F-150 pickups to run
down the deer. Jason R. Dart told Kratcha he hit 15 deer
intentionally, and another four or five deer that he didn’t want to
stop for because hitting the brakes in those instances might have
put him in the ditch. Kratcha said Jason R. Paul’s name appeared on
at least nine car-killed deer tags.

“I was told these guys had hit more than 50 deer,” Kratcha
said.

The men used at least two trucks. The judge ordered Jason R.
Paul to sell his truck to help cover fines. Dart’s truck was
returned to him.

“They said that, over time, they acquired a technique for
hitting deer that caused minimal damage to trucks, but they would
either maim, wound, or kill deer. Those two trucks had high
clearance, but they didn’t have brush guards,” Kratcha said.

The following cases have been settled in Door County Circuit
Court with Judge D. Todd Ehlers presiding:

 Jason R. Paul, 21, Sturgeon Bay, charged with eight felony
counts of cruelty to animals, seven criminal counts of hunting deer
during closed season and without a license, three counts of hunting
deer by means other than a gun or bow, one criminal count of
shining deer while hunting, one criminal count of possessing
illegal deer (broken antlers), and one criminal count of
obstructing an officer. The wardens seized Paul’s truck, venison,
and one velvet antlered 9-point buck.

On April 7, Paul pleaded out to one felony count of cruelty to
animals, two criminal counts of hunting deer during the closed
season and without a license, one criminal count of shining deer
while hunting, one criminal count of possessing illegal deer, and
one criminal count of obstructing an officer which resulted in the
following: $12,858 in fines, 12 years revocation of hunting,
fishing, and trapping privileges, 395 days in jail, the
court-ordered sale of the truck used in the violations, 200 hours
of community service, a psychological evaluation and compliance,
eight years probation, three years extended supervision, and no
hunting in any state during probation. The felony charge is stayed
and may be reopened after successful completion of probation, which
at that time it may be reduced to a misdemeanor crime.

Jason R. Dart, 19, Sturgeon Bay, charged with five misdemeanor
criminal counts of shining deer while hunting, one criminal count
of obstructing an officer, and one count of hunting deer by means
other than a gun or bow. Wardens seized his truck and venison.

On March 21, Dart pleaded out to three criminal counts of
shining deer while hunting and the one count of obstructing an
officer, which resulted in $4,238 in fines, three years hunting,
fishing, and trapping revocation, and 40 hours of community
service. Dart’s truck was returned.

Richard J. Paul, 18, was charged with the misdemeanor crimes of
possessing illegal deer (broken antlers), and two criminal counts
of obstructing an officer. Wardens seized his venison.

On March 21, Richard J. Paul pleaded out to the illegal deer and
one count of obstructing for a total of $2,329. The judge also
revoked his hunting, fishing, and trapping licenses for three
years.

Keith J. Lauder, 21, Sturgeon Bay, convicted of discharging a
firearm from a vehicle. He was fined $220 in December of 2002.

Three minors who “were in the wrong place at the right time,”
according to Kratcha, were convicted of hunting deer by means other
than a gun or bow three at $300 each, for a total of $900. They
were sentenced in December of 2002 and in January.

The totals for the seven defendants came to $20,546 in fines and
forfeitures, 18 years revocation, 395 days of jail time, 240 hours
of community service, and the sale of one truck.

“This is pretty sad,” Kratcha said. “For people who love to hunt
and love the outdoors, that they would do something like this I
just don’t know.

“I do know there are other individuals in the county doing the
same thing. We just haven’t gotten to them yet. It’s a matter of
getting the right information or lead,” Kratcha said.

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