Division of Wildlife chief cleared of wrongdoing
Columbus — Following an investigation by an Ohio Department of Natural Resources investigator, Douglas Young, both the agency and the City of Delaware concluded that Ohio Division of Wildlife Chief Kendra Wecker legally killed a wild turkey on April 25, and was not hunting over bait.
The following is the text of the investigator’s report, with the property owner’s name, address, and various other personal information redacted by Ohio Outdoor News.
“On April 25, 2020, ODNR received a complaint of illegal turkey hunting by shotgun on an area restricted to archery hunting only. An additional complaint alleged that hunters were harvesting turkey over a baited area (bird feeders).
“The location identified where the alleged violations took place was (redacted) Delaware, OH. On April 25, 2020, Division of Wildlife (DOW) Officers Muldoven and Levering conducted the investigation of hunting violations on a property located at (redacted) Delaware, OH.
“The complainants were interviewed. One complainant reported hearing a gunshot in that location, which is designated for archery only (Alum Creek State Park). Another complainant reported that hunters had harvested a turkey on a property (adjacent to Alum Creek State Park) within (50) yards of bird feeders.
“DOW officers found no hunters on the private property upon their arrival. A vehicle with the license plate (redacted) was observed at the scene. The vehicle registration returned to Kendra Wecker, a Division of Wildlife employee.
“DOW officers confirmed that on the date in question, shotgun hunting occurred on private property located at (redacted) Delaware OH.
“This private property is adjacent to the archery only hunting area at Alum Creek State Park. DOW officers identified the private property owner as (redacted). DOW officers using forensic evidence (turkey feathers/footprints) determined the kill location of the turkey on the private property.
“The kill site was estimated to be (55 to 70) yards from hanging songbird feeders located on the property. Aside from the songbird feeders, DOW officers found no additional evidence of baiting near the site of the kill.
“Using the Ohio Wildlife Licensing System (OWLS), DOW officers identified that a turkey was recorded as being harvested by Kendra Wecker on April 25, 2020 at 7:33am.
“Other information revealed that the turkey was harvested using a shotgun and the kill took place on private property. The turkey was identified as a juvenile, with a spur length of ½ inch or less.
“On April 27, 2020, Office of Law Enforcement (OLE) Chief Young interviewed (redacted) the owner of (redacted). (Redacted) confirmed that he allowed Andy and Kendra Wecker to turkey hunt on his property.
“(Redacted) cautioned Andy Wecker that bird feeders were on the property that sometimes attract turkey and he should avoid hunting near the feeders.
“On April 28, 2020, OLE Chief Young interviewed (redacted). (Redacted) is the caretaker for the property located at (redacted), Delaware OH.
“(Redacted) did not have any firsthand knowledge of hunting by the Weckers on April 25, 2020.
However, (redacted) said he had a conversation with the Weckers (on the date in question) and they reported that earlier that morning they had harvested two jake turkeys.
“(Redacted) revealed that he has bird feeders in trees near the barn on the property. (Redacted) claims to be an avid bird watcher/photographer and the feeders attract songbirds.
“(Redacted) added that he has thrown corn on the ground near the feeders to attract turkey, deer, squirrels, and ducks. (Redacted) stated that he stopped putting corn out approximately three or four weeks ago.
(Redacted) said that the Weckers knew there were bird feeders on the property, and therefore wouldn’t have hunted in the area of the feeders.
“On April 30, 2020, OLE Chief Young interviewed Kendra Wecker. K. Wecker confirmed she had permission to hunt on private property identified as (redacted), Delaware OH.
“While hunting with her husband, Andy, K. Wecker stated that she harvested a jake turkey from the private property on April 25, 2020. K. Wecker admitted that she was aware that there were songbird feeders on the private property but at no time did she or her husband put feed on the ground.
“Wecker estimated that she was set up approximately (175) yards from the bird feeders when she shot the turkey.
Applicable ODNR Rules:
“1) Archery only turkey hunting is permitted at Alum Creek State Park Ohio (shotgun prohibited).
“2) Ohio hunting laws 1501:31-15-10 (D)(7) prohibit the hunting of turkey over a baited area.
“Regarding the allegation that on April 25, 2020, Kendra and Andy Wecker hunted with a shotgun at Alum Creek State Park in an area designated as archery only, the evidence indicates that the Weckers were in fact hunting on private property located at (redacted), Delaware, OH.
“Turkey hunting with a shotgun is permissible on private property. Additionally, the Weckers had permission from the property owner to hunt on that private property.
“Regarding the allegation that on April 25, 2020, Kendra Wecker hunted over a baited area, there is no evidence showing that K. Wecker or her husband placed feed on the ground to bait turkeys.
“DOW officers determined that Kendra Wecker harvested the turkey approximately (55-70) yards away from the songbird feeders.
“While testimony revealed that Kendra Wecker was aware that there were songbird feeders on the private property, she believed she had set up sufficiently far enough away (175 yards) from the songbird feeders when she harvested the turkey.
“Further testimony indicated that while the caretaker of the property had previously thrown corn on the ground near the feeders to attract wildlife, he discontinued this practice approximately 3-4 weeks prior to the date of the incident.”
Additional documentation provided to Ohio Outdoor News came from the City of Delaware’s chief prosecutor, Natalia Harris, whose report to the ODNR’s investigator Young included that the “..suspects did not throw bait. Evidence shows turkey was killed 55-70 yards away from songbird feeders. Suspects set up 175 yards from feeders. No evidence of baiting.”
Also, Ohio DNR Director Mary Mertz included this statement to Ohio Outdoor News:
“On April 25, 2020, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) received an anonymous complaint of turkey hunting by shotgun on an area restricted to archery hunting only.
“An additional complaint alleged that hunters were harvesting turkey over a baited area. Using the Ohio Wildlife Licensing System, Division of Wildlife officers identified that a turkey was recorded as being harvested by Division of Wildlife Chief Kendra Wecker.
“ODNR’s Office of Law Enforcement completed an investigation into this matter. The results of that investigation were reviewed by the Delaware City Prosecutor who concluded there was no evidence of hunting on public land or turkey baiting.
“The anonymous allegations were unfounded. We appreciate their thorough review of this case.”