A deer decoy used by Idaho Fish and Game officers in a poaching operation near the Idaho-Oregon border last month proved too tempting for several Oregon hunters. Fish and Game said five men now face court appearances and potentially heavy fines for their respective roles in two unrelated poaching incidents near remote Succor Creek in Owyhee County.
Heres a rundown of the incidents, according to Fish and Game.
WHAT HAPPENED - Acting on tips from the public, F&G conservation officer Craig Mickelson organized a enforcement effort called Operation Border Jumper in the Owyhee desert during the last weekend of September. Using what the agency calls Bucky, the stuffed, robotic deer, Mickelson and his team staked out the Succor Creek area in Idaho, just east of the Oregon border and waited. - In the early morning hours of Sept. 28, four Oregon hunters rolled up the road but failed to see the decoy deer standing just a few feet away. However, later that morning, the group came back down the road and spotted the decoy. One member of the party got out of the truck and fired six shots at the decoy deer. - When the shooting stopped, the group was interviewed and 13 citations were issued, including three citations related to a four-point mule deer buck that was taken illegally that morning shortly after the group missed seeing the decoy.
WHO WAS CHARGED The four men were charged with wildlife violations are: - Martine Mills, 47, of Cove, Ore., was cited for attempting to take a deer during closed season, attempting to take simulated wildlife, possession and transportation of a deer taken during a closed hunting season, 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, was cited for possession and transportation of a deer taken during a closed hunting season and hunting without a valid Idaho hunting license. - Justin Cernazanu, 29, of Cove, was cited for possession and transportation of a deer taken during a closed hunting season. - Eugene Mills, 69, of Nyssa, Ore., was cited for hunting without a valid hunting license. The four-point mule deer buck and two hunting rifles were seized in the case.
ANOTHER INCIDENT - Before daylight the following morning, officers moved 5 miles south and set up the decoy deer along Idahos Palmer Creek. Around mid-morning, they watched as James Hayhurst, 65, of Jordan Valley, Ore., encouraged his 8-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.
COURT DATE All five suspects will appear in Owyhee County Court in Murphy, Idaho Oct. 28. Mickelson attributes Operation Border Jumpers success in large part to the publics 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.
Photo: Idaho Fish and Game conservation officers Corey Taylor, left, and Craig Mickelson are seen with a mule deer buck that was illegally taken in Owyhee County in September. Photo by Matt OConnell, Idaho Fish and Game.