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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Hunting enthusiasts think it’s time for heavier poaching fines

By Michael Pearce
The Wichita Eagle

The alleged poaching of a potential state-record buck has re-ignited calls for stiffer poaching penalties.

“We need a system that’s more fair to the value (a deer) has to the state,” said Tim Donges, president of the Bluestem Branch of the Quality Deer Management Association. “We want to be sure there’s proper restitution.”

Donges, of El Dorado, has been working to get a bill into the Kansas legislature that would increase fines to many poachers.

Last week the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism announced charges against David Kent of Topeka.

He’s accused of illegally shooting a 14-point buck on Nov. 11 in Osage County. The eight charges also include criminal discharge of a firearm, illegally hunting with an artificial light, hunting outside legal hours, hunting from a vehicle and using an illegal caliber to shoot big game.

Kent is scheduled to appear in Osage County Court on March 1. Law enforcement sources said Kent has admitted to illegally killing the deer.

The antlers were confiscated from Kent at the Monster Buck Classic in Topeka on Jan. 29 by game wardens. The buck was measured at 198 7/8 inches on the Boone & Crockett record system.

The state record for a typical whitetail killed by gun is a 198 2/8-inch buck shot by Dennis Finger in Nemaha County in 1974.

The charges, all misdemeanors, could total a maximum of $7,000 and 18 months in jail.

Kent was not charged with poaching a trophy-class buck because state law says a whitetail buck must have an inside antler spread of at least 17 inches to be considered a trophy.A trophy deer charge carries a fine of $5,000 and can be placed amid other charges. Donges would like to see another based on a deer’s trophy score for all deer scoring more than 125 inches.

“Somebody could shoot a six point with a 17-inch spread and pay more than someone who shot a potential new state-record buck,” Donges said. “That’s not right. Score usually is a better indication of a buck’s maturity and what it might have been worth to a legal hunter or a landowner who is leasing his land.”

Donges is promoting a penalty system similar to what’s been used in Ohio for several years. His formula for restitution value is a buck’s gross score, minus 100. That number is squared and then multiplied by $2.

That would place a trophy deer penalty of around $20,000 for the buck Kent is accused of poaching.

“We’re in favor of as stiff of penalties as we can get for poaching, especially for animals like this,” said Brian Smith, Monster Buck Classic president. “The world-class animal will never get its justified place in whitetail history and some (law-abiding) hunter won’t get that thrill. It’s just a shame all the way around. We need to be setting some examples with people.”

Aerial gunning to begin — U.S. Department of Agriculture biologists are scheduled to begin aerial gunning on several feral hog populations in Kansas this week.

Tom Halstead, head of the program, said plans are to use a helicopter to locate and shoot feral hogs near Elkhart, Meade, Medicine Lodge, Arkansas City and in Bourbon County.

Feral swine cause millions of dollars in damage to crops and wildlife habitat across the nation annually. They’ve been documented to carry diseases that have proved fatal to high numbers of domestic swine and can be passed to humans.

More than 30 states have problems with feral hogs. Kansas is the only state with a declining population, thanks largely to aerial gunning.

Halstead said Missouri and Kansas noticed feral hogs about the same time about 20 years ago. He said Missouri now has more than 10,000. It’s believed Kansas may have 1,000 or less.

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