Michigan –-(Ammoland.com)- Four Ottawa County men were ticketed recently for poaching nearly 60 wild ducks from a private agricultural pond near the Grand River watershed, an area popular for waterfowl hunting.
The names of the four Coopersville area men, who range in age from 20 to 24, are being withheld, pending their scheduled Oct. 26 appearance in Ottawa County District Court in Hudsonville.
“This was not hunting,” said conservation officer Dave Rodgers. “Hunting involves a lot of hard work and fair chase. What these guys were doing is killing.”
At 7:38 a.m. Oct. 9, operators of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources' Report All Poaching (RAP) line received a call reporting an immense amount of shooting during this past weekend’s opening of the South Zone waterfowl hunting season.
Minutes later, Rodgers and conservation officer Chris Simpson responded, headed for Chester Township in north Ottawa County.
Rodgers said he found the four men on private property along an agricultural pond. He allegedly saw them shooting at crippled ducks on the water and gathering them.
Rodgers next spoke to the men.
“He located 58 ducks harvested by the four men along with a large amount of corn they had set out as bait in and along the edge of the pond,” said Sgt. Jeff Rabbers, District 7, Area 3 law supervisor for the DNR.
The ducks allegedly poached included 35 wood ducks and 23 mallards, including 13 mallard hens.
“Each hunter is allowed six ducks, but in this case all the ducks are illegal because the poachers were using bait, which is not allowed,” said Lt. Gerald Thayer, DNR District 7 law supervisor.
Of the six ducks allowed in a daily bag limit, hunters can shoot four mallards, only two of which may be hens. Only three wood ducks may be harvested per hunter.
One of the men, a 21-year-old, left the area, but was located by Simpson during a traffic stop. The man allegedly had a loaded firearm in the vehicle.
Conservation officers said over 200 pounds of corn had been placed out as bait for the ducks.
“One subject admitted to putting out the bait and another admitted to knowing there was bait out there,” Rabbers said. “The other two claimed that they did not know the site was baited.”
All of the firearms allegedly used in the incident were confiscated. The ducks shot were also recovered by conservation officers, having been taken by illegal methods.
Charges pending include taking waterfowl over bait, taking an over-limit of waterfowl and having a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle. The four men were issued appearance tickets and not physically arrested. If convicted, the men could potentially be ordered to pay $29,000 in restitution ($500 for each duck) and to forfeit over $5,000 in high-end firearms, as well as having their hunting license revoked for three years each, along with the year of conviction.
In addition, the judge may order $50 to $500 in fines and costs and up to 90 days in the county jail.
“The acts of these poachers are an example of how our community is cheated by those who don’t care about anything but themselves,” Thayer said. “Whether it is related to a general violation of the law, or a fish and game violation of the law, they steal from us all. I’m proud of the hard work that conservation officers, like officers Rodgers and Simpson, do on a daily basis to bring violators to justice.”
Rodgers said the ducks confiscated will be used at the DNR Law Enforcement Division’s Waterfowl Training School for training new officers on duck identification and necropsy studies.
Any ducks not used for this purpose will be donated to the Braveheart Raptor Rehabilitation Center in Twin Lakes to help feed injured birds of prey, including bald eagles.
Michigan conservation officers are fully-commissioned state peace officers who provide natural resources protection, ensure recreational safety and protect citizens by performing general law enforcement duties and lifesaving operations in the communities they serve.
Learn more about the work of conservation officers at www.michigan.gov/conservationofficers.
The DNR’s toll-free Report All Poaching (RAP) line number is 800-292-7800. Tips may be left anonymously.