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Outfitter admits to shooting decoy

Dave Kolpack , Associated Press
Published Friday, September 26, 2008
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A western North Dakota outfitter suspected for years of shooting protected birds was caught when he fired at a mounted bald eagle decoy, authorities say.

Gary Stang, 63, of Regent, pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court in Bismarck to a charge of attempting to take and kill a migratory bird. He was arrested near his business last March, the same day investigators set up the decoy on an abandoned farmstead. It was the first time such a tactic has been used in the state, they said.

"In his mind, when he pulled the trigger, it was a live bird," said Rich Grosz, a special agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Stang's attorney, Tom Dickson, said his client is under the mistaken impression that raptors - including eagles, hawks and owls - are hurting his business by preying on pheasants.

"Some of our older farmers have an irrational attitude toward birds of prey," Dickson said. "This would be one of those situations."

Grosz said Stang was a suspect for several years, after investigators started "putting pins on the map" when looking into reports of dead raptors.

In 2004, undercover agents set up hunting trips with Stang, who owns the Good Life Hunting Co. Bed and Breakfast in Hettinger County, and another outfitter, Warren Anderson, of Bowman.

Anderson eventually was arrested and pleaded guilty to federal charges.

He was ordered to pay $60,000 in fines and restitution.

"Mr. Stang was put on a back burner, but we took another look last spring," Grosz said.

Investigators found a large bald eagle mount in the federal repository that was about to be destroyed. Assistant U.S. Attorney Cameron Hayden, who prosecuted the case, said it is the biggest eagle he's ever seen.

"When you set this thing in the field, it's humongous. That's the only word I can think of to describe it," Hayden said.

The decoy was placed in a public area where Stang was known to patrol for raptors. Investigators said Stang got out of his vehicle, leaned over the hood with his rifle and shot the decoy.

"Within four hours, it was basically a done deal," Grosz said.

The bullet struck the decoy in the breastbone area, which normally would cover the heart and lungs.

"When I pulled him over, I asked him what he did. The utterance he gave to me was that he had just shot a hawk," Grosz said. "It wasn't that he was target practicing or sighting his rifle."

Grosz said it's the first time he has used a bald eagle decoy to catch a suspect.

"It's an alternative approach, but we had to prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt," he said. "Killing one of these birds is an unacceptable thing."

The plea agreement calls for a year of probation, a fine of more than $1,000, and the loss of hunting privileges in North America for one year. Stang also will give up a rifle, scope and ammunition. The plea was approved by U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles S. Miller, who also imposed the sentence on Thursday.

"We made our point," Hayden said of the plea deal. "It's not always about getting a big fine."

Hayden said wildlife agents have been running undercover operations in North Dakota for several years, resulting in numerous arrests and a few felony convictions. Last year, authorities made their first arrest for pole-trapping, which involves the use leg-hold traps on fence posts to capture and kill birds.

"The common theme we are seeing is that these cases are related to the outfitting business," Hayden said. "It's a business that's fairly new to North Dakota, so we are going through some growing pains."

The eagle decoy survived Stang's shooting, Hayden said.

"He's good to go," Hayden said. "It wouldn't surprise me if the agents decided to use him again. Hunters are warned."
 

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Oh boy, that fine will really slow him down... a years probation and a couple of thousand dollars in fines... :eyeroll: :eyeroll: :eyeroll:
I will bet you he will do it again in a years time.
 

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Typical.. :eyeroll:
This stuff doesn't suprises me one bit anymore..

Has anyone ever done a study that shows the "per capita" #'s, comparing game violations of the average Joe to the that of the # of Licensed ND guides/outfitter violations..?

I bet that would be a good read.. :wink:
 

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"The common theme we are seeing is that these cases are related to the outfitting business," Hayden said. "It's a business that's fairly new to North Dakota, so we are going through some growing pains."
$50,000.00 fine, take away his g/o license, rifle, and pick up since he used that as a shooting rest. That is one way to help with these growing pains. If you want to detour some one down the road from committing a crime you have to show you are willing to prosecute to the fullest for the violations. This was not a case of mistaken identity of his target, he shot it with a scoped rifle leaning on his pickup, his intention was to kill a bird of prey.

New laws or regulations do not have to be put into operation, how about we just use the ones on the books and enforce them to the fullest.
 

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and pick up since he used that as a shooting rest.
legal to do in ND, or else they would I'm sure.

Several years ago the game and fish put a deer decoy on my land. 5 citations in 3 hours, pheasant decoys another time 15 violations on pm. Outfitters aren't the only ones breaking the law :lol: :lol:
 

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How about the guy's who run rampent chasing coyotes accrossed feilds shooting from thier trucks and snowmobiles. I'm sure many of you know what I'm talking about or have seen it. It seems like the local CO's and even some of the local residents turn their heads to this.
 

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Actually on some of the other forums they did a fund raiser for the Kansas kid. If I remember there was a thread here as well.

I don't think it was posted here but it was on FN a guy from ND was shot by his cousin or uncle in the Jamestown area last year. Anyone remember that?

Anyway goose hunters getting shot in the decoys has nothing to do with this thread. I think they should do more of the stuffed eagles, owls, deer, roosters... BTW G/O did they shoot the roosters with rifles?
 

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Since everybody is pumped up :D has anyone talked to their legislator about a gross violations bill in the next session? Barnes County Wildllife is holding a forum for candidates from both districts in Barnes County mid October. Get the ball rolling with some face contact.
 
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