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MI - Man didn't have hunting license when he shot 24-point buck

Man didn't have hunting license when he shot 24-point buck 1/31/2008, 4:27 p.m. EST The Associated Press

LANSING, Mich. (AP) A Horton man who shot a 24-point buck last October with his compound bow in a Jackson County swamp has been charged with one count of unlawful taking of a white-tailed deer after admitting he killed the deer a day before he got a hunting license.

Christopher James had told the Jackson Citizen-Patriot that he shot the buck at dusk on Oct. 24, tracked a blood trail part of the night and returned to find the carcass the next morning.

The newspaper story prompted Conservation Officer Troy Bahlau and a team of agents from the state Department of Natural Resources to investigate.

The pictures taken by Citizen Patriot photographer Dave Weatherwax on the afternoon of Oct. 25 showed the yellow 2007 deer tag secured to the massive 24-point rack. Computerized hunting license records showed James bought his archery deer license at 9:44 a.m. on Oct. 25 at the Pine Hill Lake Marina. James had told the newspaper that he shot the buck the night before. Agents continued to build the case, not knowing where the antlers were being kept. The rack surfaced Jan. 9, when James entered it in a big-buck night in Holt.

Although the antlers apparently have not been officially scored by Commemorative Bucks of Michigan, James said they measured 218 points. That would make it the second- or third-largest whitetail rack ever taken in Michigan by a bowhunter.

DNR officers seized the antlers earlier this month. The rack will remain the property of the DNR and likely will be mounted and displayed by the state agency.

James said he confessed to Bahlau and will plead guilty.

"I turned myself in and told the truth on my own," James told the Jackson Citizen-Patriot. "Like I told the conservation officer, it was an honest mistake. I always bought my deer licenses, but this time I forgot."

He faces five to 90 days in jail, a fine of not less than $200 or more than $1,000, and court costs. He also must pay $1,000 in restitution for the poached deer, DNR officials said, and will lose his hunting privileges for the next three years.

"He lost the buck of a lifetime for the lack of a $15 license," Bahlau said.

James said he didn't intend to violate hunting laws.

"I was out hunting and this giant buck walked under me. It was a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and then I realized I had not bought a license," James said. "I wish I would have never shot that deer."

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