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FL: ‘Robodeer' confounds illegal hunters

‘Robodeer' confounds illegal hunters

December 09, 2010

PANAMA CITY — Two days after two Northwest Florida men were arrested in the Econfina Wildlife Management Area on suspicion of night hunting, two of their friends were arrested in Washington County for the same thing.

Each of the men was caught by officers using a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) replica deer, or “robodeer” as it’s sometimes referred to, FWC spokesman Stan Kirkland said Thursday.

The $1,000 deer is built with robotics to make it more lifelike, Kirkland said. It can move its head and wiggle its ears, and over the years the replicas have taken quite a beating.

“There are a million stories about this thing, but they’re very effective,” Kirkland said.

There’s the story about the guy who charged the deer with a large hunting knife. He tackled the deer in a field and knocked the head off before he realized it was a fake. After he picked it back up and replaced the head, he walked away and said something like, “I hope you conservation officers are having a good time.” He was later arrested.

Another man tried to steal it. He, too, was arrested.

“They had to stop him and explain to him that it wasn’t his,” Kirkland said.

Some people have been arrested two years in a row for shooting the decoy, which makes officers wonder if they’re “playing with a full deck,” Kirkland said.

Another man drove past the deer, stopped, and then drove his truck through a field to run the replica over. He bought the FWC a new deer after he was arrested.

“Who knows why people do this kind of stuff,” Kirkland said.

The most recent robodeer story was the case involving four friends who were caught in two separate incidents at the same place. Two hunters were caught during the first few days of hunting season when FWC officers saw them shoot the replica deer. Their citations for attempting to take a deer at night with a gun and light came just came just 36 hours after two of their friends were charged with the same offense at the same location. The two men said they knew their friends had been caught, but didn't know it was the same place.

FWC began utilizing replica deer in the early 1990s by using a simple cardboard cutout of a deer, which got shot so many times it was torn to pieces, Kirkland said. Over the years the replicas have become more lifelike.

The replica raises the legal issue of entrapment, so FWC works with the State Attorney’s Office to ensure their arrests lead to prosecutions. But just because somebody calls it entrapment doesn’t make it so, State Attorney Glenn Hess said.

“Basically, entrapment is getting somebody to do something they had no predisposition to do,” Hess said.

Since most of these cases involve people driving around with a spotlight and shotgun, they’re not concerned if their kill is legal or not, Hess said. But when they get caught, many will cry entrapment. “Give me a break.

“They’re usually hunting under the influence, too, I might add,” Hess said.

The replica saves the lives of real deer, Kirkland said, and is only one of several means FWC officers use to combat illegal hunting.

“If people want to violate the law, we’re going to do everything we can to stop them,” Kirkland said.

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