Deer Poaching: Does the Punishment Fit the Crime?

buck-wallSo, here it is, another story about deer poaching. Don’t get me wrong, I am very happy every time a poacher gets busted! But, here’s my issue with this case: THE PUNISHMENT DOES NOT FIT THE CRIME!! Of course, that’s just my opinion. I’ll let you read on and then decide for yourself. So, here’s the story:

A Zimmerman, Minnesota man recently pleaded guilty to poaching 13 deer. The case started when Mitch Sladek, a Minnesota DNR Conservation officer spotted a woman and her daughter pulling a two-wheeled deer cart,  bypassing a locked gate and entering into the Sherburne County National Wildlife Refuge. When asked who shot a deer, the woman told Officer Sladek that her husband, Michael Walz had shot a deer, but she wasn’t sure if it was a doe or a buck. Officer Sladek then asked  Walz’s wife if they hunted with a bow and was told no. However, a quick check of the DNR’s electronic licensing system seemed to prove otherwise; this woman had apparently registered several bucks that had been taken by bow. Sladek then decided to investigate a little further, and went into the refuge where he found the two women and Walz with a freshly killed six-point buck, which was untagged and had been illegally moved from the original kill site. At this point, Officer Sladek checked Walz for a valid hunting license. Walz told Sladek it would take him a minute to find it because he was carrying several other people’s licenses, including those of his daughter, his father, and a friend. However, Walz was able to produce a license and validate and tag the buck.

Later on Walz and his wife did admit to illegal party hunting, illegally transporting deer, and using other people’s tags to check deer in. Walz stated that his wife and daughter were never with him when any of the deer were shot. Officer Sladek then went to the Walz home where he discovered 13 other poached deer hanging on the walls; 6 of these were full shoulder mounts and the other 7 were wall plaques. Walz confessed that all 13 deer were taken in either the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge or the Sand Dunes State Forest.

There it is; a total of 13 poached deer found in the Walz home (of course all of these were seized, as well as Walz’s truck, and his bow). And, this came with a confession of illegal hunting activity. So, just what is the punishment for this crime? Well, the judge imposed a $3,000 fine and 1 year in jail, which were both stayed. In the end, this is what Walz got:

  • 2 years probation (during this time he cannot enter  Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge or the Sand Dunes State Fores)
  • big-game hunting privileges revoked for 3 years
  • 80 hours of community service
  • payment of court costs (approximately $3,200)
  • ordered letter of apology (Walz must buy ad space in Minnesota Outdoor News and place a letter of apology in this space

Yep, that’s it. This is the punishment for illegally taking 13 deer. And, this punishment was imposed by a judge that is a known hunter, conservationist, and environmentalist. Now, I won’t pretend to know the laws in Minnesota, or anywhere else for that matter. But to me, this punishment does not seem to fit the crime. It is merely a slap on the wrist! Yes, it might be fitting for a first time poacher, but that’s if it was 1 deer not 13. However, Walz knowingly and repeatedly broke the law, and he should have been punished accordingly.

What kind of message are judges sending out to poachers? Does this say the law takes poaching seriously? I recently wrote an article on a poaching case that occurred in Ohio, and in that case the judge decided to make an example of the poacher. The Ohio judge imposed a fine of over $17, 330 on the poacher of 1 giant Ohio whitetail. So, how does the poacher of 13 deer end up with no fine and only court costs? And, what about only 2 years of probation with big-game hunting privileges revoked for 3 years?

Let me start by saying, I completely understand staying the 1 year in jail. Our jails and prisons are so overcrowded already. But, as for the rest of the punishment, I do not feel it was enough. When an offender has shown behavior such as Walz, I do not believe they deserve a second chance. Two years probation is not enough; let’s take their hunting privileges away for life. And, if not for life, how about at least 1 year for every deer, or other animal, that they took illegally? Then when they break the law again, make them serve some jail time. Judges need to send out the message that poaching will not be tolerated! The punishment needs to fit the crime!


I would love to hear your opinions! How do you feel about poaching? Do you believe the punishment fit the crime in this case? Or, do you know of any other great cases you would like to share? Please leave your comments below, or as always, you can contact me at


To read more on this story, click here.

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