The Nebraska Game and Parks officer was investigating one deer camp with Louisiana hunters last month when he got a tip about another.
By the time he put away his ticket book a few days later, he and another officer had written 17 citations to 11 hunters — nine from Louisiana, two from Nebraska. They’d seized the remains of nine deer — seven bucks and two does. And they’d assessed more than $10,000 in penalties, fees and damages.
“This was a pretty egregious case — no permits, loaning permits, not tagging deer,” said Duane Arp, assistant administrator of the commission’s law enforcement division. “There were a lot of things wrong in this situation.”
Two situations, actually: The officers busted deer camps in Gage and Jefferson counties, each with a group of Louisiana hunters who didn’t know each other, Arp said.
“We’re a big draw state,” he said. “We get a lot of nonresident hunters.”
Still, the state requires all hunters to follow the law, regardless of where they’re from. And the hunters in the two camps weren’t. Neither was a pair of Gage County property owners, who were accused of giving or selling their landowner permits to the hunters.
“That’s illegal; you can’t do that,” Arp said. “You have to shoot your own deer, and the Louisiana hunters were shooting the deer for them.”
The husband and wife each received two tickets, for violations this year and last year, Arp said. They’ve since paid nearly $600 in combined penalties and costs, according to court records.
And all but one of the nine Louisiana hunters have paid their fines, court records show. Including James Squyres of Hineston, Louisiana, who paid $1,149 — $100 in fines, $49 in fees and $1,000 for the value of the deer.
The 64-year-old has been making the 900-mile drive north for about 30 years, he said, introduced to the area when he did work at the fertilizer plant near Beatrice.
He and his brother and son lease land in Jefferson County, near Plymouth, and have turned a semitrailer into a hunting lodge.
He always looks forward to the time in Nebraska, he said, sitting around, cooking, shooting the bull.
“The quietness up there, we enjoy it. We don’t kill deer every year we go up there. I can sit and see thousands of deer and don’t shoot. But this year, I decided I’d get a little meat and I messed up.”
In his case, he took two deer with his bow — all five men in his camp were bowhunters — and intended to report the kills by phone later, when he got home. He said he didn’t know that, because November gun season had started, all deer had to be taken to a check station.
“There was some little clause that I didn’t know anything about. I ended up getting in trouble. But it was my fault, my stupidity.”
Arp said deer in that camp had already been cut up, but none of the tags had been canceled by the hunters, meaning they could go back out with their permits. By law, tags must be physically canceled — often by cutting a notch in them — immediately after a kill.
And there was more, Squyres conceded. “Some of the other boys only had one tag and they had more than one deer,” he said. “That’s none of my business, but they’re in my camp, so that makes it look bad on us.”
As long as they paid their fines, the men won’t lose their right to hunt in Nebraska, Arp said.
Squyres has already returned, driving 14 hours earlier this month for muzzleloader season. “We came back the first week. Each one of us killed a buck and doe and tagged it and did everything we were supposed to.”