Shooting at deer decoys shouldn’t be a laughing matter, but it often is

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Two bucks stood very still in a small clearing of the ponderosa pine forest, actually too still. The hunter raised his rifle, taking aim at the larger of the two deer and squeezed the trigger. At only 50 yards, it should have been an easy shot, but neither deer so much as flinched. After two more shots, his partner also fired twice with the same result. Something wasn’t right with this situation.
   Actually several things were wrong. First off, the hunter shot from inside his truck and his partner shot while leaning against the windshield. As the Oregon State Police vehicle drove up behind them, the officer introduced both hunters to the state’s decoy operation. In Oregon, it’s illegal to shoot from a vehicle or a road.
   Although there is a lot of humor involved with many decoy operations, game officials take the work very seriously. Their goal is to apprehend violators before they illegally take game animals. The decoys have fooled many would-be poachers.
   Following are some humorous decoy stories from Oregon Fish and Wildlife officers who enforce the state game laws.
   As a pickup approached the decoy site, two of the three passengers jumped from the truck. One began firing at the decoy from the road, the second used the pickup bed as a rest and began firing. In the meantime, the driver fired shots out his window. After a volley of shots, they soon became aware that they had been shooting at a decoy and took off. In his haste to leave, the driver left one of his buddies standing in the road. The excited man ran around in a circle in the center of the road two times, then tried to escape into the timber, running into the arms of the troopers.
   On another operation, a truck came by with two guys inside and two standing in the back with bows. When the two in the back saw the decoy, they started pounding on the top of the cab and pointed back. The truck backed up, then the driver slammed the brakes and one guy toppled over backward, hitting his head on the tailgate, just about knocking him out. The other guy got about three shots off, hitting the decoy once. Hearing the noise of the arrow hitting the decoy, one of them said, “That’s a decoy, let’s get out of here!” Officers got the entire scene on video.
   Another time, a driver fired a round from his vehicle at a deer decoy, hitting it then realizing it was not the real thing. He then grabbed the butt of his rifle and threw it out the window and sped off. The man admitted to not having a deer tag and attempting to fill his wife’s tag. He also admitted to being a convicted felon. He tossed the rifle because he obliterated the serial number. Besides the game violation and two felony charges, he was also cited for open container and possession of marijuana.
   The driver of a pickup slammed on the brakes and the passenger jumped out before it even came to a stop. Like a one-man SWAT team on the scene of a bank robbery, the man ran to the side of the road with gun raised, intent on getting off a shot at the large bull elk standing only 75 yards away.
   Seconds later, the driver was also out with his rifle. A pickup in front of them and one behind them skidded to a halt, with horns blowing and passengers yelling “Don’t shoot, don’t shoot, it’s a decoy.” The two men jumped back in their rig and all three trucks sped off. I sat in a blind with one trooper and watched the scene unfold before us.
   When another trooper caught up with the hunters down the road, they had an interesting story to tell. The hunters in the other two trucks saw the decoy earlier, but decided not to tell their buddies in the third truck; they wanted to see what their reaction would be when they saw it, but never expected them to come running out of their truck with rifles at the ready.
   The passenger told the officer that he never got out of the truck with a rifle in his hands. The trooper down the road radioed this information back and the trooper I was with simply rewound the video to confirm that he did indeed leave the truck with his rifle. It turned out the man didn’t have a tag for that unit and was cited for having no big game tag.
   A fly fisherman was returning from a high Cascade lake late at night during archery season and came across the decoy set up along the road. With the “deer” in the headlights, he got out in his chest waders and put the sneak on the decoy. He got within 30 yards, pulled back the bow and noticed something didn’t look right. An earlier violator hit the decoy with an arrow and left it slightly off kilter, so he didn’t shoot. He was cited for hunting at night and using the aid of a light.
   On my first deer decoy operation, I sat in a blind with one officer only a few feet off of a Forest Service gravel road. No sooner were two buck deer decoys set up about 40 yards off the road when the action began. A truck came by, skidded to a halt, and the driver stuck his rifle out the window and fired three shots while the passenger got out, leaned against the truck, and shot twice. This information was relayed to the two officers in the chase vehicle waiting a short distance away who were shortly on the scene writing citations.
   A total of 10 vehicles drove by the decoys that morning. Three went by without seeing the decoys, two slowed and looked, and 11 shots were fired from the other five vehicles for a total of eight citations. One of the hunters didn’t have a tag and one driver didn’t even have a driver’s license.
   During the second bull season a few years ago, a trooper reported a hunter shooting twice at an elk decoy. When the man realized it wasn’t a real animal, he took off. A Forest Service law enforcement officer was waiting down the road, but when the man saw this, he turned around and sped back past the OSP troopers who were waiting there with their lights on. A chase ensued for several miles at speeds up to 80 mph until the man finally gave up. He was cited for alluding officers along with shooting from a vehicle, reckless driving, DUI and having an open container in his vehicle. He ended up in jail and won’t be hunting for a while.
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