A hunter dived from his tree, falling 15 to 20 feet to the ground, after a rival sabotaged him with a “dangerous trap,” according to Michigan authorities.
Now, years later, a 23-year-old man from Chelsea has been sentenced to 60 days in jail. His hunting privileges have also been “revoked for an indefinite period of time,” officials said.
“The harassment of hunters is real and taken very seriously,” Dave Shaw, chief of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ law enforcement division, said in a Jan. 26 news release. “Most hunters respect the land and each other and take pride in an ethical hunt.”
His ‘hunting place’
The man began harassing a rival hunter in October 2020, according to the release.
An Upper Peninsula hunter had arrived at his tree — on state hunting ground in Marquette County — and found a note on his camera, officials said. The note was left by a Northern Michigan University student, officials said, and he asked the other hunter to call him because the tree stand was in his “hunting spot.” The photos had also been deleted from the trail camera.
The hunter called the college student, “apologizing that he didn’t know anyone was using the area,” officials said.
“Over the phone, (the man) insisted that the hunter stay off the land,” according to the release. “Eventually the hunter lost his temper and told him he would stay away.”
In Michigan, hunters cannot claim spots on public hunting grounds. The tree stands left on the state land can be used by anyone, officials said.
So, just weeks after the phone call, the hunter returned to his tree, which appeared intact but had in fact been manipulated to create a “dangerous trap,” according to the release.
“He grabbed the memory card from his trail camera, then started climbing his tree,” authorities said. “By tearing off the climbing poles, everything was safe. He climbed to the top, which looked intact, then stepped onto the platform of his stand and immediately dropped 15 to 20 feet to the ground.
Her back and ankle were injured after landing on her feet, officials said, and she saw her support dangle about 8 feet high after the straps were cut.
“Concerned that (the other man) was watching him with a camera, the hunter quickly limped out of the woods,” officials said. “Once home, he called 911 and checked his memory card, which had been erased of images for the second time.”
A conservation officer has launched an investigation into the incidents.
Weeks later, the hunter returned to the same spot and rigged his tree with new straps while the other man was spying on him with a camera, according to the release.
The rival texted the hunter, authorities said, saying: “Are we going to work out something for this place or what? I have a picture of you yesterday walking in there with climbing poles. I just won’t respect that I was there first?
Conservation officers monitored the tree stand, finding evidence that the straps had been cut a second time.
“The straps were cut to support the weight of the tree stand, but they break as soon as additional weight is applied to them, resulting in a trap door effect,” conservation officer Josh Boudreaux said in the release. “The victim allegedly fell 15 to 20 feet to the ground.”
Threatening voice messages
The state department obtained a warrant for the suspect’s camera, then removed it from state territory, officials said. The man thought the other hunter had removed it, so he began threatening him in voicemails, according to the release.
The 23-year-old man called 911 to report his camera missing, authorities said.
Two conservation officers met the man in person along with Northern Michigan University public safety officers, according to the release.
The man confessed to sabotaging the other hunter’s tree, authorities said.
Having already been suspended from the boarding school, he withdrew before being expelled, according to the release.
He was charged in 2021, then pleaded guilty to felonies of aggravated assault and harassment as a hunter.
In addition to imprisonment and the revocation of hunting privileges, the man is required to reimburse the other hunter’s medical expenses from the autumn and serve a year of probation.
Michigan is a member of the Interstate Wildlife Violator’s Compact, which means human hunting rights will be revoked in nearly every U.S. state, officials said.
“DNR hopes that by sharing the details of this case, we can bring awareness to the consequences of this person’s unethical and dangerous behavior and know it will not be tolerated,” Shaw said.
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