KELOWNA – A seasoned hunter who pleaded guilty to shooting at a B.C. Conservation Service deer decoy in West Kelowna days after the season ended one year ago says it was an honest mistake.
Joseph Vernon Lange, 60, was driving down the Esperon Forest Service Road in West Kelowna Nov. 15, 2014 when he saw what he thought was a four-point Mule deer buck standing next to a doe.
He took out his rifle, loaded a round and fired, hitting the deer in the heart and lung area.
To his surprise, the deer didn’t drop.
Full size, ultra-realistic deer decoys are sometimes used by Conservation officers to try and lure hunters into shooting at game when they shouldn’t be. The decoy used Nov. 15 was a fully legal-looking buck, however the shot was taken five days after the season ended in that area.
If the shooting had happened ten kilometers down the road, Lange would not have been brought to court and ultimately fined thousands of dollars.
“At the time I shot the deer I truly believed they were open,” Lange told judge Chris Cleaveley in provincial court Friday. “Five days previous to that that same animal was in season in that spot. I truly believed this deer was in season.”
Several other wild animals were in season in that area, including Whitetail deer, coyotes and grouse, but Mule deer was prohibited.
Lange says he would have noticed his mistake when he left the area, as signs on the side of the road going out mark the hunting zone. According to regulations, a hunter who reports a mistake himself is given special consideration compared with someone who does not report. Lange says he never had that opportunity as Conservation officers were there filming and observing.
Judge Cleaveley said Crown's request for a $4,000 fine was too high given the grey areas of the hunting regulations. He even admitted to being confused himself by what’s allowed to be hunted when and where.
“Things happen,” he said. “Things happen in life sometimes.”
Lange was fined $2,000, which will be given to the Oceola Fish and Game Club in Lake Country.
For a complete breakdown of hunting regulations in the province, visit this website.
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