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Antler Envy at Forefront of Kansas Legal Battle

Fight over who owns poached deer antlers goes all the way to state Senate.  

In a case spanning five years, the Kansas Senate has again rejected legislation adopted by the House to force the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWP) to release a set of poached trophy whitetail antlers to the landowner on whose  property the deer was killed.

Seized during a sportsman event, the KDWP has held fast in its efforts to oppose state politicians in rewriting state law to stipulate that the 14-point rack illegally taken off private property south of Topeka be turned over to the propertys landowner, Tim Nedau.

The Bill

Senate Bill 388 made it mandatory for the state to offer illegally-taken wildlife to the landowner on whose property the animal was taken on. The bill would also retroactively apply to any alters, sheds or horns seized by KDWP since 2005, guaranteeing the deer taken off the Nedeau property would be turned over. This is a new addition to the bill which when originally passed two years ago, did not have the retroactive return clause included in the bills language.

The new retroactive return requirement was pushed forward by Nedeau advocate Rep. Ken Corbet, a Topeka Republican and operator of the Ravenwood Lodge, a private hunting estate offering pheasant, quail turkey and deer hunting. Corbett wrote Governor Sam Brownback, convincing House leadership to change the law in favor of Nedeau.

“It is my belief that when a trespasser illegally poaches a deer, the landowner should have a right to that deer. The landowner has already been harmed by having a trespass committed against him and losing the ability to later legally hunt for the deer. They should not be further punished by having the antlers taken away. Going forward, SB 357 ensures this will not happen. Unfortunately this does not help Mr. Nedeau,” Corbet wrote in letter to the Governor.

The bill was endorsed by the House 81-32, but rejected 15-25 by the Senate, making the turning over of the antlers to Nedeau doubtful.

Chris Neal/ The Capital Journal
Chris Neal/ The Capital Journal

The Buck

The 14-point buck was killed on November 11, 2011 by David Kent. Kent spotted the deer while out driving south of Topeka. Within shooting distance of the road, he fired two shots at the deer with his 9mm Glock, killing it and removing the head with a knife. He then covered the head with a blanket, placed it in the back of his truck and drove off.

In a move that seems unlikely, but actually fits current profiles of serial poachers, Kent brought the antlers to public attention at the Monster Buck Classic, stating he had killed the deer on a hunt in northeast Kansas. The deer was measured by an official, scoring 198 7/8-inches on the Boone & Crockett scale. Had the score became official, it would have exceeded the state record for a typical whitetail shot with a gun in Kansas which was recorded in 1974 and measured 198 2/8-inches.

The Wichita Eagle
The Wichita Eagle

With the kind of attention a deer of that size receives, it didn’t take long before suspicions were raised that Kent wasn’t on the level in the harvesting of his trophy whitetail. Photography surfaced at the Monster Buck Classic showing the deer alive and well in Osage county earlier in the fall. After comparing photos of the deer with the antlers at the event, wildlife agents confirmed it was the same deer and pressed Kent for additional information. Kent finally confessed to shooting the deer illegally and was taken into custody, the antlers seized by KDWP.

In February 2012, a KDWP officer called Nedeau informing him that a poacher had admitted to killing what may have been the new state record deer on his property. It was at this point that Nedeau began trying to have the antlers turned over to him by way of a salvage tag. The following summer, in a letter issued by the Osage County Attorney’s Office, Nedeau was informed that he was listed as a victim of the crime committed by Kent.

In sentencing, Kent agreed to plead guilty to four out of eight charges including hunting outside of legal hours and using a illegal caliber firearm to shoot game. Kent was sentenced to 30 days in jail and ordered to pay a $1500 dollars in fines and $8000 in restitution to Nedeau for trespassing.

 The Case Against Bill 388

The key argument against Bill 388 by KDWP is that the foundation of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation is built on the idea that wildlife is managed in trust by wildlife agencies for the benefit of all. That wildlife belongs to the people of the State, not the landowner on whose property the animal happens to be on at the time.

In an interview Republican Senator Dan Kerschen from Garden Plain, Kansas said the new additions to the Bill would have created a situation where there was incentive to kill wildlife out of season, leaving it to the landowners to claim.

“In my view,” he said, “that’s illegal poaching.”

Senator Kerschen also pointed to the impracticality of the bill, as it would require the state to seek out all previously seized antlers, many of which were sold at auction and return them to landowners.

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Antler Envy at Forefront of Kansas Legal Battle