The Iowa Department of Natural Resources have charged Joe Franz with four counts of “hunting over bait.”
Last year, Joe Franz made waves in the hunting world when he harvested what was said to be the largest whitetail on camera, but recent accusations have been made that he may have baited the buck.
Baiting is a violation of an Iowa law that prohibits hunters from using grain, vegetables, fruit or salt blocks to attract wildlife. Franz now faces four charges of baiting, citations that would cost $195 on each account.
The charges cover violations on four days in October 2014 when Franz was hunting the notorious Iowa giant buck named “Palmer.”
Franz shot the buck Oct. 12 on an afternoon hunt during Iowa’s early muzzleloader season.
Franz states that his pursuit of “Palmer” was done legally, and the acquisitions are rooted from someone’s jealousy.
I’m outraged by the charges brought against me. There’s always jealousy. There’s always accusations, innuendo, and I am completely innocent of these charges.
Franz, his lawyers, a natural resource department spokesman and Marion County Attorney Ed Bull stated they couldn’t talk about the details of the charges ahead of trial.
The complaints available to the public that were filed in court against Franz have no details as to what bait he allegedly used.
The Department of Natural Resources officers took soil samples from Franz’s farm without probable cause or a search warrant, according to the defense attorney.
Department spokesman, Kevin Baskins said, “There will probably be a day in court where both of us will be able to present our side of the story and our evidence.”
Franz voluntarily handed over the mount of the buck to the state while the criminal case is pending, although he expects it to be returned if he’s acquitted.
The complaint sparked after Franz’s hunt was featured in a spring issue of North American Whitetail magazine and The Des Moines Register published a story on the hunt.
Franz would not talk about the complaint or the accuser, based on the advice of his lawyers.
Furthermore, Franz and his lawyers believe Iowa’s law on “hunting over bait” is unconstitutionally vague.
The law contains no wording about actual distance a hunter must be from bait. This leaves each individual conservation officer with “tremendous discretion.”
The law also includes no wording determining time periods.
Both lawyers said the case has sparked calls to state legislators about making Iowa’s law on baiting to be more specific.
Palmer’s non-typical gross score was 261 7/8 inches. Although it didn’t break any Iowa records, North American Whitetail named it the largest buck ever harvested on video.
Franz said he went to “great lengths to ensure the integrity of the hunt.”
He decided to film the hunt to dispel any allegations that he took the deer illegally or unethically.
All images via USA TODAY