Unfortunately, the first elk killed in Wisconsin by a non-tribal member in more than a century was shot illegally.
A man from Franklin, Wisconsin, has been cited for illegally killing a bull elk during the state's inaugural elk hunt. Joe Wiltzius, 73, was cited by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for shooting a bull elk bull Oct. 15. Wiltzius allegedly shot the bull as it stood on Forest Road 174 in Round Lake Township in Sawyer County.
Wiltzius' name was drawn for one of five coveted permits in a lottery that saw thousands of non-tribal applicants apply. The hunt is the first regulated elk hunt in Wisconsin history. Five permits were open to Wisconsin residents and five were allotted to American Indian tribes. Four of the five resident permits were drawn from a pool of 38,000 resident applications, while the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation raffled off one permit. Witzius was the winner of the RMEF raffle.
State hunting regulations prohibit discharging a firearm from across a roadway. An investigation revealed that Wiltzius was standing on or near Forest Road 174 when he shot. He was also was charged with hunting within 50 feet of the centerline of a roadway.
Wiltzius was hunting with a guide and a friend when the incident occurred. The guide and friend are not expected to be charged with a crime, reported DNR warden supervisor Dave Zebro. However, Zebro also said that the guide could lose his guiding license.
A DNR biologist was called to the scene of the downed animal to verify the kill and take biological samples. Zebro indicated that the biologist thought that something "wasn't right" about the scene. So the agency conducted an investigation, whereupon it was learned that Witzius had shot the elk on the road. He allegedly shot the elk at around 100 yards, dropping the animal, before taking two additional shots to finish it off.
After shooting the elk, the men dragged it into the woods to field dress it. They then contacted the DNR to report the kill.
Zebro indicated that Witzius could also receive an additional $2,000 fine for a "wild animal surcharge" if a judge so orders.
The DNR seized the antlers and hide. The agency will also hold the meat until the case is adjudicated. They'll then likely donate it to a food pantry.
Wiltzius' actions have sparked a good deal of outrage from hunters, who shared their disappointment and anger on social media.
One commentator wrote on Facebook, "Guy was given a golden opportunity, and he goes, and does that!"
"They give sportsmen a bad name," another wrote.
However, the DNR maintains that Wiltzius' alleged actions aren't indicative of most hunters. Neither do they take away from the success of Wisconsin's elk reintroduction program.
"Many partners and individuals contributed to this great conservation story in Wisconsin, which allowed us to hold this first hunt," said DNR chief warden Schaller. "The state is dedicated to ensuring hunting laws are honored to make sure it is a fair and safe hunt, and this case is a reflection of that."
Wisconsin's inaugural elk season runs Oct. 13-Nov. 11, pauses for the gun deer season and then reopens from Dec. 13-21.
Tribal members have reportedly already harvested their allotted five bulls, according to the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission. The four other holders of elk tags issued through the DNR lottery have yet to kill an elk.
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