Each issue we share Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Law Enforcement Reports for Northwest Florida. This article originally appeared in our January/February 2019 issue.
SANTA ROSA COUNTY
TAKING A DIVE – Officer Cushing was driving across a bridge and saw a canoe drifting in Pensacola Bay. The canoe displayed a dive flag but there wasn’t anybody in or near the vessel which was nearly a half mile from the closest bridge. Cushing proceeded to a local marina to respond by patrol vessel. Officers Ramos and Land responded to assist. Ramos contacted FWC biologists who already had a boat in the water. With the help of the FWC biologist team, Ramos began searching the bridge spans for a possible missing diver while Land used binoculars to direct Cushing to the canoe. Cushing retrieved the canoe out of the water and placed it in his patrol vessel.
A brief time later, Ramos and the FWC biologists found three men swimming along the bridge spans heading towards a boat ramp which was about a quarter of a mile away. When the men got out of the water, two of them were borderline hypothermic from cold-water exposure. All three subjects had been spearfishing and had fish on their stringers. Cushing returned the canoe to the subjects at the boat ramp. While the subjects were recovering from the cold water, a resource inspection of their speared fish was conducted. One subject was found to have speared a red drum, which is an illegal method of take. The red drum was also over the legal size limit. The subject was issued citations for spearing a red drum and fishing without a saltwater license. All three men were issued warnings for other violations but remained grateful for the officers’ response and assistance.
BAITED WITH BEETS – Officer Maltais was on land patrol conducting license and game compliance in the Eglin Wildlife Management Area. The officer saw a parked vehicle at the Jackson North Management Unit, an area designated for early archery season. All subjects and vehicles are required to check in before heading to their tree stand for this area. Each subject who checks in receives a check station pass, which is required to be displayed on the dashboard of the vehicle. The parked vehicle did not display the check-in pass. Officer Maltais located the subject who was still seated in the tree stand. The officer quickly noticed the field surrounding the subject was illegally baited with beets. The subject was cited and issued a notice to appear citation for placing bait within a wildlife management area.
FEELING TRIGGERED – Officers Pifer and Schmitt were on vessel patrol conducting boating safety and resource inspections in the Destin Pass. The officers saw a vessel returning from the Gulf of Mexico with fishing gear displayed. The officers stopped the vessel and during the safety inspection determined the boat was coming back from a fishing trip. The resource inspection revealed two undersized gray triggerfish. The season for gray triggerfish is closed. The boat operator was cited and issued a notice to appear citation for harvesting gray triggerfish during closed season.
SANTA ROSA COUNTY
FOLLOW THE BREADCRUMBS – Officer Hahr and Lieutenant Clark were patrolling in the Blackwater Wildlife Management Area when they heard two shots. Hahr coursed the shots to a location in the management area. He went to that location and saw a subject exiting private property with a rifle. The subject stated that he shot two does. When they checked the deer, they discovered that he had killed three deer, two over the daily bag limit. The subject was cited for taking over the bag limit of antlerless deer. The meat from two deer was seized and donated to a charitable organization.
SHOTTY EXCUSE – Officer Hahr was patrolling private property during crossbow season when he heard two rifle shots. He saw a subject in the process of cleaning a deer. Both deer had bullet wounds and no sign of a broadhead wound. The subject admitted to taking the deer with a rifle. Both illegally harvested deer were seized and donated to a charity. The subject was cited for taking deer with a firearm during crossbow season.
HARVEST TIME – Officer Ramos located an illegal bait site on Eglin Wildlife Management Area. A person planted a non-native seed as an attractant for deer and cut small oak trees down to create a shooting lane from a ladder stand. Later, the suspect also laid corn on the ground nearby. Ramos found the man actively hunting on the site and after a brief interview, the suspect admitting to cutting the trees, planting the food plot and spreading the corn. The subject was issued criminal citations for the violations. Additionally, the suspect’s access to the Eglin WMA was revoked for one year by Eglin Range Patrol security forces.
SORRY, WE’RE CLOSED – Officer Ramos was on patrol in Eglin Wildlife Management Area and saw a man exit a wooded area with a compound bow and arrows during a period when all hunting was prohibited within Eglin WMA. The subject admitted that he had been hunting deer from a ladder stand. He was issued a notice to appear for attempting to take game during the closed season.
BAITING AND WAITING – Officer White located a subject hunting on Point Washington Wildlife Management Area after seeing a vehicle parked along the roadway. An inspection of the area the subject was hunting revealed bait had been placed on the ground to attract deer. The subject was cited for the violation.
DOESN’T MEASURE UP – Officer White approached a subject fishing Choctawhatchee Bay from the shoreline. As he approached the subject, he saw a redfish on the ground near the subject. The subject had not measured the fish and it was well under the legal-size limit. He was cited for possession of undersized redfish.
OUT OF BOUNDS – Officer Brooks responded to the location of an off-duty deputy after the deputy saw someone shoot from a roadway. Brooks saw a doe that the subject had shot from his vehicle in a field. The subject did not have permission to hunt the property and was charged for taking wildlife from a public road.
– Courtesy of FWC Division of Law Enforcement: Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, and Walton counties