In the off-season, the road-hunting theme (“Don’t worry, we’re shooting cameras!”) seems to gain traction for LG and me. We do a lot of driving to and from school, and see a lot of animals. We tend to leave early in the hope of seeing something good to take a picture of.
One afternoon, on the way to basketball practice, we spotted a buck with large antlers. LG urged me to turn around before he ran off. She was excited to try a new attachment that hooked her cell phone to her spotting scope. The buck wasn’t too far off the road, so we thought for sure we’d be able to get a good pic. I safely made a U-turn and drove back.
The buck was still there. I parked off the road, opposite the antlered fellow. LG hopped in back and rolled down the window. I aimed my camera as she stuck her spotting scope out. It took her some time to get the new device to properly focus on the deer.
We were both excited about getting a picture before the guy ran off.
Then it dawned on me: “Why hasn’t this buck run yet?”
He twitched his tail.
LG got her camera focused in just about the time it took me to click off a couple of photos.
The buck shook his head.
LG focused her phone and then we laughed aloud. This decoy buck was doing his job. He fooled us until we got our cameras focused. We’re still laughing about being duped—but the shocking part was how realistic the decoy was.
Upon further research we learned this guy’s name was Wilbur. He was the game officer’s decoy, used to catch poachers. We’d heard about this buck before but had never seen it in action. We had some questions, so we spoke to a local officer with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Here’s what he said.
How often do you place this decoy in the field?
We use the decoy every year, depending on the need as seen by the wildlife officers in the field.
How many of these robo-bucks do you have?
Some game unit managers have their own decoys, but overall there are not too many. We have loaner ones at headquarters and send them out as needed.
Where do the departments find funding to purchase their own decoys?
Colorado Parks and Wildlife acquires decoys with funds raised through violations. If someone shoots the decoy, they receive a fine and lose points, depending on the situation and severity of their infraction. The poacher pays the fees and a portion may be used to support anti-poaching projects.
How do you know when to use the decoy?
Decoys are used during regular game seasons as well as in the off season. Wildlife officers place them in areas to make sure hunters are making not only legal, but ethical shots. Hunters are allowed to use their own decoys during hunting season, too. It’s important for all hunters to verify their targets before they shoot.
Is it OK that we took pictures of the decoy?
Wildlife officers will not stop you from taking pictures of the decoy. It shows it’s working. They may stop you if you attempt to walk up to the decoy. They ask that you do not point out the decoy to others because then it loses its effectiveness.
We were told that Wilbur, the decoy, had been in other locations during the weeks prior, and he’d actually been shot at a time or two.
The decoy is an integral part of the state’s wildlife management program. Hunting license allocations are based on the numbers of animals in the field. If animals are taken in excess of that amount allocated, the balance becomes skewed. We’d like to encourage everyone to help keep healthy animal populations for years to come.
Save Wilbur. No poaching.