Profile of Road Hunters in Tennessee Observed During the Use of Decoy Deer

Hunters shooting white-tailed deer from roadways, illegal in Tennessee, is a problem that, among other things, creates a bad image and publicity for sport hunting. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) has used decoy deer to help apprehend violators and combat this problem. We evaluated the use of this technique by designing and distributing survey forms to TWRA wildlife officers. We collected survey forms (N = 100) from 21 different counties. Only 17.8% of 734 vehicles that passed decoy deer during the survey periods stopped, but violations were committed by occupants of 46.6% of stopped vehicles. Violations occurred more often from slow moving (<16 km/hour) vehicles than from vehicles that were traveling at 16-48 km/hour (P < 0.001), and more often from vehicles that stopped suddenly than those that came to a gradual stop (P = 0.016). Violations occurred most often from pickup trucks with 2 male occupants of mixed ages. Violations occurred within 1 minute after stopping 63.3% of the time and within 5 minutes 96.7% of the time, and TWRA officers recorded only 1 instance where shooting occurred from a vehicle that passed the decoy >2 times before stopping. Almost 40% of 117 recorded behaviors of nonviolating occupants of stopped vehicles consisted of movements or noises apparently made to determine if the decoy were alive. Although decoy deer are an important tool in apprehending road hunters in Tennessee, our study indicates that some individuals are aware of its use and are taking measures to determine authenticity. Continued decoy refinement (e.g., use of moving decoys) and additional approaches (e.g., vehicle/gun laws) are needed for effective enforcement of road hunting laws.

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