A three-judge panel of the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled last week that a man dressed in blaze orange during hunting season, armed with a scoped 12 gauge shotgun, while sitting on an ATV inside a camouflage deer blind, was in the act of pursuing deer.
The ruling upheld the conviction of Roger B. Schmid, 81, of Avon, Minnesota, cited by a game warden in November 2011 for not having the proper license to take another deer after he’d shot one the night before. In court proceedings, Schmid contended he was nature watching, coyote hunting and sitting near some friends who were hunting.
In 2012, a jury agreed Schmid was guilty of hunting without a license, and he appealed his conviction.
Schmid’s argument to the Appeals Court centered around semantics, as he claimed he wasn’t literally in the process of “taking” a deer, which involves “pursuing, shooting, killing, capturing, trapping, snaring, angling, spearing or netting wild animals.”
But the octogenarian’s defining moment didn’t fly with the Court.
“It would be silly to limit [pursue] to that meaning, especially in the deer-hunting context,” Judge Kevin Ross wrote in the Court’s decision, in which he cited the Declaration of Independence, the dictionary, the Bible, and several articles by outdoor and hunting writers.
The nine-page published opinion ruled that entering a deer-hunting area, sitting in a camouflage blind and being armed with a loaded gun constitutes “pursuing” deer under the law. (Read the entire opinion here.)
“So while a ‘pursuit’ might involve a foot chase, it need not. A young romantic ‘pursues’ a mate, ordinarily without a foot chase. We are not confused that a police officer both pursues her career and pursues a suspect. The varied current meaning includes ‘to chase,’ as Schmid contends, but it also includes ‘to seek after; to try to obtain or accomplish,” the Court opinion read.
“‘Pursue’ is similarly nuanced in the hunting context,” the opinion read. “For example, the hunter commonly pursues (as in ‘seeks after’ or ‘tries to obtain’) game birds using a flushing dog. The dog runs ahead to ruffle the brush, frightening the birds and exposing them to the hunter’s shot as they take flight. The hunter has moved into the birds’ habitat intending to fire on them when he has the chance. The armed hunter tromping through the brush is pursuing the birds. No direct chasing is involved; the hunter need not take flight. This is undisputed, as Schmid conceded through counsel at oral argument that entering pheasant habitat in this way constitutes ‘pursuing’ pheasants in a pheasant hunt.”
Judge Ross also inferred criminal intent from Schmid’s behavior, “given the credibility deficit” he showed by offering multiple, conflicting explanations for what he was doing when cited.
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