Behind the Badge
Cases of Mistaken Identity
District Game Warden Keenan Snyder
Every year North Dakota game wardens deal with cases where a hunter misidentifies an animal harvested, whether it is big game, waterfowl, or pheasants.
Throughout my career I have dealt with several cases of misidentification, most of which would be the error in waterfowl identification.
Some hunters will be honest and call me and admit that they have made a mistake, others I have watched hide their mistakes.
In fall of 2023, I vividly recall watching a group of young high school aged hunters waterfowl hunting.
At one point during their hunt, I observed one hunter walk to the edge of a field with a white bird in his hand.
He then tossed the bird into the grass and walked back to the snow goose spread.
"Hmmm, that’s interesting" I thought.
After a while watching the group of hunters, they decided to end the hunt and start to pick up decoys.
This is when I conducted a field check.
The young hunter I observed tossing a bird into the grass took some convincing for him to admit that he shot a gull thinking it was a snow goose.
Could this young hunter have dealt with the situation better by contacting a warden? Yes, but instead he had to deal with harsher consequences of his actions.
Early in my career I received a phone call from a moose hunter in the river bottom south of Willison.
He said that he just shot a bull moose but has a cow license.
I met up with the hunter where he shot the moose which was a yearling bull.
One antler was still in velvet and was the same color of his fur while the other antler barely protruded outside his ears.
I asked the hunter his story of the hunt and he said that there were several moose trotting across the field headed into the tree line.
One stopped on the ditch next to the road and he thought it was a cow and he shot it.
Once he walked up to the moose, he realized it was a bull with antlers.
I explained that he did the right thing by calling me.
I decided that the circumstances of this misidentification did not warrant a citation, but rather a warning.
He was very grateful for being able to keep his moose and not lose his hunting privileges.
A few years ago, I had a first-time youth whitetail deer hunter mistake a small buck for a doe.
His dad called me about the mistake, and we met up at the Williston Game and Fish Office.
The young hunter told me the story of the hunt and what happened.
The deer were just inside some brush, and he thought that he was shooting a doe.
This young man was pretty bummed and scared of his mistake.
As a group we had a good talk about how mistakes are made and the best thing they could do was to contact me and the consequences that can occur if they didn't.
Another moose misidentification took place when a lady self-reported to the sheriff's office her shooting the wrong moose.
The moose she shot was not a small bull moose, but a mature bull.
Her story was her and her husband were driving when they saw a bull and cow in an abandoned farmyard.
They pulled over on the side of the road and she got out and made her way to the back of the truck by the tailgate, using the bedrail of the truck as a rest, and took three shots across the road.
She missed the cow all three times.
The moose then ran across the road in front of the truck, where she took another shot at what she thought was the cow.
Unfortunately, she did not shoot the cow, she shot the bull instead.
I soon found out that the reason she missed the cow three times was when she used the bedrail of the truck as a rest, she shot right through the opposite side of the truck bed.
Her scope was above the truck bed, but apparently the barrel was not.
In her frustration of missing, she shot the first moose she had in her scope which turned out to be the bull.
At the end of the day, we are all human and will make mistakes.
All game wardens understand this and are willing to help in every situation as warranted.
The best outcome that a hunter that mistakenly harvests the wrong animal is to call and self-report.