Hunter sabotages rival’s tree stand, sends him falling 15 feet, Michigan officials say

A hunter plunged from his tree stand, falling 15 to 20 feet toward the ground, after a rival sabotaged him with a “dangerous trap,” according to authorities in Michigan.

Now years later, a 23-year-old man from Chelsea has been sentenced to 60 days in jail. His hunting privileges have also been “revoked for an undetermined amount of time,” officials said.

“Hunter harassment is real and taken very seriously,” Dave Shaw, chief of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division, said in a Jan. 26 news release. “Most hunters respect the land and each other and take pride in an ethical hunt.”

His ‘hunting spot’

The man first began harassing a rival hunter in October 2020, according to the release.

An Upper Peninsula hunter had gotten to his tree stand — on state hunting land in Marquette County — and found a note on his trail camera, officials said. The note was left by a Northern Michigan University student, officials said, and it asked the other hunter to call him because the tree stand was in his “hunting spot.” The photos had also been deleted from the trail camera.

The hunter called the college student, “apologizing that he was unaware someone was using the area,” officials said.

“Over the phone, (the man) insisted that the hunter stay off the land,” according to the release. “Eventually the hunter lost patience and told (him) he would stay away.”

In Michigan, hunters cannot claim spots on public hunting land. Tree stands left on state land may be used by anyone, officials said.

So a few weeks after the phone call, the hunter returned to his tree stand, which appeared untouched but actually had been messed with to create a “dangerous trap,” according to the release.

“He grabbed the memory card from his trail camera, then started to climb up his tree stand,” authorities said. “Yanking on the climbing sticks, everything was secure. He climbed to the top, which appeared intact, then stepped onto the platform of his stand and immediately fell 15 to 20 feet to the ground.”

His back and ankle were hurt after landing on his feet, officials said, and he saw his stand dangling about 8 feet up after the straps had been cut.

“Concerned that (the other man) was watching him on a camera, the hunter quickly limped out of the woods,” officials said. “Once at home, he called 911 and checked his memory card, which had been wiped clean of images for the second time.”

A conservation officer launched an investigation into the incidents.

‘Trap door effect’

Weeks later, the hunter returned to the same spot and set up his tree stand with new straps as the other man was spying on him with a camera, according to the release.

The rival texted the hunter, authorities said, saying, “Are we going to work something out for this spot or what? I got a picture of you yesterday going in there with climbing sticks. Just not gonna respect I was there first?”

Conservation officers monitored the tree stand, finding evidence that the straps had been cut a second time.

“The straps were cut in such a way that they would support the weight of the tree stand but would break as soon as additional weight was applied to them, having a trap door effect,” Conservation Officer Josh Boudreaux said in the release. “The victim would have fallen 15 to 20 feet to the ground.”

The straps on a hunter’s tree stand were cut in an act of sabotage, officials said.
The straps on a hunter’s tree stand were cut in an act of sabotage, officials said.

Threatening voicemails

The state department got a warrant for the suspect’s trail camera, then removed it from state land, officials said. The man thought the other hunter had removed it, so he began threatening him in voicemails, according to the release.

The now 23-year-old man called 911 to report his missing camera, authorities said.

Two conservation officers met the man in person along with Northern Michigan University public safety officers, according to the release.

The man confessed to sabotaging the other hunter’s tree stand, authorities said.

Having already been suspended from the college, he withdrew before being expelled, according to the release.

He was charged in 2021, then pleaded guilty to misdemeanors of aggravated assault and hunter harassment.

In addition to jail time and revoked hunting privileges, the man is required to reimburse the other hunter’s medical expenses from the fall and serve one year of probation.

Michigan is a member of the Interstate Wildlife Violator’s Compact, meaning the man’s hunting rights will be revoked in almost all U.S. states, officials said.

“The DNR hopes that by sharing the details of this case, we can bring awareness to the consequences of this person’s unethical and dangerous behavior and know that it will not be tolerated,” Shaw said.

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