By Cory Olsen
GREENVILLE, MI — A waterfowl hunting guide from Greenville found himself in an unexpected situation while hunting on Saginaw Bay Oct. 14.
Stephen Schnautz, owner of R and D Waterfowl Guide Service, was headed in from a day on the water when he noticed something peculiar near the boat ramp.
“I came into the boat launch from hunting and I was the only one there,” Schnautz said. “As I was loading the boat up on the trailer I noticed what I thought was a dead duck floating in the water next to the ramp.
“I walked over and revealed 11 dead redheads all tied together. A quick look around revealed another group of 7 redheads totaling 18 dead birds.”
Schnautz said the redhead is a type of diving duck that is highly sought after, but the daily bag limit is 2 per person.
Eighteen birds would have require nine hunters. Not something totally uncommon but unlikely, he said.
“Besides a possible over limit, it was blatant wanton waste by leaving the birds harvested floating in the water,” Schnautz said.
He then called the Michigan DNR Report All Poaching line (RAP) to tell officers about his finding.
“They did an immediate follow up and recovered the dead birds I pulled to up on dry ground,” Schnautz said.
Unbeknownst to Schnautz, the story of the dead birds began the night before.
At approximately 8:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 13, conservation officer Nick Atkin was at the Pine River Boating Access Site in Arenac County checking waterfowl hunters when he encountered a pair of hunters.
He noted they were acting nervous when he spoke to them, but because of the darkness and fog he couldn't see that the pair allegedly hid a stringer of 18 redhead ducks under the boat dock at the site.
When the hunters arrived on shore with their boat, Officer Atkin noted they had two redhead ducks in the boat with them.
Officer Atkin, along with conservation officer Phil Hudson, then tracked down the hunters from the previous night and obtained a confession from them.
They admitted to shooting 20 redhead ducks while hunting that day.
The men were ticketed for being over the bag limit for redhead ducks and face restitution payments to the Game and Fish Protection Fund of $100 to $500 per duck.
They have previous waterfowl hunting violations, according to the officers.
"This case is another example of how it pays to call the RAP Line," DNR Lt. Glenn Gutierrez said. "Anytime you are outdoors and find evidence of a violation, you should call the RAP Line so our officers can investigate it."
Schnautz said he was pleased with the result and never regretted called the RAP line.
“I hate seeing that stuff,” Schnautz said. “People make mistakes, I do, but that's more than a legal limit no matter what they shot.”
The men have 10 days to appear in 81st District Court in Arenac County to pay their fines and restitution.