Hunters suspected of bear baiting, hunting without a license

Two Olympia men face numerous potential criminal hunting citations after Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officers found them apparently illegally hunting with two girls — ages 8 and 10 — one of whom was carrying a loaded shotgun as she rode in the back of a pickup in Capitol State Forest Oct. 14, court papers state.

According to a search warrant affidavit filed in Thurston County Superior Court in connection with the case:

Fish and Wildlife officers were dispatched to Capitol Forest Oct. 14 on a report of vehicles driving on state Department of Natural Resources land in a road closure area. The officers made contact with several hunters traveling in a pickup. Two adult men and the daughters of one of the men, ages 8 and 10, were contacted.

The group said they were hunting deer, but only one of the adult males was licensed to hunt deer. One of the girls was illegally carrying a loaded shotgun in the back of the pickup.

The father of the two girls said he was bear hunting only and had a 2012 bear license. The father pointed out that the officer had taught the two girls in a hunter education and safety class, which he, too, had attended. The father “stated that the entire group was hunting for deer except for him. He stated that he was an archery deer hunter and today he was merely acting as a guide for deer and hunting for bear himself.”

After questioning the girls in the back of the truck, the Fish and Wildlife officer learned that the father had doused a rotten tree stump with molasses and stuffed it with apples in order to attract bears to the location. “The girls were apparently unaware that bear baiting was a crime.”

The father told an officer that he had often hunted for deer in the area, including on one occasion in September, when a friend had shot a deer, and “did not tag it as required by law.” The father granted the officer permission to search a chest freezer in his bedroom at his Olympia home.

The officer also obtained a search warrant for an Olympia home belonging to the suspect’s friend. The search warrant affidavit indicates the officer subsequently seized venison from the man’s freezer.

According to checks of criminal records databases, as of Monday none of the three men had been charged with a crime.

Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445