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Poachers beware: 'Bambi' is in on sting operation
Country Today ^ | 12-05-02 | Sara Bredesen

Posted on 12/08/2002 6:23:21 AM PST by SJackson

MOSINEE -- So you missed your deer. Don't let a tempting buck at the side of the road lure you into sneaking a parting shot from the window of your truck. That swishing tail might hide a stinger.

Brian Wolslegel, Mosinee, claims that his robotic deer are so lifelike, they draw in poachers, amorous mates and territorial bucks just as effectively as the real thing. The only problem is, there is always a game warden close by.

Since 1995, when Mr. Wolslegel started Custom Robotic Wildlife, he has shipped his battery-powered decoys to 48 states and all the provinces of Canada. Most of those are being used by game wardens to educate the public to endangered species and put the squeeze on unscrupulous hunters.

Mr. Wolslegel credits his mentor, the late Gil Falkowski, with devising the idea of movable parts on whitetail decoys in the early 1990s. They tried a twitching ear, then attached it to the tail with a fishing line, "but they got broken with the game wardens throwing them in and out of their trucks," he said. His critters have evolved to the wildlife version of RoboCop, with custom-designed gearboxes and remote controllers that will turn the head, stamp a foot or make a turkey look like it's fanning its tail and strutting. He is even working through a design that will allow a deer decoy to blow steam from its nostrils in cold weather.

Custom Robotics is a small shop, with Mr. Wolslegel doing most of the production, along with a 16-year-old neighbor, Brad Menning. Mr. Wolslegel's wife, Kelly, does the bookwork.

In spite of its size, the company puts out about 300 decoys a year, marketing the product on the Internet and at wildlife management conventions around the country. The most popular product is whitetail deer, but he also creates robotic elk, moose, caribou, turkey, bear, lynx and fox.

"We do just about every animal there is," Mr. Wolslegel said. Hunters are getting savvier about decoy wildlife, but that doesn't mean that they don't fool a lot of people a lot of the time. Wardens at Seeley Lake, Mont., had to stop a car full of visitors from throwing stones at a grizzly bear decoy. They were trying to get it to move. There are also plenty of decoys that come back for repair after being shot repeatedly by the same hunter. "There are a million stories out there," Mr. Wolslegel said. "People running them over with their cars when they get mad. People trying to get out and shoo the deer away so it won't run across the road."

Realism starts with the foam form, created by freezing a skinned animal carcass in the desired position and making a rubber cast of it. The rubber is than used to create a fiberglass mold, which in turn is used to produce the foam forms.

Mr. Wolslegel covers each form with the appropriate hide, which he glues into place. Movable body parts are cut free and fitted with gearbox and battery packs. Then the whole thing is put back together with glass eyes, steel rods in place of the lower legs and no fancy finish work.

"The wardens will usually put these in the brush, so there'll be grass and stuff covering the legs. If it's too perfect, a guy's going to wonder why it looks so pretty."

A completed deer weighs about 21 pounds and costs about $1,000 with shipping. Mr. Wolslegel said that he figures an average whitetail decoy can bring in $30,000 in fines over its lifetime, "It's a heck of an investment." Local hunters provide deer hides, and more unusual pelts are shipped to his shop by game wardens in other states. Mr. Wolslegel said turkey has become a huge part of the business recently, but it doesn't offer much of a profit margin.

"It takes me the same amount of time to do a turkey as it takes to do two deer," he said, "but you can't charge them double."

He cautions his buyers to place the turkeys in protected areas.

"One shot at the wrong angle, and they're all done." Mr. Wolslegel said he has experimented with different ways to bulletproof his bigger animals, but found that a direct hit doesn't usually do a great deal of damage. "Wardens will duct tape them, weld them, whatever they need," he said.

The gearbox, which is about the size of a one-pound cottage cheese carton, is the only part that can be blasted to oblivion. "We just let the bullet go through and do its damage, which is nice for me, because I've also got a parts business here," he laughed. Mr. Wolslegel said it's difficult for state officials to get competitive bids on the decoys, because he is the only one in the country making them.

"Actually, the wardens themselves are my biggest competition," he said. "They try to make them themselves, using car window motors to make the heads go. Sometimes they start them up and the head starts spinning around, which really freaks the hunters out." His biggest customers are on the east and west coast where hunting laws support the use of decoys for law enforcement.

"Wisconsin is not a good state for decoys," he said. "We do very little business here. It's a huge hunting state, but a terrible state for the laws. If you shoot a deer in Wisconsin, out of season or at night, it's a $2,000 fine and you lose your gun. Here, the law doesn't recognize the decoy as a live animal, so attorneys can get around that very easily by playing with those phrases in the law, and you end up with a $300 or $400 fine."

"In Alaska, it's almost worse to shoot one of their moose or elk decoys than to be caught with a carload of drugs," he added.

Although Mr. Wolslegel has a secure corner on the robotic decoy market, he is planning to expand his business into malls and wildlife displays for pleasure, and maybe even a little law enforcement.

His current project is a Christmas display at Cedar Creek Mall near Schofield where youngsters coming to visit Santa will walk through a winter wonderland of animated deer, fox, coyote and turkey.

He also has robotic wildlife in a Christmas display at Clifton Mills, a reenactment village in Clifton, Ohio, and visitors to the Marshfield Wal-Mart will find one of his whitetails featured in the hunting department. "I've been playing around with the idea of putting a camera behind the deer's eyes for loss prevention," he said.

Not only would the animal draw buyers to a display, but it would also keep an eye out for shoplifters. "They know all about the hidden cameras in the globes, and like that, but they're not looking at something that's on the floor and looking right at them." If you're in the market for a robotic deer in your back yard, Mr. Wolslegel can arrange that as well.

"I might sell 50 deer at a convention to wardens, but at one show, I had three guys walk up to me who don't bow hunt and said it was the coolest thing they had ever seen, and bought them to put in their yards," he said. "I sold one to a guy who was goofing around with his neighbor. He was going to take it out to the guy's tree stand with a marine battery, and it would be standing there when the sun came up in the morning."

Custom Wildlife Robotics has been featured in Petersen's Hunting, Bow and Arrow Hunting and Deer and Deer Hunting magazines. ABC's Prime Time television show did a segment last year, appropriately titled "Bambi's Revenge."

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News
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1 posted on 12/08/2002 6:23:22 AM PST by SJackson
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To: SJackson

And don't even think of messing with those pink flamingos on my lawn, buster!


2 posted on 12/08/2002 6:28:26 AM PST by martin_fierro
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Comment #3 Removed by Moderator

To: cavtrooper21; dd5339
Robo-Bambi ping!
4 posted on 12/08/2002 6:30:56 AM PST by Vic3O3
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To: SJackson
Realism starts with the foam form, created by freezing a skinned animal carcass in the desired position and making a rubber cast of it.

That bear mold must've been ... well, a bear. <|:)~

5 posted on 12/08/2002 6:32:08 AM PST by martin_fierro
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To: SJackson
I've seen videos of hunters (and I use that word loosely) shooting at a lawn ornament-type deer the DNR put out. No fur, no robotics, no movement at all--but they shot at it anyway, and usually from a vehicle or roadside. Of course, here they also shoot at Holsteins, thinking a 800 lb. black & white cow with a full udder is a whitetail. Even spraypainting COW on the side of the Holsteins in day glow paint doesn't deter these woodsmen.
6 posted on 12/08/2002 6:38:53 AM PST by Catspaw
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To: SJackson
The Fish and Game Service ( haha F.A.G.S. No offence to anyone that works for them though...) here is using the robo-bucks to nab poachers, they seem to work well, although a friend at work was worried last year becasue they put a robo-buck up behind her house and she was worried about stray shots making it to the house...guess they should have looked to see what was on the other side of the trees and brush...DOHT
7 posted on 12/08/2002 6:39:32 AM PST by MD_Willington_1976
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To: SJackson
bump to show Mr. Ditter when he gets home from hunting tonight. lol
8 posted on 12/08/2002 6:42:44 AM PST by Ditter
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Comment #9 Removed by Moderator

To: SJackson
Some enterprising young hacker is going to clone the codes to these critters and sell RF devices to take them over ...imagine the F.A.G.S.' critters walking off the job...while they sit in their blinds frantically pushing buttons....BWHAHAHAHA
10 posted on 12/08/2002 6:44:53 AM PST by joesnuffy
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I was using the terms "hunter" and "woodsmen" loosely, very loosely. My dad was a hunter and woodsman and he was very careful about his hunting partners. If a new hunting partner did something stupid, he'd call off the hunt and head back to the truck saying, "I'm not going to get shot by some idiot like you."
11 posted on 12/08/2002 6:47:13 AM PST by Catspaw
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To: SJackson
One or two of the guys I work with were stupid enough to get caught shooting at fake deer a few years ago. I live in New York State. I believe they received a stiff fine, plus lost their shotgun/rifle. It was quite the joke going around the facility. Fellow employees (and other hunters) can be very cruel when it comes to not letting someone live down an incident such as this. There's a large number of hunters where I work and each new hunting season brings new tales of comedy.
12 posted on 12/08/2002 6:54:33 AM PST by mass55th
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To: SJackson
Let me get this straight. There is a deer explosion in most of the US. Bambi is going through Burger King (literally) and munching everyone's backyard. Bambi is being slaughtered on the highway causing no end of destrucion to rapidly moving vechiles. There are too many Bambies.

There are people who jack deer. They kill them late at night to put in their freezers. They like tasty deer.

While wild life officials all across the United States are considering ways to diminish the deer population. Bambi birth control and Bambi relocation efforts have been considered and tried.

These are the same people who are trying to trap deer hunters...


13 posted on 12/08/2002 6:57:04 AM PST by mlmr
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To: mlmr
My ex-wife hit a deer on a pretty heavily travelled piece of road about a month ago. Did $2900 in damage to her car. I walk out on the back porch to smoke in the middle of the night, and end up scaring off a herd of six white tails that were going through the garden - or find a buck out there busy tearing down the bird feeder. Does and fawns are walking through the neighborhoods in broad daylight, looking for something to eat. Nah - we don't have a deer problem round here.
14 posted on 12/08/2002 7:04:57 AM PST by Tennessee_Bob
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To: SJackson
"In Alaska, it's almost worse to shoot one of their moose or elk decoys than to be caught with a carload of drugs," he added.

This year it has been grouse. Lots of folks down here on the peninsula getting hefty fines and their liscenses confiscated for shooting at grouse decoys from the road.

15 posted on 12/08/2002 7:07:28 AM PST by alaskanfan
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To: alaskanfan

Pheasant & Grouse

The placement of these decoys is critical due to their feathers. A direct hit at close range will do considerable damage. Always place your decoy just out of range if possible. These decoys can be shipped by UPS.

Skin Availability: customer supplied
Mounting positions: standing
Represented decoy weight: N/A
Actual decoy weight: N/A
Available robotics: head
0ptions: N/A Life-size mount only - $300.00
Life-size mount w/robotic head - $450.00
Packing & Crating - $25.00

16 posted on 12/08/2002 7:12:09 AM PST by SJackson
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To: Tennessee_Bob
Posted Dec. 08, 2002

Green Bay plans urban deer huntPopulation control could begin by next month

By Karen Rauen

After more than a year of brainstorming, Green Bay could be just more than a month away from reducing its pesky urban deer population.

The city is working toward a two-pronged approach to reduce the deer herd.

Long-term bow hunting by qualified hunters in specified areas of the city could help manage the city’s deer population, said Frank Roznik, manager of the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary.

In the short term, the city is in the process of applying to the state Department of Natural Resources for an Urban Deer Control grant, which would provide funds to bring in sharpshooters to reduce the urban deer population.

Green Bay aldermen on the far east side have received complaints from constituents for the last couple of years: Deer in the road, deer eating the garden, deer eating the crops.

“I lost everything this year,” said Echo Hill Drive resident Roxanne Nimmer. “They ate things they’ve never ate before.”

And they keep getting smarter. No matter what she tries to keep them at bay, the deer come back to feast on her hostas, tiger lilies, apples, beans, tomatoes and cucumbers.

Such problems spurred the creation of a Deer Control Subcommittee that has worked to find a safe, effective and economical solution. The committee recently came up with a framework of how the city will handle urban-deer management.

Hunting already goes on in the city. Farmers who have large amounts of crop damage can go through a state DNR program facilitated locally to allow hunting on their property. The state has had deer-damage assistance for farmers since 1931.

“The city is using that same program to extend further in Baird’s Creek after the regular season ends,” Roznik said. Green Bay also has authorized hunting in another section of land on the city’s northeast side, where it borders the town of Scott.

Although the nuts and bolts still are being worked out, Roznik envisions that hunters who have been qualified and had background checks will be able to bow hunt in the expanded areas.

The program likely would begin in January and continue through April. It would discontinue in summer and start again after August.

Hunters would be under specific limitations and signs would be placed in surrounding areas warning of the deer management.

“The problem is anytime you have too many deer … they overpopulate and the carrying capacity of the land is far exceeded,” he said. That’s when the deer start to destroy their habitat.

Paul Hartman, Brown County UW-Extension horticulture agent, is familiar with damage done by deer to the vegetation along Baird Creek.

“There’s too many,” Hartman said. “The main concern is that a high deer population … will tip the balance in the ecology of the area. You end up where you don’t get the natural production that you should get.”

White cedar trees are a good example, he said. They won’t reproduce well because the deer eat saplings before they can get big enough to reproduce.

In the Baird Creek area, Roznik said, there are 350 deer. He hopes to remove about 200 deer.

Eventually, once the system is in place on the east side, it will expand into other areas of the city with deer problems.

“It’s a very difficult topic,” Roznik said. “I think the deer are great, too,” he said. But even at the Wildlife Sanctuary, “we have to manage deer every year, otherwise our vegetation resources would be destroyed.”

17 posted on 12/08/2002 7:21:25 AM PST by Catspaw
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To: mlmr
These are the same people who are trying to trap deer hunters...

In Wisconsin, the fake deer are being used to nab hunters who are shooting from their vehicles or shooting from the roadway. If these idiots were actual hunters and walked the few yards into the woods, they'd realize that the deer the DNR put out were fakes.

Maybe they just didn't want to get their boots dirty.

18 posted on 12/08/2002 7:24:32 AM PST by Catspaw
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To: Lion Den Dan; Jeff Head; Squantos; harpseal; Travis McGee; chookter; pocat; the irate magistrate; ..
BTTT, grab a cup of coffee and enjoy.
19 posted on 12/08/2002 7:40:24 AM PST by SLB
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To: mlmr
I am sorry I don't feel sorry for the "sportsmen" who get caught shooting at animals from the road. These morons deserve everything they get.
20 posted on 12/08/2002 7:49:17 AM PST by ItisaReligionofPeace
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