Oh, deer! Florida hunter shoots at robotic ‘Bambi,’ faces firearms charges

A faux deer during a recent Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission operation targeting road-hunting activity.
A faux deer during a recent Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission operation targeting road-hunting activity.
Bradenton Herald

Bradenton Herald

A deer rested on the side of the road.

Waiting, apparently.

Just waiting and hoping a hunter would come along, forget the rules, aim and shoot.

After a couple hours, an unwary hunter took the bait and clanged a shot off the robotic deer.

The Myakka City man was fooled by a faux deer during a recent Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission operation targeting road-hunting activity. He now faces serious charges.

Brett Russel Thompson was arrested at 8:30 a.m. Saturday after shooting the robotic Bambi in the neck from the side of a rural road south of Myakka City, according to an arrest report.

Thompson is charged with taking deer during closed season, discharging a firearm from a roadway and taking deer from a right-of-way. He faces up to a year in jail and $2,500 in fines if convicted.

FWC officers reportedly saw Thompson about 8:15 a.m. when he spotted the deer replica and got out of his vehicle.

"He crossed a ditch and walked up toward the fence carrying a rifle," the report stated. "He placed the rifle on the fence to steady himself and shot at the replica."

Thompson was then arrested by FWC officers who emerged from hiding nearby.

"He said that he knew hunting season was closed and also knew that it was illegal to shoot deer from a roadway," the arrest report stated.

After confirming Thompson's shot struck the robotic deer in the neck, FWC Officer Jeffrey Babauta took him into custody.

Thompson was released from jail Sunday after posting $1,120 in bonds. He is scheduled to appear in court at 8:30 a.m. Dec. 12.

FWC has been using robotic deer details for decades, according to FWC spokesman Gary Morse.

"We set up details where we suspect poachers might be harvesting deer illegally," Morse said. "We wait to catch them in the act."

The sting details are often set up at night or in areas where shooting is illegal.

"There are several ways you could be charged," Babauta said.

The maximum charge a hunter could face is trespassing by projectile, a third-degree felony, for shooting across a fence line, according to Babauta. The maximum sentence is five years of prison and $5,000 in fines.

Convicted felons are not allowed to carry a firearm while hunting.

Babauta said repeat offenders are caught from time to time.

"The majority of our hunters are good, ethical hunters," Babauta said.

A lot of planning involved in setting up a robotic deer detail, but officers say it is effective.

"It's a great detail and it has been a great tool for FWC to deter bad hunting practices," Babauta said. "It does help. Once word gets out that there is a fake deer out there, it deters the bad hunting."

Location is key in setting up a detail. A location in Zone A, south of State Road 70, was chosen for the latest operation because it is an area known for illegal hunting activity and the FWC has received complaints from residents.

Hunting season will open Nov. 23 in Zone A and run through Jan. 5. North of State Road 70 in Manatee County, hunting season opened Nov. 2. and closes Jan. 19.

Babauta, a 30-year-veteran with FWC, has been conducting deer details for 20 years. As a canine officer he also travels with a dog trained specifically to find wildlife, articles such as firearms and knives, and track people.

"Our main reason for doing these details is for safety, to stop poaching, stop people from shooting into private property and stop people from taking deer illegally," Babauta said

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