Downstairs, the women found that Gary Kayser had turned on the outdoor lights and was watching vehicle headlights at the end of the driveway on Middle Fork Road.
The lights were angled toward an area closer to the house, in the middle of the hayfield. The driver quickly backed up the ascent to the road, which wasn’t easy.
The Kaysers gave it little thought the rest of the evening. On Sunday at 5 p.m., when Gary walked out to turn on the irrigation system, he discovered a six-point buck lying in the tall grass—still soft.
He had been shot with an arrow through both legs, the arrow splitting the femur of the second leg. He couldn’t have moved. There were footprints from the driveway that led to the spot where the deer lay.
What’s gone on in the minds of the Kayser family since then is disquieting. “I feel watched, I feel violated,” says Shelly Kayser. “People have invaded my space. I’m innocent, a victim, just like the buck.”
Shelly walks through the grass to the worn path that leads up the embankment to the road. She points to a turn-out where it would be easy to park unseen at the house. She ponders. “Who knows how many times they came and watched and planned?”
The view to the spot where the buck was killed is clear. “This is a deer habitat—a cultivated hayfield and illegal hunting grounds. Any hunter would know that,” she fumes. “Everyone driving by knows when you have a beautiful buck on your land. You know he’s going to get hunted—and killed sooner or later.”
Shelly’s anger also comes from the violation of an ethical code. “The way he was dishonestly hunted and abandoned is not acceptable for me. A beautiful animal was illegally wasted; now he’s in the garbage can. The Fish and Game guy called it murder—pointless killing.”
Ben Cadwallader, Senior Conservation Officer for Idaho Fish and Game, picked up the animal on Monday. He says he collected lots of evidence and has suspects in mind. “It’s an obvious trespass type of case,” he states. “The deer died on private property, shot from the road; they were scared off before collection. It’s not the first time it’s happened in the last two weeks.” A week earlier, an elk bull was found not far from here.
“Middle Fork homes and houses—elk are dying fifty yards from the road. The residents see these people in the area,” says Cadwallader, “This is not normal behavior. People have got to be seeing it—they must be being seen! When they see it, they should be suspicious, rather than blowing it off. This looks bad for hunters who are ethical. These poachers show no respect for people or animals.”
According to Cadwallader, there have been illegal kills up and down the Middle Fork. A white-tailed buck was found behind the fitness building. It could be the same people, he says. They drive around, with someone in the back of pick-ups; they stop and start. It is suspicious behavior that can be observed.
Killing with arrows is quiet. Even though the season for bow-hunting is over, Shelly Kayser is nervous: these hunters have no scruples. “It doesn’t mean they won’t come back. I think the animals are frequently watched, as well as we are.”
This is the third experience the Kaysers have had with bow-hunting poachers. Shelly says, “One of my horses had an arrow blade in her foot. Two years ago, we found an arrow in an irrigation pipe. I saw the guy out there, probably looking for the arrow. Another reason I feel violated—it could hit my horses so easily.”
Gary Kayser says, “Bow-hunting is more of a challenge—or should be. Legitimate hunters will say ‘I hunt. This makes me look bad.’ Not only that. They left me a mess to clean up.”
The point the Kaysers want to make is to get landowners to get enlightened. “We weren’t aware it was hunting season. We’ve just put signs up everywhere today. We’re not against hunting—just not on our land.”
Later, this message arrives from Shelly Kayser: “Two hours after the sign was posted at the 6-mile marker scene of the crime, it was gone.” Shelly wonders if the suspect was upset. She says she’s not here to fight a war; it’s her constitutional right to not allow hunting on her property.
Ben Cadwallader wants people to be apprised that these poaching bow-hunters are doing this right under their noses. “If you see something that looks suspicious, get on the phone.”
If he gets two or three calls, he can put something together. Phone him at 208-989-9323 or contact “Citizens Against Poaching” at 1-800-632-5999.