In October of 2014, Iowa hunter Joe Franz made headlines after he harvested a massive buck on his property that held a preliminary score of 258 and 7/8. With a score that large, nobody contested his claim when Franz declared that it was the largest buck ever harvested on video.
“I never in a million years thought I’d actually harvest a deer of that caliber,” Franz told WHO-TV. “The main reason we filmed the hunt was to let people share the distinct honor of being a part of this buck’s life and to dispel the naysayers that may be out there.”
However, one of the naysayers now included the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which recently charged Franz with four counts of hunting over bait. Iowa law prohibits hunters from using food or salt blocks to attract deer, which is a common practice in some other states. The DNR did not specify what kind of bait Franz is accused of using, but did claim that the hunter artificially attracted deer to his property. Franz denied any wrongdoing in pursuit of the trophy deer.
“I’m outraged by the charges brought against me,” he told The Des Moines Register. “There’s always jealousy, there’s always accusations, innuendo and I am completely innocent of these charges.”
The charges resulted from an anonymous complaint against Franz shortly after he bagged the buck last year.
You can see the video of that hunt below:
Franz’s lawyer, Bill Kutmus, says the DNR is taking advantage of a vague law to arbitrarily persecute Franz. Currently under state law, Kutmus says there is no specification about how far a hunter has to be from something considered bait or how long the bait should be removed before hunting can begin. It is even possible for a hunter to be charged because minerals from a salt block have seeped into the ground. Kutmus also accused the DNR of taking soil samples from Franz’s property without a search warrant. Franz purchased the 80-acre parcel of land just last June, but had to sell it to pay for court fees.
“I did have to sell my land and I closed on selling my land yesterday so I’d have the means to fight the battle that has ensued,” the hunter said this week. “I want to ensure that there’s not another Iowa hunter that has to endure the pain and suffering my family and I had to incur.”
The hunter says that he’s fighting the charges based on principle. If convicted, Franz faces a fine of $195 on each charge of baiting and potentially other penalties as well. If Franz is acquitted, the DNR will return the mounted buck and Franz’s hunting weapon, which was also surrendered.