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.



Image screenshot of video by Trophy Pursuit on YouTube

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8 thoughts on “Hunter Who Bagged the “Largest Buck on Video” Charged with Baiting

  1. Doesn’t surprise me. And don’t take me wrong, but a long time hunter myself. But how many times do we see these stories of monster bucks by the media and months and even years later to find out it was an illegal animal. These ego head hunters are unreal. All about, look at me, I have the biggest, type person!. First thing they should want is to be a REAL HUNTER…By the way it has the very character of a “Free Roaming Pen Whitetail”

  2. I live in Iowa on a farm and guys bait deer all the time. The last thing you do is to do it openly so other people are aware of it, which might be the case here. You just remove the stuff well before the season starts and you are good to go. The statement that people turned him in because they are envious of his trophy is just nuts. This guys head is way to big for his shoulders and it shows. The DNR in Iowa is extremely supportive of hunters and deer hunters in particular because we have a growing deer population that is out of control in many areas. What happens every year here is that there are hunters that take game illegally and they get caught. The DNR will then take your game, gun, pickup, etc. and whatever you used on the hunt. That is the law. As for entering his property illegally, game wardens can go just about anywhere they want when they want. It’s their job! As for this guy selling 80 acres to pay for court costs I have to say they guy is stretching the truth or is paying his lawyer way too much. This guys whole story just stinks like he got caught with his hands in the cookie jar and he doesn’t like it. I am also confident that if this guy is in the right that there are a number of sportsman’s groups that would pony up the lawyers fees and court costs to make this go away for the guy. So, in my opinion from the information given here, I believe this guy is in the wrong and should pay the price. If his innocent, I hope he wins his day in court but don’t make the DNR and their representatives out to be bad guys because they are not. They are here to enforce our game laws and preserve our resources so that the same can be enjoyed by everyone.

    1. I agree that if he did it illegally he should face all the consequences. I do support and respect the dnr and what they do but they still have no legal right to enter onto a privately owned property or remove items to be used as evidence without a warrant. That is still considered trespassing and theft without proper documentation. Therefore if they are wrong in their pursuit of obtaining justice for other hunters, they should be charged for their violations as well. If everything must be right, it must be right on both sides of the fence.

  3. He probably did bait. Before it was legal in NJ I found out people were using dried molasses. Try finding that on the ground. Not happening!!!!

  4. What is the real difference between “baiting” and hunting over a “food plot”. Both are there to attract the deer and help them have better growth and so forth.

    1. “Bait” means grain, fruit, vegetables, nuts, hay, salt, mineral blocks, or any other natural food materials, commercial products containing natural food materials, or by-products of such materials transported to or placed in an area for the purpose of attracting wildlife. Bait does not include food placed during normal agricultural activities.
      This is what the law is in Iowa. A food plot for wildlife is considered baiting. If the guy had planted corn and harvested it, the remaining corn dropped on the ground by the harvesting equipment would not be considered bait because it was a bi-product of normal agriculture.
      So the answer is, hunting over a food plot is illegal in Iowa. Also, deer grow & populate just fine on their own. They do not need us supplementing their diets with anything. Deer are so plentiful that over population is becoming a big problem here, even to the point, that towns are now allowing bow hunting within city limits to help cull the herds.
      Anyway, the guy broke the law even if he didn’t know what the law was. Something about “ignorance of the law is no excuse” comes to mind. The guy needs to man-up on this and pay his fine. Then he can weep into his beer about losing the mounted deer head and his rifle. He is lucky they didn’t take his truck he used on the hunt. Ah, don’t laugh, I’ve seen it happen.

  5. Nowhere in the article do I see how he ” baited ” his land . There is a lot of speculation , but no statement of facts that should be available in public records of the charges filed against him . Did he have a mineral block in his field ? Did he plant something that deer find irresistible ? Is it possible that that someone is jealous and complained to an overzealous game warden ? There are too many questions , as yet unanswered , to intelligently decide the ” rightness ” in this case .

  6. I think some people are very naive about what some egohead will do to get “the biggest”. I wish in my state of Michigan we had ethicial hunting rules. Baiting here is nothing about a dollar in the pocket. Food plots are considered ok also. Anything “brown goes down ” is the attitude in Michigan. DNR melts at any opposition..

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