Iowa hunter Joe Franz has been exonerated of all charges after a court ruling found that he was not guilty of harvesting a Marion County buck—believed to be the largest ever taken on video—over bait. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) also announced that it will be returning to Franz the mount of the deer and his hunting equipment. The buck was greenscored at 258 and 7/8 inches.

“I think the verdict that was handed down is a victory not only for my family and me but also for all the hunters in the state of Iowa because I think it`s been a landmark decision,” Franz told WHO-TV.

DNR officers charged Franz last year with four counts of hunting over bait for the buck, which was harvested on his 80-acre acre property in 2014. Officials said that Franz knowingly hunted near a mineral lick set up by the property’s previous owner. Franz however, said he contacted the DNR prior to hunting specifically to ask about dealing with baited areas. He said he was instructed to cover up the mineral licks, which he did.

In the end, the video of the hunt proved to be Franz’s greatest defense. It showed that before it was harvested, the deer had little interest in the mineral lick, and neither approached it or inspected it from a distance. Due to this, District Court Judge Thomas Mott found Franz not guilty of the charges.

You can see the video of his hunt below:

Franz’s lawyer, Bill Kutmus, says Mott’s ruling backs up his assertion that Iowa’s baiting law is worryingly ambiguous. The law does not specify how far a hunter has to be from a baiting site, or in some cases, even how long ago bait was in the area.

“They’ve got to show, in essence, that you used that bait specifically and with the intent to violate the law,” Kutmus told The Des Moines Register.

Joe Franz finally got his buck back from IA DNR. Sad that he had to sell his property to pay for his lawyer bill. Exonerated, but without property!! Marv Grandstaff

Posted by Bonebrothers Outdoors on Tuesday, February 23, 2016


The case also drew significant criticism, even from lawmakers, after it was reported that DNR officers took soil samples from Franz’s property without a warrant.

“Going on private property without a warrant, that is questionable. If they remove anything while on private property, then they really could have problems,” State Representative Clel Baudler told Raccoon Valley Radio.

Baudler and State Senator Jake Chapman are two of the lawmakers currently making an inquiry into the DNR and its enforcement policies. Other legislators are in favor of amending Iowa’s laws on baiting to make regulations more specific.

A DNR spokesperson said the department was receptive to both new laws and changes on its end. The department plans on working with both lawmakers and hunters more closely moving forward.

Image screenshot of video by Trophy Pursuit on YouTube

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7 thoughts on “Update: Joe Franz Cleared of Poaching Giant Buck

  1. I see that he had to sell his hunting property to pay for defending himself! I would counter sue for defamation of character.

  2. He had to sell his property to pay the lawyer?! I would counter sue the A$$hole that started this for defamation of character.

    1. In addition to the state, right? They are the ones who brought the false charges. It was their responsibility for the poorly written law as well. It was them that illegally gained evidence to convict him and now they are back sprinting not just back walking. They know how much trouble they caused and how trouble they are in. This guy did everything right, legally and ethically, the other side did a lot of damage. Over reaching govt control. Soft tyranny.

      1. If government was ever made to be liable for what has been done to it’s citizenry by the government ,we’d probably have to go back to Eden and have Eve slap Adam for getting fresh and go from there . The biggest problem would be to find the starting point . Think about it this way . The most feared and hated part of Czarist Russia’s government was the secret police ; after the revolution it became ….( INTACT ) .. The N.K.V.D , later renamed , The K.G.B. Putin was/is the head of the K.G.B.

  3. Typical government result. Make em sell everything to enrich the state and the lawyers. Bankrupt the defendant. A “$ six figure” mount.

  4. Another case of government bully tactics. Some anti-hunting, anti-guntard makes unfounded accusations and a government agency pounces on the falsely accused to levies fines. It’s now up to the accused to not only get a lawyer to defend themselves, but pay the lawyers exorbitant fees without recompense from the government to fight the spurious charges. If the defendant wins or loses the case, he’s lost either way.

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