Gary Kinsland is an experienced hunter who has hunted Red River Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Concordia Parish for 34 years since he moved to Louisiana from Oregon in 1977. Kinsland, 63, of Sunset, typically harvests two deer per year from the WMA along with several feral hogs.
During one hunt last season, Kinsland harvested a 13-point non-typical deer from the Red River WMA. However, it was also during the 2009-10 hunting season that Kinsland faced his biggest hunting disappointment.
Sitting on a deer stand in his favorite tree on the WMA last November, and after having already seen a buck earlier in the day without getting a clear shot, Kinsland heard hogs squealing.
"I didn't head to my stand that morning to get a hog," said Kinsland. "I was deer hunting and wanted a deer. But, these hogs were there and I said to myself that if they pass a clearing I will go ahead and shoot at them."
Kinsland said that after a little while the sound of hogs moving and squealing went away. However, later in the day he again heard some commotion and movement coming from the same area where he had heard hogs squealing earlier.
This time he saw what he thought were the hogs he had heard moving from the area of the noise and crossing at an angle in front of him at about 100 yards in light brush. Kinsland guessed their path and picked out a clear spot in the brush that was about 75 yards from his deer stand and set his crosshairs on that mark in case one of the "hogs" passed through the clearing.
"The first one entered the clearing and I fired," said Kinsland. "I then waited a little while longer for the second one to come through, which I knew was a little smaller. After getting tired of waiting, I went ahead and dismounted my stand and walked over to the downed animal. When I got about 40 yards away I noticed the other one sniffing around and shot that 'hog' too.
"It wasn't until I got within about 20 yards of the smaller, second one that I realized what I had shot. The first indication was seeing a round ear. I then got close enough to the two animals to get confirmation of what I had done and I just stood there for a while in disbelief and in sadness for the two bears."
Kinsland had mistaken a Louisiana black bear and her cub for feral hogs. He then contacted his longtime friend and Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Red River WMA Supervisor Johnny Warren. Warren quickly notified the LDWF Enforcement Division.
"I immediately knew I was in a tough bind, but I am glad that I turned myself in since I try to teach my two young daughters and family honesty. By walking away from this incident I would be living a lie," said Kinsland. "It was not a pretty picture that I was facing, but I had to deal with it."
Kinsland directed the LDWF agents to his stand and the bears by using his cell phone. The agents issued Kinsland citations for two counts of taking bear in a closed season.
In August, Kinsland pled no contest and was sentenced to 120 days in jail (suspended), a $950 fine, 24 months of supervised probation and had to pay restitution of $5,000 with $3,000 of that going to LDWF and the other $2,000 going to the District Attorney. He was also ordered to get his hunter education certification and to speak in 24 other LDWF approved hunter education courses to share his experience.
Kinsland has already attended a few LDWF approved hunter education courses and has offered his story in front of the classes during the wildlife identification part of the course.
"I'm really enjoying my time with the hunter education courses and plan on becoming a volunteer certified hunter education instructor even after my court ordered courses are finished," said Kinsland. "I try to explain to the class that even the most experienced hunter can make the same mistake I did and that you have to be able to see the snout, head and ears and make a positive i.d. before shooting at a feral hog."
With Louisiana black bear and feral hog populations on the rise in many areas in the state, hunters are reminded that positive target identification is the most important rule in hunter safety and a basic component of legal game harvest.
Black bears and feral hogs share similar body styles and appearance, so hunters must be especially careful when hog hunting in areas where bears may be found. LDWF has posted signs at state WMAs to warn hunters about the similarities between the two species.
Since 2001, the Louisiana Black Bear Repatriation Project has moved 48 adult female black bears with 104 cubs from the dense black bear population in the Tensas River Basin to the area called the Red River Complex, totaling 179,604 acres, which includes Grassy Lake, Red River, Three Rivers and Spring Bayou Wildlife Management Areas and Lake Ophelia National Wildlife Refuge. The Repatriation Project was initiated to help rebuild the historic population of black bears in central Louisiana.
Since 1992, the Louisiana black bear has been protected because of its threatened status under the Endangered Species Act. Restoration and conservation efforts of the LDWF, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Black Bear Conservation Coalition and many private landowners have led to increasing numbers of black bears. LDWF is working aggressively toward the goal of removing the Louisiana black bear from the threatened species list and having sustainable populations that offer regulated hunting opportunities in the foreseeable future.
For more information, contact Adam Einck at 225-765-2465 or firstname.lastname@example.org.