BLOOMER —The Bloomer Police Commission met with Police Chief Jared Zwiefelhofer Wednesday night about three hunting citations that occurred in November, where he shot a buck with a gun in bow-hunting season, then initially lied to wardens about using the weapon.
Commission chairman Peter Gehring said they have received a formal complaint about Zwiefelhofer, and they will investigate the matter and discuss it at a future meeting.
Zwiefelhofer pleaded no contest to the three hunting citations on Feb. 5: improperly placing bait, possessing a deer killed without bow on an archer tag, and operating an ATV with a loaded firearm. As a result of the convictions, Zwiefelhofer’s DNR privileges are suspended for two years and he must pay $878 in fines and court costs.
The Leader-Telegram submitted an open records request to the Department of Natural Resources to obtain a copy of the incident report. The DNR provided a copy of the report Wednesday afternoon.
The complaint states that a hunter told DNR wardens he was in his hunting blind when he heard three gun shots fired together, then another single shot, on Saturday, Nov. 10, at approximately 3:50 p.m.
About five minutes later, a small, four-point buck limped by him, with blood trickling down one of its legs. At that time, the hunter sent a text to the DNR, telling them of a likely hunting violation. About 20 minutes after that, Zwiefelhofer approached his hunting blind and asked him he had seen the injured deer. Zwiefelhofer apologized to him and walked away.
The DNR warden arrived at the scene, and together with the eye witness, they followed the deer’s blood trail backward. They also came across Zwiefelhofer’s boot prints. They followed the trail back to Zwiefelhofer’s property.
Once there, they observed a pile of corn for baiting deer, and they also observed a trail camera. The warden seized the camera for evidence.
When the warden later interviewed Zwiefelhofer, he initially said he was hunting with a Ten Point Crossbow, and was just carrying his gun while hunting. He claimed he hadn’t fired the gun. He said he shot the deer with his crossbow.
“Zwiefelhofer stated that if he admitted to shooting the deer with a gun it would cost him lots of money,” the complaint reads. “Zwiefelhofer made mention that he was worried about getting in trouble and making the newspaper.”
The DNR warden later recovered the deer carcass. They found the archery wound, but also found a hole that matches a .223 caliber rifle, which is what Zwiefelhofer had in his possession. As they cut into the deer carcass, they found evidence of metal pieces that were consistent with bullet fragments.
The warden determined that Zwiefelhofer had indeed legally shot the deer with the crossbow at first, but then later shot it with a gun in an attempt to put it out of its suffering.
County board member Dean Gullickson, who is a retired DNR warden, spoke at the meeting. Gullickson was upset that Zwiefelhofer had told the DNR warden that he worked alongside a retired warden on the county board, without mentioning Gullickson by name. Zwiefelhofer said he had a low opinion of Gullickson and called him an “(expletive) liar.”
“I have no idea where this came from,” Gullickson said. “I have always been truthful with (him). I am shocked. That is unethical, to use that terminology. It borders on misconduct in office.”
Gullickson asked the Police Commission to fully investigate the matter.
Zwiefelhofer was named as police chief in August 2011. He started with the department as a reserve in 1992.
Last week, Zwiefelhofer announced he would step down as Chippewa County Board chairman, effective at the March 12 meeting. He plans to remain on the board. Zwiefelhofer was elected as chairman last April, and has served on the board since 2010. He wrote a letter of apology to the board for his actions.
It is unclear if he will continue to serve on the county’s Legal & Law Enforcement Committee.