5/1/2020

Racine County Circuit Court judge is facing a criminal hunting charge in Ashland County for an incident that reportedly occurred at his northern Wisconsin cabin late last year.

Michael J. Piontek, 70, was charged April 24 as a party to the crime of illegally shining a deer. The charge carries a maximum sentence of a fine of between $1,000 and $2,000 and/or up to six months in jail.

If convicted, Piontek’s hunting license would be revoked for three years.

November 2019 incident

On Nov. 26, a Department of Natural Resources warden was asked to watch Piontek’s cabin due to an ongoing investigation regarding the alleged hunting of deer during closed season with the aid of artificial light, something prohibited by hunting law, according to an Ashland County criminal complaint.

While the warden was stationed outside Piontek’s cabin, he saw what he believed was an illegal floodlight mounted on the west side of the cabin.

At approximately 7:30 p.m., the warden saw a six-point buck walk out of the woods and into the area near Piontek’s cabin. Moments later, the warden heard a rifle shot coming from inside. The deer was struck, buckled and reportedly ran off into a field.

The shot occurred outside of shooting hours, which ended at 4:30 p.m.

Shortly after, the warden saw Piontek and 58-year-old John Tussler of Kenosha leave the cabin with a flashlight to try to find the buck. The warden approached the men. After questioning, Tussler admitted that he had shot the deer from inside the cabin using Piontek’s rifle.

The warden also noticed that surrounding the cabin were approximately 21 gallons of deer bait, including corn, carrots, apples, sugar beets and bird seed. There is a 2 gallon legal limit of bait allowed.

In addition to being charged as a party to illegal shining of a deer, Piontek was also cited for unauthorized use of illegal bait and being a party to the violation of shooting a deer after shooting hours.

“Judge Piontek owned the property where another hunter at his hunting camp is alleged to have violated DNR hunting regulations that prohibit hunting by use of an illumination device. The illumination device alleged to have been used was a standard porch light on the property,” said Racine attorney Patrick Cafferty, who is representing Piontek in court.

“Judge Piontek was charged under a ‘party to’ theory as he is the owner of the property where the other hunter allegedly committed the violations,” Cafferty said. “Recently, Judge Piontek was made aware of the allegations and we believe this matter will be resolved quickly and without criminal conviction.”

Separate violation alleged

Piontek was also recently cited in a separate 2018 incident after a deer that he brought into a butcher shop showed evidence of being shot during archery only deer season.

On Nov. 7, Piontek reportedly brought a buck he said he harvested on Nov. 5 into a butcher shop in Ashland County to have it processed. The deer had an arrow wound, but one of the people processing the deer’s carcass also noticed a small rifle entry wound on the deer’s rib cage.

A warden was called and later came and inspected the deer, confirmed that it appeared to have a bullet hole. The deer gun season did not start until Nov. 17, 10 days after Piontek brought the deer in to the shop.

According to hunting law, it is illegal to possess a deer during archery season that shows evidence of being shot with a firearm.

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