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    Poachers Are Still Getting Duped Into Shooting Robot Deer

    Written by

    Meghan Neal

    contributing editor

    This is not a real deer. Images via

    I imagine you'd feel like a pretty big idiot for getting thrown in jail for a year because you shot what you thought was a deer but ended up being a robot. But, poachers take the mechanical bait all the time.

    Most recently, a hunter was busted in Myakka City, Florida on Wednesday after being duped in a robodeer sting by police. Brett Russel Thompson was driving when he spotted the "animal" on the side of the road, pulled over, got out of his car, and shot in the neck with a rifle. Cops quickly emerged from hiding nearby and arrested the poacher, who now faces a year in the slammer for hunting out of season and discharging a firearm from the roadway.

    News of the bust's been circulating through the web since the Miami Herald first reported the arrest—because who doesn’t love a good “idiot poacher shot a robot” story? But robotic decoys aren't a new tactic; officials from state Fish and Wildlife Commissions have been using the technology to catch illegal hunters for years.  

    Still not real.

    Police set up the robotic replica as bait to target poachers that ignore game laws and kill deer in an unsportsmanlike fashion—out of season, from public roadways, using nighttime spotlighting, and so on—usually for the good money they can make selling the meat or antlers. It takes a bit of planning to set up the sting, officers told the Herald, but it generally pays off.

    The decoys look super-realistic, particularly when staged in the woods, officials say. Also, they move. Cops crouching in the bushes or whatnot nearby can make the robodeer flick its tail, move its ears, or turn its head with a remote controller, from up to 50 feet away. And these decoys can take as many as 1,000 shots before they need to be replaced.

    VICE visited Robotic Wildlife to talk to the robotic taxidermists that make decoy deer. 

    To get a closer look at the animal droids, VICE visited Robotic Wildlife last year, a robotic taxidermy company in Wisconsin that makes enforcement decoys and sells them to law enforcement agencies.

    The owner of the company, Brian Wolslegel, explained that officers are generally staking out a specific place, where they were tipped off about poaching activity, or waiting to catch an individual they know to be hunting illegally in the act. "Effectively, they are hunting the poacher," Wolslegel said.

    Robotic Wildlife also sells robo-decoys for legal hunters to use, made to mimic prey—turkeys, rabbit and the like—to lure the predatory animals hunters are after.

    "Powered by twelve 'AA' batteries, this system is not only easy to use, but extremely deadly for bringing your prey out in the open and into range," the company website states. "When properly used, a Robo–Coy decoy helps to focus the attention of an approaching buck onto the decoy and off of the hunter."

    Apparently humans aren't the only ones taking the bait.