The animals freeze as an intense ray of light hits them, and in return two glowing eyes shoot back through the dark. The glare of the spotlight is mesmerizing for the deer sprinkled through the fields of southwestern Manitoba.
Conservation officer Shaun Bobier lights up a few of the deer as his truck passes down a dirt road beside a farm field.
A blast of light in the night significantly improves the odds of shooting an elk, deer or moose, Bobier says.
“It is definitely that much easier to hunt if you can drive down roads and shine a light into the eyes of an animal that doesn’t run away. You have all kinds of opportunity to shoot it. I think that’s the biggest draw,” Bobier says.
“The other part is if you want to access somebody’s private land to hunt, what better time to do it than the middle of the night when there is no one around?”
On a Wednesday evening, with the temperature hovering around –18, Bobier and several other conservation officers have set up a trap to lure poachers and night hunters into taking a shot in the dark.
You can’t see the life-size battery-powered deer decoy stationed perhaps 20 metres off the gravel road — unless you light it up with a spotlight.
A blast of million-plus candle power illumination brings the bogus Bambi into view and its eyes glow like the real thing.
Bobier says high-powered rounds from a night hunter’s rifle are tough on the replica.
“It is hard on the decoys. They take a lot for the team, that’s for sure,” Bobier says with a wry smile.
He see them as a critical tool for catching night hunters.
“It’s hard for anyone to talk their way out that they weren’t hunting when they’ve shot the decoy,” Bobier says with a grin.
Despite being able to joke about the decoys, the veteran officer is blunt about the dangers of night hunting.
“It’s a serious safety issue to me,” Bobier says.
In 2016, 44 people were…