An Evansville man who fatally shot two dogs while hunting coyotes at night on state land will avoid jail if he completes a hunter safety program.
Kurt K. Rausch, 35, cannot hunt for six months and must pay a $2,500 fine, a Dane County judge ordered. The judge imposed and stayed a six-month jail sentence that Rausch won’t have to serve if he completes a hunter safety program.
Rausch was convicted in December on one count of misdemeanor mistreatment of animals. He mistook for coyotes two dogs running loose at the Badfish Creek State Wildlife Area in January 2016.
Reynolds adopted Assistant District Attorney Paul Humphrey’s recommendation that a jail sentence be imposed but stayed if Rausch does not hunt until the state Department of Natural Resources verifies he has completed a hunter safety program.
Reynolds said Rausch’s case was “emotionally charged” and touched on the morality of hunting, “the stupidity” of night hunting and the inherent danger of mixing hunting and other public uses of state lands.
The case generated about four dozen letters to the court, more than any other case Reynolds said she has presided over.
Deanna Clark, a Lake Mills veterinarian and owner of the two dogs Rausch shot, told Reynolds she misses her dogs every day.
Clark was training the dogs about 6 p.m. that January night for skijoring, a sport where dogs pull a cross-country skier. Both wore reflective vests and were running loose.
Rausch had set up a coyote call hoping to lure one to the edge of a clearing where he waited, ready to switch on a light and shoot with his rifle.
Rausch shot both dogs as they emerged from the underbrush, Humphrey said at trial.
At sentencing Thursday, Humphrey renewed his argument that Rausch violated the “cardinal rule of hunting and safety: know your target and what’s behind it.”
Despite the dogs’ considerable veterinarian bills, Clark said she did not want restitution or Rausch to be punished but wanted the Legislature to end hunting at night on public lands.
Reynolds agreed that night hunting is “stupid” and that it is unwise to allow hunters and non-hunters simultaneously at state parks, but she said it would be up to the DNR and Legislature to correct that situation, not the court.