Hunting charge dropped against Ada Co. commissioner; he calls for change

Rick Visser fought a game tag violation in Boise County, and he says the Idaho Fish and Game officer's story was exaggerated and didn't line up.

A hunting charge against an Ada County Commissioner was dropped last week and now he's speaking out.

Rick Visser fought a game tag violation in Boise County, and says the Idaho Fish and Game officer's story was exaggerated and didn't line up.

7 Investigate's Morgan Boydston talked to Visser on Thursday and looked into the story further. We obtained the Fish and Game investigation report, Boise County court documents, and the audio recording from the confrontation in Horseshoe Bend in April of 2017.

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MORE: Ada Co. commissioner charged with game tag violation

They show that Visser shot a turkey and didn't tag it immediately, which is required under the law. But Visser argues he was doing just as soon as he was able when an on-duty F&G officer checking out the area came up and told him to stop.

F&G Southwest Regional Supervisor Brad Compton told KTVB that the officer was in plain clothes but was on duty.

In the audio recording we obtained between a Fish & Game officer, Visser and his friend, Dave, the first dialogue we hear is this:

F&G officer to Visser and his friend: "Is there a reason your tag is not validated on this turkey?"

Dave: "No. Probably just because we're right at this spot, now I've got to find that knife... oh there it is."

F&G: "Let's just leave that right there."

Dave or Visser: "OK... [inaudible words]"

F&G officer: "That should have been done right when you killed it, correct?"

Dave or Visser: "Yeah probably, just got the adrenaline going on it."

Visser says he and his friend, Dave, were about 100 yards up a hill when he shot the turkey.

"I put my gun down, looked in my pack, took out my turkey tag but couldn't find my knife and then right away I realized I left my knife in my truck," Visser told KTVB.

Dave couldn't find his knife either so they took a couple pictures and headed down the hill to get his knife. Visser says when they got down a couple minutes later, Dave found a knife. So he quickly cleaned out the turkey then passed Visser the knife and he says he had his turkey tag in hand.

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"Just before the end of that this man shows up on the other side of the creek, doesn't say anything. I say hi, he says hi. I said this is my first turkey," Visser said.

They did not know was a Fish & Game officer, Visser added.

"And I'm down on ground and I have this log and I'm moving it and I had the tag there and the knife ready to go. And the guy says 'leave that right there and give me your tag'."

The officer said because they were "10 yards from their truck" it would have been "pretty easy to put it in your truck and just leave and not tag your turkey and come back and hunt again".

"I"m not saying you would but I'm saying that is what it looks like to me in my job," the officer added.

Idaho Fish & Game Report of Investigation - Visser by KTVB7 on Scribd

In his written report, the officer says that's when he started recording. About a minute into the recording, this dialogue was exchanged:

Officer: "I'm assuming from where you shot it you guys have had a while to walk down the mountain."

Visser: "Uh no, not far."

Officer: "I watched up from over there for a little while and you were quite a bit up there."

Rick: "Well we took pictures... [inaudible exchange]"

Officer: "Well let me see your turkey tag."

The officer goes on to say:

"There's two of you here and you're gutting a turkey and the tag hasn't been touched yet. That makes me wonder."

Visser: "Well I don't have a knife, that's what I said to Dave so that's why I failed-"

Officer: "OK, but he definitely had one you talked about it at one point."

Dave: "Got down here, fumbling around [inaudible]... and oh there it is, I've got so many pockets."

The officer says he took the knife from Visser as he removed his unvalidated turkey tag from his wallet, while Visser claims he had it in his hand.

Visser says there are several discrepancies and lies between the officer's verbal and written reports.

"There's reasonable doubt all over the place," Visser added. "Obviously he had some discretion there but I think they have to press accountability if an investigator or officer writes a report and it differs from the recorded report, you have a problem."

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KTVB also found differences in a few reported distances and time frames in the officer's observations.

In his audio recording, he states he was watching the men on the mountainside "probably a quarter mile from the truck" and they were carrying the turkey out and then "15 minutes later they were back at the truck, obviously had not validated the tag".

But in his written report which is dated on April 24, 2017 (three days after the incident), the officer states Visser killed the turkey about 30 minutes earlier. He also says in the report when he saw the men kneeling down at the creek they were "about 20 yards from the truck", but in his audio recording he states "they were back at the truck".

The officer claimed he identified himself as a Fish and Game officer as he approached them, but Visser says that is a lie. That interaction was not recorded, so we cannot confirm.

Visser was charged with a misdemeanor for not validating his game tag immediately upon kill and he decided to fight the charge. He pled not guilty and the case was tried in Boise County in early January. The jury was hung so the judge declared a mistrial. But before going to a re-trial, the prosecution dropped the charge.

Motion to Dismiss - Visser by KTVB7 on Scribd

'Visser’ & ‘Order to Dismiss - Visser' by KTVB7 on Scribd

Court records show the two sides "recognize and agree that the State and Defendant differ" as to the facts and their legal consequences. But in turn for dismissal, Visser agreed he would not seek or apply for an Idaho hunting license nor hunt in Idaho for the year.

The commissioner says he wants to work with state representatives to better define the tagging law; he feels the term "immediately" needs to be better defined and should based on the facts of the situation.

"When you shoot something and it's killed it is going to take you some time and that should be factored in," he added.

Idaho Fish & Game and the Boise County Prosecutor's office didn't want to do an interview or provide comment on this story.

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