DNR wardens find headless buck
Men charged with serial hunting violations
A decapitated buck found in a rural Weyauwega field resulted in two men being accused of shining and killing dozens of deer since 2019.
Eric A. Feavel, 40, Menasha, is charged with 25 counts of illegal deer shining as party to a crime, 24 counts of felony bail jumping and one count failing to obtain a hunting permit.
Travis J. Vander Heiden, 37, Appleton, is charged with 24 counts of illegal deer shining, 25 counts of hunting after revocation of his hunting privileges and one count of failing to obtain a hunting permit.
Shortly before midnight on Nov. 12, 2022, DNR Warden Jeff Nieling was patrolling rural Weyauwega due to reports of a vehicle shining deer.
The illegal shining was taking place near a farm field on County Trunk U, where a decapitated buck carcass had been found.
According to the criminal complaint, Nieling saw a slow-moving vehicle on Railroad Grade Road shining deer with a hand-held flashlight from the driver’s side of the vehicle. It was about one-quarter mile from where the buck had been found.
He pulled over the vehicle and spoke to the driver who identified himself as Vander Heiden. Feaval was identified as a passenger.
Nieling reported seeing a cocked crossbow in the backseat and 10 bolts on the floor.
Background checks indicated that Vanden Heiden’s hunting privileges had been revoked and Feaval was out on a bond with an ankle bracelet.
Warden Zachary Seitz arrived at the scene.
The wardens found a blood-stained tarp in the rear of the vehicle.
Vander Heiden said the blood was from a deer that his ex-girlfriend shot two weeks earlier. Nieling noted that the blood was still wet.
According to the complaint, Vander Heiden also said he was trying to start a taxidermy business and deer had been put in the back, the complaint says.
Feavel said the crossbow belonged to him.
The wardens also found a knife, game shears, a flashlight and a spotlight mounted to the top passenger-side of the vehicle.
Subsequent investigation reportedly found that a bolt found near the dead buck matched the 10 bolts that were seized from Feavel. The bolt’s broadhead matched six of Feavel’s broadheads.
Feavel’s ankle bracelet indicated he had been driving or walking multiple times in the area since September 2022.
After obtaining warrants, investigators found 37 evidentiary photos on Feavel’s phone. Photos included a buck in the back of a truck, a dead buck in a field, Feavel posing for a picture while holding a buck’s head, carcasses hanging in a garage, buck heads on a tarp and a buck’s head in a trash can.
During questioning, Vander Heiden and Feavel reportedly said they had been shining and hunting since 2019.