Original Published on Oct 25, 2022 at 17:47
By Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
What started as a routine hunter compliance check in the 2021 hunting season turned into a much bigger issue. Wakaw area locals, Travis Balone, Nicole Forcier, Miles Balone and Donna Balone were discovered to have been involved in a pattern of “unethical hunting practices and offences” for the past 10 years.
The investigation started after Conservation Officer Ryan Engele who was out on a hunting patrol, stopped Travis Balone and Nicole Forcier while the couple were out hunting near Wakaw. At the time of the stop the officer discovered that Travis was carrying and hunting with Nicole’s white-tailed deer seal.
On November 21, 2021, a Saskatoon conservation officer on a hunting patrol stopped Travis Balone and Nicole Forcier near Wakaw. The officer found that Travis Balone was unlawfully carrying and hunting with Nicole Forcier’s white-tailed deer seal. Further investigation followed at the home of the couple where the officer found two trophy white-tailed deer heads with seals attached, that had been taken earlier in the 2021 season. One was tagged with Travis Balone’s seal, while the other had been tagged with his mother, Donna Balone’s seal. Upon questioning, Nicole Forcier admitted to shooting the deer which bore Travis’ seal, whereupon the officer immediately seized the deer head. It was later discovered and confirmed that Travis shot the other deer before placing Donna’s seal on it. Travis had been hunting with his father Miles Balone on November 20, 2021 when he shot a trophy white-tailed buck. He did not field dress and tag the deer as required, but continued to hunt and later attached Donna Balone’s game seal to the animal.
The conservation officer continued his investigation and over the course of the next several months discovered a number of other offences including hunting without a license, attaching game seals belonging to another person to harvested game and falsifying records. Forcier, it was discovered, had been purchasing white-tailed deer licences and entering the Big Game Draw since 2012 but had not received her hunter education/firearm safety certificate until November of 2016. She had also allowed Miles Balone to attach her draw moose seals to a trophy bull moose shot by Miles in 2014 when he did not have a license for it. Travis and Donna were both found to have falsified their hunter harvest survey records and it is reported that all parties involved provided false or misleading information to the officer throughout the investigation.
An anonymous tip to the Wakaw Recorder shared those residents living close to the Balone’s homes had been questioned in the investigation. It is not known at his time if anyone outside of the family was aware of their activities, but anyone suspecting issues of poaching are reminded to call the provincial TIPS line. The case concluded on July 12, 2022 in Wakaw Provincial Court, when four individuals pleaded guilty to a total of 18 counts of various wildlife infractions. Donna Balone, Miles Balone, Travis Balone and Nicole Forcier received combined fines of $16,960 and hunting suspensions ranging from one to three years.