Brandyn Hurd, an Idaho Department of Fish and Game senior conservation officer, takes video from a blind corner as fellow officers confront a hunter who illegally shot from Warm Springs Road west of Ketchum on Nov. 5, 2016.

BOISE — That buck or bull standing next to the road might be a tempting target, but it might not be what you think it is — it could be a very costly mistake.

Idaho Department of Fish and Game conservation officers deploy artificial simulated animals during hunting season to catch law-breaking hunters. The decoys are lifelike copies of deer, elk and other game species that look and act like the real thing.

“Officers watch the animal and respond if someone violates the law,” Fish and Game chief of enforcement Greg Wooten said in a statement. “This tool is extremely important in our effort to curtail illegal activity that is otherwise undetectable.”

Simulated animals are typically used in areas where there’s a history of spotlighting, trespassing and road hunting.

“This is similar to other law enforcement agencies watching an intersection based on reports of frequent instances of failing to stop at a stop sign or monitoring speed compliance using radar,” Wooten added.

Anyone found guilty of shooting an artificial animal may lose their license, face a fine of up to $1,000 and receive a possible jail sentence of up to six months. There is also a $50 minimum restitution penalty for shooting an artificial simulated animal to help maintain the decoys.

That’s not all. Officers can also cite people for shooting from a road, trespassing, shooting from a motorized vehicle and other related infractions that can increase penalties and fines.

Although they’re not really an animal, judges across the country have upheld the use of decoys. Judges and prosecutors typically treat those cases the same as shooting real animals.

More than 48 states and several Canadian provinces have been using artificial animals since the late 1980s.

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