Cell Phone, E-mail Nabs Poacher Here's a great example of how modern communications can help finger the bad guys who think they can get away with killing deer out of season while trespassing on private property. Kyle Hall, 22, of Pocatello, Idaho was driving home from Easter dinner with his parents when he spotted a truck slowly moving along the road with its passenger door open. Hall looked in the field and saw a man kneeling on the other side of a fence aiming a gun at a downed mule deer. "I could see the deer," Hall told the Idaho State Journal. "Its head was still up at that point. It hadn't completely dropped." Hall used his cell phone camera to take photos of the three men at the scene as well as the license plate on their truck--then he e-mailed the photos and information to Idaho Fish and Game Department authorities, who drove to the scene where they found spent shell casings and blood. Thanks to Hall's involvement and quick thinking, a 26-year-old man was charged and subsequently found guilty of killing a mule deer out of season and without a license.
Dumb and Dumber An Oregon poacher and his accomplice were arrested and subsequently charged after they attempted to enter an illegally taken trophy-class blacktail buck in a local grocery store’s big buck contest. For starters, the numbskulls were unable to produce a valid deer tag to qualify for the contest, initially raising the suspicions of some folks at the Fox Grocery store near Beaver, Oregon. In addition, witnesses also noticed that the buck appeared to have been shot numerous times with a small-caliber firearm–a .22, to be exact. Further proving that poachers aren’t rocket scientists, when his entry was disallowed, Michael Wert, 32, proudly posed for a photograph with the deer. The snapshot was enough to lead state police officers to a residence, where they arrested Wert and convicted felon Steven Klahn, 40, on multiple charges, including waste of a game mammal, borrowing a deer tag and illegal possession of deer taken with a prohibited weapon.
Fish Poaching…at the Sheriff’s Pond There’s no doubt that making poor choices leads to most poaching and game law violations. Take for example a trio of Georgia anglers who recently trespassed to go fishing in a pond without the owner’s permission. That was only their first mistake. The pond just happened to be owned by the county sheriff, who doesn’t particularly care much for trespassers. Then there’s the fact that the pond had been especially stocked by Madison County, Georgia Sheriff Clayton Lowe for a fishing event for underprivileged and disabled youngsters. As a result, the threesome spent the weekend in the Danielsville jail after they were arrested by state DNR officers for illegally fishing in Lowe’s stocked pond. Earlier in the spring, Sheriff Lowe stocked the pond with about $1,200 worth of catfish and bream to offer disabled children from the county a fun day of fishing. However, in the interim, the men evidently made multiple trips to the pond, trespassing onto the property with an ATV, and catching the fish intended for the deserving youngsters. The Associated Press reported that Brian Wallace, 35, of Comer, Ga. and Michael Fricks, 32, and Christopher Wallace, 37, both of Kannapolis, N.C., were released from jail after paying a fine. In the meantime, the sheriff paid $360 to restock the pond before the children’s fishing day. “It all worked out. They caught plenty of fish,” said Lowe.
Don’t Hunt Deer With Cars The act of purposely chasing down and killing a deer with a motor vehicle cost a Wisconsin teenager more than $2,000, his hunting privileges for three years and 40 hours of community service. The Fond du Lac Reporter notes that Gregory Haen, 18, was found guilty of the official charge of hunting deer with an illegal firearm (ie, his car). Fond du Lac Circuit Court Judge Richard J. Nuss fined Haen and also ordered a three-year revocation of all licenses issued to the teen by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. According to court records, Haen and two friends were spotlighting on a November night by driving through an open field, when the three saw a several deer. One of the passengers later told authorities that they tried to “run the deer down and struck a doe.” The car hit a drainage ditch while the three drove from the field, and Haen struck his head on the steering wheel. His injury required stitches, according to the court. One of Haen’s passengers, who admitted to taking the deer home and processing the meat, was fined $198 for a car-killed-deer violation. The other was fined $198 for hunting deer with an illegal device.
Gator Grillers Grilled Rule No. 1: It’s a violation of Florida game regulations to kill an alligator out of season, using a baseball bat and without legal hunting credentials. Rule No. 2: If you kill a Florida ‘gator out of season, it’s probably not a good idea to serve it at a backyard barbecue. The Miami Herald reported two Florida Keys men were charged with poaching (that’s the game violation kind of poaching, not the cooking method) in connection with the killing, butchering and subsequent barbecuing of an American alligator. Authorities report that Timothy B. Goll, 18, of Marathon, and Jordan T. Milo, 20, of Big Pine Key, were charged with a third degree felony. According to the newspaper account, two teenagers were also believed to be involved in the incident. We assume they were thoroughly “grilled” by Florida Fish and Wildlife agents. (Sorry)
Litter Leads to Trespassing Poachers A convenience store surveillance tape and some old-fashioned detective work led to the arrest and conviction of a pair of Wyoming mule deer poachers. A Cheyenne-area rancher notified Wyoming Game and Fish Department warden Mark Nelson that someone had apparently dragged two deer from his field to a county road. Upon investigating the scene, Nelson found what was determined to be deer blood, as well as beer cans and beef jerky wrappers. With little more than litter to go on, Nelson went to a local convenience store, where he inquired if anyone had purchased a specific combination of beer and beef jerky the previous afternoon. Not only did a clerk confirm such a purchase, but he also provided surveillance tapes of the customer. As a result, Frank E. Brennan, 35, of Cheyenne, was charged with wanton destruction of a mule deer, taking a mule deer out of season and being an accessory to each of the charges. His nephew, Adam R. Brennan, 20, was charged with taking a mule deer out of season and also as an accessory to the charge. They were fined $820 each and were ordered to pay restitution to the state. And remember, don’t be a litterbug!
Cell Phone, E-mail Nabs Poacher Here’s a great example of how modern communications can help finger the bad guys who think they can get away with killing deer out of season while trespassing on private property. Kyle Hall, 22, of Pocatello, Idaho was driving home from Easter dinner with his parents when he spotted a truck slowly moving along the road with its passenger door open. Hall looked in the field and saw a man kneeling on the other side of a fence aiming a gun at a downed mule deer. “I could see the deer,” Hall told the Idaho State Journal. “Its head was still up at that point. It hadn’t completely dropped.” Hall used his cell phone camera to take photos of the three men at the scene as well as the license plate on their truck–then he e-mailed the photos and information to Idaho Fish and Game Department authorities, who drove to the scene where they found spent shell casings and blood. Thanks to Hall’s involvement and quick thinking, a 26-year-old man was charged and subsequently found guilty of killing a mule deer out of season and without a license.
MySpace Post Leads to Poacher Agents from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries recently tracked down an Olla, La., teen who allegedly killed three deer in one day–including two spotted fawns–and then posted the photo on a social networking website. After receiving a complaint about the photo, DWF agents initiated an investigation and questioned Christopher Bearden, 17. The teen allegedly admitted to shooting all three deer on opening day of gun season. He was issued citations for two counts of taking spotted fawns and possessing over the daily limit of deer. Taking or possessing a spotted fawn carries a fine between $500 to $750, and jail time from 15 to 30 days for each count. Exceeding the limit of deer is punishable by a fine between $250 to $500, or jail time up to 90 days, or both plus court costs. Bearden will also have to pay restitution on the three deer valued at $1,573.62.
Poaching: Brains Not Required Meet Billy Ray Herring from Quitman, Texas. Billy’s a game law violator who couldn’t leave well enough alone, so to speak. On opening day of deer season, Herring shot a massive, 14-point non-typical buck. After the fact, he decided it might be a good idea to purchase a hunting license. Herring just might have gotten away with his violation if he hadn’t let his ego get the best of him. Instead, he decided to enter his illegally taken deer in more than one East Texas big buck contests, including one sponsored by the Tyler Morning Telegraph newspaper. When Billy’s buck won the paper’s top prize, the follow-up photo and article about the deer and the hunter prompted at least one concerned citizen to come forward. A witness told Texas Parks and Wildlife game wardens he saw Herring with the buck around 6:45 in the morning, while computer records showed his license was purchased at 8:18 a.m. Herring claimed to contest officials that he killed the deer at 5:10 in the evening. Herring pleaded guilty to tampering with a government record and was sentenced to two years probation. Fraud charges associated with the buck contests were dropped as part of a plea agreement. Fines, courts costs and restitution exceeded $12,000.
Internet Bragging Costs Poacher A decision to brag on an Internet hunting site about taking two bucks on the opening day of West Virginia’s firearms deer season has proven costly to the poacher and his father. On January 23, several citizens notified the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources that Robert Daniel “Murphy” Kane II, a 26-year old Bridgeport man, posted photographs of himself with two whitetail bucks online, claiming to have shot both deer on opening day. The legal bag limit is one per day. Under the incriminating message board heading, “Opening Day Bucks,” the braggart violator disclosed details of the two deer kills. An investigation by Harrison County conservation officers resulted in Kane being charged with five wildlife law violations, including conspiring to violate Chapter 20 of the WV State Code (wildlife laws), failure to field tag a deer, illegal possession of a buck deer, hunting after killing a legally killed deer and exceeding the daily bag limit of buck deer. Kane pleaded no contest to the charges and was fined $861.50, including a $200 replacement fee for the illegally killed buck. Investigating officers also confiscated Kane’s 10-point rack, which was waiting to be mounted at a taxidermist. Proving the adage that an apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, Kane’s father, 53-year-old Robert Daniel Kane was assessed $381 on three charges involving conspiring with his son in game law violations and illegal possession of buck deer.
Fishing ‘Too Good’ Q: When is the fishing too good? A: When you get caught with 106 fish over the limit. Minnesota Conservation Officer Chris Vinton of Detroit Lakes received a Turn-in-Poacher (TIP) call that a group of anglers were fishing for sunfish on Tulaby Lake in northern Becker County and were taking more than 100 fish at a time. (The statewide limit for sunfish is 20 per angler.) Armed with a vehicle description and other information, Vinton continued checking the lake every other day for several weeks until the group reappeared. Then, joined by another officer, he followed the anglers to a nearby cabin. After receiving permission to search the cabin, officers found 85 sunfish in buckets and another 61 partially frozen sunfish. As a result, Jeffrey Meuleners and Donald Gabrelcik were each cited for possessing 53 sunfish over the limit. The citation carries a maximum fine of $1,072, restitution of $265 and a possible penalty of 90 days in jail for each man. According to a DNR press release, Vinton said, “Both anglers kept commenting that they ‘could not stop’ and ‘the fishing was just too good.'” Well, they’ll stop now. Under terms of the citation, each will lose his fishing license for three years.
Poaching ‘Addict’ Some court observers in Great Falls, Montana compared it to their very own “Twinkie Defense,” when a habitual poacher with multiple convictions stood up in District Court and proclaimed that he couldn’t help his behavior, because he was “addicted to wildlife.” The court, in its wisdom, did not agree, and sentenced Gary Motarie, 41, to a five-year stint with the Montana Department of Corrections, three suspended, and ordered him to pay more than $18,000 in fines and restitution. Motarie’s final conviction, for improper transfer of a hunting license and hunting while his privileges were revoked, is hopefully the last chapter in one of the more bizarre poaching careers in U.S. hunting history. It was the third felony conviction for Motarie, who agreed earlier to plead guilty to possessing unlawfully-taken wildlife. In exchange for his guilty plea, the state dropped 14 other misdemeanors and declined to label him a persistent felony offender. “I feel my wildlife addiction is like a drug addict, with drugs,” he informed District Judge Julie Macek while testifying on his own behalf, according to reports in the Great Falls Tribune. Motarie told the court he was being counseled for his alleged illness, but Deputy Cascade County Attorney Marty Judnich quickly pointed out that the defendant’s therapist flatly refused to testify for him. “It’s not an addiction, it’s pure greed,” the prosecutor told the court. “He likes poaching. That’s why his counselor’s not here to testify for him.” A Montana justice of the peace had already revoked Motarie’s hunting, fishing and trapping privileges for life after he was cited for illegal possession of brown trout and using four fishing poles in a one-pole area. Just weeks earlier, Motarie was convicted of hunting during a closed season and illegal possession of a bull elk. For that offense, his hunting and fishing privileges were revoked for a period of 20 years. Unfortunately, none of it was enough to deter Motarie from further game law violations.
Bad Influence A convicted felon prohibited by law from owning firearms or legally hunting didn’t let that stop him from an unusually bone-headed bone attempt in Bay County, Fla. recently. In the course of a night-time stakeout, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers Dennis Palmer and Mark Clements witnessed a man instruct his girlfriend’s 13-year-old daughter to shoot at an agency’s mechanical deer decoy–twice–while her mother illuminated the fake whitetail with their pickup truck’s headlights. The FWC Weekly Citations Report did not name the subjects involved in the incident. According to the FWC, all three were cited for night hunting and road hunting. Fortunately (for them), being incredibly stupid is not a criminal offense in Florida. Otherwise, additional charges could have been applied in the case.
Poachers Get Pizza and Citations Delivered A Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Game Warden utilized some particularly creative tactics leading to the apprehension of some unsuspecting game law violators. One early fall day, the unidentified TPWD warden was in the process of observing some illegal dove-hunting activity from a distance while trying to determine how to advance safely and strategically. About that time, the officer reportedly heard a vehicle approaching from his rear. At first, he thought it was more hunters coming to join the ones he was watching, but he soon realized it was a pizza delivery truck. With brilliantly deducted insight, the warden stopped the truck and asked the driver if he might be on his way to deliver pizza to a group of dove hunters. The response was affirmative. After convincing the driver he needed an assistant for the remainder of his route, the warden was chauffeured directly into the group of unsuspecting game violators, where he politely delivered some supreme hunting citations. Pepperoni pizza, anyone?
Poacher Nabbed Twice For Same Sheep Here’s one you couldn’t make up: A man caught on tape stealing an Alaskan Dall sheep mount from a wildlife agency’s anti-poaching display trailer parked at a hunting expo was the same person who illegally killed the animal several years earlier! Wade Hanks, 37, agreed to pay $6,000 in fines in a plea that will be held in abeyance for a year. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Hanks, from Mapleton, Utah, was fined $2,000 and had his hunting privileges revoked for two years for shooting the ram and a grizzly illegally in Alaska in 1999. The confiscated grizzly hide was returned to Alaska, while the Dall mount became part of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources traveling “Wall of Shame” display featuring poached wildlife trophies. Hanks and an accomplice, who also pleaded guilty to theft and burglary charges, swiped the mount after a wildlife division worker stepped away from his booth for a moment during a hunting expo at the Salt Lake City Convention Center. A well-placed security camera recorded the theft, referred to by the deputy district attorney in the case as a “spur-of-the-moment lapse in judgment.” Hanks’ partner in stupidity, Tyrell Gray, 31, called the duo’s act “embarrassing and humiliating.” He left out “dumb.”
A Shocking Arrest Investigators with the Texas Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks report they recently were made aware of a fish-shocking device offered by a Texas seller on the Web-based commerce site, eBay. While the device itself is not illegal in Texas, selling one is. Officers took part in the online process, eventually becoming high bidder and making contact with the seller. Undercover investigators subsequently went to the seller’s Erath County residence, where the seller bragged “about killing 12 ducks after sunset the day before” and gave the breasted ducks to the officers. Additionally, he gave the undercover officers several homemade “fish bombs” with wet fuses and told of his latest invention, a way to shock doves off a highline. The rather inventive, albeit self-incriminating poacher was arrested and taken to the Erath County Jail.
There’s little doubt that those who poach wildlife and break game laws are not the sharpest tools in the shed. Here are some examples…