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2015 Wyoming mule deer poaching case solved


Wyoming Mule Deer
Photo credit: Dreamstime

Three years ago, two mule deer bucks were shot and left to rot west of Sheridan, Wyoming. Only the heads were missing. One month later, Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) officials had a third poached mule deer buck (head also missing) to add to the pending investigation. Now, thanks to a tip from a local landowner, three hunters from Tennessee have been fined and sentenced, Buckrail reports.

WGFD game warden Dustin Shorma worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency on the investigation, which resulted in citing Zachary Mathis, Philip Hickerson and Cody Duncan to “three counts of wanton destruction, three counts of taking big game animals from a motor vehicle and one count of taking a deer without a license,” according to Buckrail. Collectively, they paid $15,285 in fines and restitution, forfeited a $3,200 custom rifle and lost hunting privileges for the next three years.

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“This is an excellent example of how a single tip on a wildlife-related crime can go a long way,” said Shorma.  “If people have tips on a poaching case there are several ways to get that information to us. They can call their local game warden, a Game and Fish Regional Office or the Stop Poaching Hotline.  People might think that the little bit of information they know won’t help, but even a small piece of information may be just the piece of the puzzle we need to solve the case.”

If you ever see something suspicious and want to report a tip, contact WGFD’s STOP POACHING hotline at 1-877-WGFD-TIP.


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Bendrix B. - posted 11 months ago on 04-19-2018 12:29:51 pm
Rochester, MA

Jail time would sure wake up those idiots, but with overcrowding and judges remis to sentence violent criminals to jail time, I think judges would just offer probation rather than jail time. Big fines and confiscation of everything involved in the crime is probably the most we can hope for.

The real value in this story is the folks who turned these dudes in. We’ve all heard about someone who violates, yet how many folks will turn the dudes in, especially when there is a circle of acquaintances? That’s the hard part.

If you care about hunting, turn in poachers.

Chris M. - posted 11 months ago on 04-18-2018 10:00:24 pm
Minden Nevada

Mandatory jail time as opposed to fine or imprisonment would also be a better deterrent.

Eddie K. - posted 11 months ago on 04-18-2018 12:17:42 pm
Southern Colorado

You're right Matthew R, the states need to confiscate EVERYTHING used in the poaching incidents. Losing something like a truck or pack animals, along with gear and weapons, would be a much bigger deterrent than just a small monetary fine.

Matthew R. - posted 11 months ago on 04-18-2018 07:43:36 am

David J, Yeah I was reading the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact and just misspoke. I still think these guys got off light.

I just think these guys clearly went out to maliciously poach deer and it wasn't even close to a case of misunderstanding the law. They were shooting bucks from the roadway without a tag then cutting off the heads and leaving the rest to rot. Not to mention they shot a 4th buck that they never recovered. I'm pretty sure the law allows for the confiscation of everything used in the commission of the crime, I never understand why they don't try to seize vehicles used. I feel like that would send an affective message and deterrent to combat crimes like this that are hard to solve.

David J. - posted 11 months ago on 04-18-2018 04:57:42 am

Matthew R, when you're banned from hunting in 1 states you're banned from hunting in like 48 states as a lot of the states have come together on that issue.

Matthew R. - posted 11 months ago on 04-17-2018 12:25:57 pm

Same story, different day. The penalties in no way discourage poaching. I seriously doubt a non-resident could kill three trophy bucks for under $15k in license and guide fees. Taking away their hunt privileges in a state they weren't "legally" hunting in to begin with.. you really showed them there!

What discourages poaching? I always thought it comes down to 1)personal morals/ethics 2)others knowing your morals/ethics ie. being labeled a poacher to friends/family 3)fines and penalties. I feel like once you mitigate or justify those the first two things, the third in no way discourages poaching.

I honestly can't think of a crime that is punished and prosecuted less. I'd also love to know how many reported incidents are ever successfully prosecuted, it's got to be incredibly low. It never surprises me when they catch guys that have been poaching for years and years with no trouble at all. I feel it is especially true with guys like this that are almost definitely bonafide malicious poachers, guys that do this as their means of hunting and do it with others. They never get enough punishment to discourage them, and often times get the same punishment as the guy that makes an honest mistake or self-reports. I seriously wish that would change, but doubt it will.

Chris M. - posted 11 months ago on 04-15-2018 10:29:42 pm
Minden Nevada

They probably had some awesome hunting stories when they went home to Tennessee.

Jacob M. - posted 11 months ago on 04-12-2018 04:17:27 pm
Gunnyson, CO

3 whole Should have lost hunting privileges for life and paid alot more than 5k ea. I would have liked to seen some jail time as well.

Chris B. - posted 11 months ago on 04-12-2018 09:58:18 am
Los Angeles, CA

Only $15k for 3 deer? should have $15k each deer and lifetime hunting ban. Next offense means jail time

Dan A. - posted 11 months ago on 04-12-2018 09:51:48 am

Not just Wyoming, everywhere.

Chris M. - posted 11 months ago on 04-12-2018 09:28:33 am
Hernando, MS

Should have lost the privilege to ever hunt in Wyoming again. Damn flatlanders!