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Updates on the 230” Wyoming mule deer poaching case

 

Nate Strong poached Wyoming mule deer buck
Wyoming mule deer buck poached by Nate Strong. Photo credit: Jason Radakovich

I have been following this case very closely since the Western Hunting Expo. Last week on June 30 I was given some updated information on this case and I have been working on digging up additional information ever since. On July 1, the Sublette Examiner released part of the strory. Here is the full update on the largest poaching case of 2015.

Earlier in the year we ran a story on the poaching case of a giant 230” Wyoming buck that was taken illegally in Sublette County in the fall of 2015. This poaching case involved Nate Strong of Wyoming.

An investigation began after an undisclosed person reported concerns that the large buck was taken illegally and out of season because the locals had photos of the deer after the season closed.
 

Nate Strong September Wyoming mule deer buck
Nate Strong's 2015 September Wyoming mule deer buck. Photo credit: Nate Strong

Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) officers found out that in September of 2015, on a Wyoming resident general license, Nate Strong took a large typical mule deer with a bow. Nate placed photos of the buck on his publicly viewable Facebook page. Note: Nate's Facebook page has now been removed or made completely private.

A search on the WGFD license database confirmed that Nate also was successful in drawing a 2015 HA138 Type 3 Deer License. The license was for a specific hunt area in Sublette County and for a whitetail deer only. Nate was allowed to take a second buck during the 2015 season, but the second deer had to be a whitetail deer.
 

Whitetail only permit for Wyoming Area 138
Information on Wyoming Area 138 — Whitetail only. Source: Wyoming Game and Fish Department

Nate then shot another mule deer buck and put his whitetail deer tag on it. On February 16, 2016 a few days after the Western Hunting Expo ended, Jim Gregory, a Wyoming Wildlife Investigator for the WGFD, got a search warrant and seizure request for Nate Strong’s mule deer buck. That same day, Strong admitted that he had killed the nontypical buck and placed his whitetail deer license on the mule deer. You can read full details of the original article here.
 

Nathan Strong deer poaching case affidavit
Nathan Strong's deer poaching case affidavit. Source: Sublette County Circuit Court

Strong pleaded not guilty before Judge Curt Haws on April 11, according to court records. There was a six-person jury trial that was set for August 23, but that was continued after Strong’s attorney, Gaston Gosar, said in a June 20 motion that he needed more time to prepare for the case. Sublette County deputy attorney Carly Anderson did not oppose the date change.

New information

A very concerning detail has just emerged thanks to a source that sent me updated information late last week. That alarming detail — Strong’s pre-trial has been pushed back to September 26 at 9:30 a.m. and the jury trial was pushed back to October 25, 2016.

Some of the reasons given that the case was pushed back are, “The case involves complex DNA and forensic testing of the deer taken in this case,” the defense motion states. Also, “The information was only recently turned over by the Wyoming Game and Fish (WGFD) Laboratory on June 15.”

According to Anderson, “On account of the presumption that an individual is innocent until and unless proven guilty, there is generally no restriction on hunting privileges prior to a conviction.” She goes on to say, “However, in the event an individual is convicted of a Game and Fish violation, Wyoming law provides that the Court may revoke any license that individual has been issued for the remainder of the year in which the conviction occurs, as well as suspend the individual’s privilege to purchase or receive any other licenses.”

Continued below.

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Why is this a big deal?

With the pre-trial and jury trial date set so late in the year, this means that Strong is eligible to hunt in Wyoming this season! See the screenshot below of Strong’s 2016 hunting applications.

Nathan Strong 2016 Wyoming hunting licenses
Source: Wyoming Game and Fish Department's Draw Results

According to WGFD records, Strong applied for four hunting permits for the 2016 season. He successfully drew two tags. One tag was for a Type 3 any whitetail deer in Area 138. That hunt area was the same area he poached the deer! So now he will have a tag for the same area on a known mule deer winter range. He also drew a Type 6 cow elk tag in Area 94. Strong also applied for an antelope tag and a moose tag but was unsuccessful for both.

Poaching cases where hunting rights were revoked during the trail period

A lot of people are concerned as to why Strong was allowed to purchase a hunting license or hunt while his case is pending. Another alarming fact is in the majority if not all past poaching cases, accused poachers were not allowed to hunt while conditions of a pending trial were in effect.

It certainly makes sense that Anderson would make the statement about the presumption of his innocence, however the presumption of innocence does not limit the ability of the State to ask for, or the Court to impose, prohibitions against possessing firearms or hunting during the pending poaching case.

The cases below show no recent Sublette County poaching cases in which the Court failed to impose a condition of release for the loss of hunting rights. Except Newberry who did not have a bond order in his file. There might not have been a release order at all, or it might have been omitted from the file. Below is a list of prior Sublette County poaching cases.

Matthew Mulcare CR 2012-421
 

Two poached mule deer bucks in Wyoming
Buck poached by Matthew Mulcare. Photo credit: Wyoming Game and Fish Department

Resident from Wyoming. The report indicates the deer was a 7x5 buck killed near Big Sandy on or near November 12, 2012. Apparently there was another deer killed as well in the report. goHUNT previously reported on this case here.

Charged with:

  • Five counts of wanton destruction
  • Taking antlered game out of season
  • Using illegal caliber for hunting
  • Shooting from roadway

His bail/release did not specify cash or surety, but did include no hunting, fishing, or trapping while the case was pending.

He was sentenced to five days of actual jail with a suspended sentence, $11,000 in fines, one year unsupervised probation and suspended jail. He lost his hunting privileges for five years.

Joel Newberry CR 2012-420

Resident from Wyoming. There is no bond order in his file. He plead as an accessory to the charges above. He also got five days jail time with the rest suspended. He was fined a total of $5,160, one year loss of hunting, fishing or trapping and one year unsupervised probation.

Thomas Drago 2011-358

Nonresident from South Carolina. He poached a buck and several other deer in November 2011.

Charged with:

  • Four counts of taking big game out of season
  • One count wanton destruction
  • One count trespass
  • Taking game with a spotlight
  • Shooting from a road
  • Using illegal caliber for hunting

He got four days jail with the rest suspended, $15,000 restitution with total fines of $20,950. He forfeited his firearm, got a 10 year loss of hunting, fishing or trapping and one year unsupervised probation.

For bail/release he had a $10,000 bond and no hunting or fishing or trapping.

In conclusion

I want to take a second to thank a certain group of people who have helped me with the details of this case. Without them, poachers would continue to steal our wildlife. Even though poachers don't need hunting tags in order to commit crimes, he should not be allowed to hunt while under investigation.

Once again, not only did Strong take the life of a trophy deer, he took the buck from all law abiding citizens of Wyoming, sportsmen, outdoorsmen, hunters, and trophy deer admirers across the west. Poaching is never tolerated and poachers are not hunters.

In this case, based on the facts presented from the previous affidavit, the Court should modify his bond to not allow any weapons possession and to not be able to hunt until his case has been finalized.

Like the previous poaching cases in Sublette County, Strong does not deserve to have the privilege of hunting. Strong proved that when he pulled the trigger on November 14, 2015 at a buck on the winter range, during a closed season and by placing the wrong species license on it. He clearly knew he was poaching a buck.

With a license in his hand, how many deer or elk are in danger when he goes out to hunt in 2016?

11 Comments

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Ken N. - posted 3 years ago on 07-15-2016 05:44:23 am

Shame on the game and fish for even offering those additional tags. This area is a prime winter range staging area for mule deer preparing for winter. Putting people like Nate Strong out there at this time of year is like letting a pedophile baby sit your kids. People like Strong have no ethics or moral values and will do anything to bag a trophy so they can post it on Facebook like a 14 year old girl bragging about her new boyfriend. As far as I am concerned, his first mule deer of the season was probably taken illegally as well. Great reporting on this case. Keep it up and keep the comments coming. I know this pos reads all these posts so keep them coming. And all you hunters out there, look out for this ass this fsll. I know I will be watching out for him and I will definitely be patrolling that late season hunt for this pos just so I can hopefully run into him and let him know what I think of him.

Eric A. - posted 3 years ago on 07-14-2016 01:07:42 pm

Dan R,
I agree 100% A Hymas is 100% legit & even if Nate and him were once friendly I would think that they are no longer. The biggest concern with this case is severity of punishment. I'm concerned with the prosecutor. Wyoming has absolutely hammered some guys that have got caught but unfortunately its not typical. We tend to do a lot of hand slapping. I also can't understand why there isn't lacey act charges as he took the deer across state lines?

Dan R. - posted 3 years ago on 07-13-2016 07:48:49 pm

Thanks for the article. I have been following this case, as I have hunted and fished in Sublette County for the last 7 years. I have been checked in the field by A. Hymas and have always been treated with respect and he is true professional. I have a hard time believing that friend or not, that Officer Hymas would give any special treatment to anyone. He does not control the County Attorney's office as to when this goes to trial. He does not control the Draw results for the State. To believe anything else to me is crazy. In earlier articles it was stated that Warden Hymas asked for the Special Investigating team for the State to assist in investigation. That is a true Professional if you ask me. Look forward to see the out come of this case.

Brandon S. - posted 3 years ago on 07-11-2016 06:05:05 pm
Treasureton, ID
goHUNT INSIDER

Because he is a high school teacher, AD, and head boys basketball coach at BPHS, it seems he is getting preferential treatment. He also has a close relationship with the local game warden, A. Hymas. Yes, we are in America where one is presumably innocent until proven guilty. However, many felons awaiting trial are arrested and spend time in jail until the jury gives the verdict. This type of punishment is warranted in this case. Not spending time in jail per se but rather suspending his hunting privileges until he has his day in court seems like a very logical step to take. Perhaps if the public contacts the Sublette County Attorney's office, his hunting privileges will be revoked. He does not deserve another day chasing mule deer on a whitetail permit. Many people speak of his arrogance to continue to draw tags and hunt. If he is arrogant enough to place a poached 230" buck in the Expo, he's arrogant enough to apply for tags and hunt while "preparing" for his trial. If y'all want to speak to this poacher in person, why don't you catch a high school basketball game when Big Piney comes to your hometown to play. He'll be the very tall, bald head coach yelling on the sidelines. Excellent article btw.

Laura C. - posted 3 years ago on 07-10-2016 07:44:26 pm

Good thing for Mr. Strong this is NOT communist China! He'd be pushen up daisies!

Mathew S. - posted 3 years ago on 07-10-2016 05:36:41 pm

Welcome to America. This is not communist China.

wkirklandco
Wandee K. - posted 3 years ago on 07-10-2016 05:28:39 am
Centennial, Colorado

Thanks for the article. You are correct and he should have his licenses temporarily suspended pending the outcome of the case.

Lowell . - posted 3 years ago on 07-08-2016 08:44:58 pm

I live in Sublette County, Wy. maybe it would be Strong's friendship with local Game&Fish warden A. Hymas , this stinks. Strong should not be hunting, fishing or trapping and should not have in his possession a weapon in the field. Maybe the County Attorney is a friend also. I don't know, but Strong has friends who would like to see this go away and nothing more be said. GOOD LUCK WITH THAT NATE!!!

Arner Smart_10206577312660688
Arner S. - posted 3 years ago on 07-08-2016 08:08:37 am

Excellent article, it really sheds light on the facts and the steps that should have been taken to stop this guy from being able to hunt while he is awaiting his day in court. Yes, we have Due Process in this country for a reason, but the arrogance to apply for more hunting permits, after admittedly placing a white tail tag on an enormous Muley, is ridiculous....I agree with Brad R,. contact the Sublette County Attorney's Office in Pinedale, Wyoming and share your concerns that they need to amend the bond conditions on Strong's case. The phone number to the County Attorney's Office is (307) 367-2300. Thank you Brady Miller on such an excellent article and getting this guy the national exposure that he so desperately wants.....

Brad R. - posted 3 years ago on 07-08-2016 06:55:47 am

So right after being arraigned for poaching one of, if not the, largest mule deer in Wyoming history, this arrogant poacher applies for and draws the same late season Whitetail tag he used to kill and sneak this deer to Utah to be mounted.
The Wyoming Game & Fish cannot limit his ability to apply for 2016 tags, but they can reconsider issuing these late season tags that put unscrupulous idiots like Strong in the Mule Deer winter range areas.
The County Attorney should immediately request the Court to amend Strong's bond to provide no hunting until the poaching case is resolved. This provision should have been made in the agreement with the County Attorney to delay the trial to the end of October.
Again, more arrogance by an accused poacher to get to hunt one more year before he gets nailed. Unbelievable.
Sportsmen need to contact the Sublette County Attorney's office to protest this outrage and demand that this outrageous screwup be corrected.

Eric A. - posted 3 years ago on 07-07-2016 08:42:33 pm

Thanks for the article. I would imagine there is a good chance they are going to try to plea this out. Hopefully the prosecutor and judge get the hint that this is a very serious offense and don't let him off lightly.