Mule Deer poachers sentenced
Brian Nesvik with poached deer
Wyoming Game and Fish South Pinedale Game Warden, Brian Nesvik,
holds the head of the poached deer. Photo courtesy WGFD.
A photo of the poachers' rolled vehicle following the high-speed chase. Photo courtesy WGFD.
Utah men convicted of illegal shooting of a trophy class mule deer buck out of season
by Wyoming Game & Fish
November 19, 2008
(Pinedale) – Jeremy S. Zumwalt and Gregory L. Carter, both from the Salt Lake City, Utah area, were recently convicted in Sublette County Circuit Court for multiple violations associated with the illegal shooting of a trophy class mule deer buck out of season. Zumwalt was also convicted of interference with a peace officer and reckless driving associated the poaching incident that took place Nov. 16, 2007, near Big Sandy, south of Pinedale. Carter was convicted of taking big game from a vehicle, waste and abandonment and trespassing, in addition to taking an antlered deer during a closed season.
Carter and Zumwalt were traveling from Lander to Pinedale, where they were working as sub-contractors at the time, when they came across the large buck. The pair shot it, covered it up and left the area. Wyoming Game and Fish Department Game Warden John Hyde, while patrolling the area on the department's Winter Range Task Force, was contacted by a person working in the area who observed what he thought was a dead buckdeer just off the county road. The concerned citizen also had observed a Utah pickup stopped on the county road earlier in the morning, which proved to be key evidence helping lead to the poachers’ convictions.
Warden Hyde began surveillance on the deer suspecting the poachers may return to the area. Just after 5 p.m., Zumwalt and Carter returned to retrieve the deer. Warden Hyde watched as Carter exited the vehicle and walked toward the deer as Zumwalt began to drive away. As Hyde continued observation, South Pinedale Game Warden Brian Nesvik responded to the scene for assistance.
As Carter walked away, Hyde attempted to stop Zumwalt in his vehicle. Zumwalt began to pull off the road, but then took off, fleeing the scene. Hyde began pursuing the vehicle with Nesvik close behind. The chase ended when Zumwalt rolled the pickup several times. Zumwalt and another uninvolved passenger had only minor scrapes and bruises from the wreck.
As the wardens began investigating the scene and summoning appropriate medical assistance and help from the Sublette County Sheriff's Office, Carter remained at large on foot. Zumwalt confessed to what had happened to both officers and provided a cell phone number for Carter.
Nesvik contacted Carter via text message, telling him his truck had been rolled and to walk out to the county road. A short time later, Hyde picked up Carter. Carter confessed his actions to both officers. Both men were arrested and booked into the Sublette County Jail.
Sublette County Circuit Court Judge Curt Haws assessed a substantial sentence on both men. Carter was fined total $5,400 ($9,400 with $4,000 suspended), assessed $2,000 restitution, 100 hours community service and lost his hunting and fishing privileges for 10 years. A sentence of two years jail time was suspended in favor of two years probation.
Zumwalt was fined $2,000 ($6,750 with $4,750 suspended), $2,000 in restitution, 100 hours community service and lost his hunting and fishing privileges for 10 years. Similarly, a sentence of two years jail time was suspended in favor of two years probation.
This case is a good reminder of the potential consequences of stealing one of Wyoming's big bucks. This case also illustrates the importance of concerned citizens notifying the Game and Fish when they observe suspicious or illegal activity. "We really appreciate the individual coming forward with the information," said Nesvik. "We do not take these reports lightly and in this case it led to an important conviction."
This case also highlights the Game and Fish's commitment to protecting the tremendous mule deer resource in the Pinedale area. Each year during the peak migration and breeding season in late fall, the Game and Fish allocates resources from all over the state to help monitor the winter ranges. This task force has netted the arrest and conviction of five deer poachers just in the last few years.
"Obviously, we end our hunting seasons when we do to protect these animals during the winter months when they are more vulnerable," said Nesvik. "After years of trying to bring our mule deer numbers back up, any loss is disturbing, but especially when it’s a blatant illegal shooting like this."
Thousands of mule deer from the Sublette and Wyoming Range deer herds spend their winters in the Pinedale-Big Piney-LaBarge area. These animals are very vulnerable this time of year, not just to poachers, but also to vehicle collisions and harassment by winter recreationists, including antler hunters, photographers and wildlife viewers.
In recent years, Game and Fish enforcement personnel have focused more attention on these mule deer winter ranges, but they still need help. "Obviously, we do not have the personnel to be everywhere all the time, so we rely on reports from people who are out there," says Nesvik. "Whether you’re a hunter or just a wildlife enthusiast, people should be outraged about the illegal shooting of these animals."
People should look for the following poacher profiles:
• Out-of-state vehicles with evidence of travel in the countryside – often sport utility vehicles or pickups with toppers. Violators frequently stay in motels.
• Presence of camping, hunting or outdoor equipment.
• Firearms, spotlights, scanners or night vision equipment.
• Folks claiming to be in the area to hunt coyotes or photograph deer.
• Vehicles traveling in rural areas during the early morning, evening or late at night.
• Small amounts of blood or hair – poached wildlife typically are not readily visible.
To report information on a poaching incident or other suspicious vehicles or activities, call the Pinedale Game and Fish office at (800) 452-9107 or the STOP POACHING hotline at (877) WGFD-TIP (877-943-3847) or your local game warden. Any information leading to the arrest and conviction may result in a reward of up to $5,000.