WGFD nabs Big Piney Deer Poachers
by Wyoming Game & Fish
Original Post March 10, 2009 | Revised March 16, 2009 (added Reader's Comments)
(Big Piney) On Saturday, February 21, 2009, what appeared to be an illegally killed mule deer buck was discovered in the Deer Hills west of Big Piney, WY. Less than two weeks later, Lee Hedlund and Travis Core, both of Big Piney, found themselves in court receiving a stiff sentence for the crime.
After receiving the report of the dead deer, investigative work by Adam Hymas, Big Piney Game Warden for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, had a vehicle description and determined the deer had been shot on February 18th. Within an hour of putting the word out, the vehicle had been located in Pinedale and the two suspects were apprehended and questioned. Hedlund admitted to shooting the antlered deer while Core assisted, salvaging some of the meat.
On March 5th, 2009, Hedlund, 27, plead guilty to taking a deer during a closed season and Core, 26, plead guilty to accessory to taking a deer during a closed season. Circuit court Judge Curt Haws sentenced both individuals to five days in jail (30 days with 25 suspended), a loss of hunting and fishing privileges for three years, $780 fines (all fines were suspended), 80 hours of community service, and one year of probation. Both Hedlund and Core had recently relocated to Big Piney from the state of Washington.
Big Piney Game Warden Adam Hymas applauded the efforts of Judge Curt Haws. "I think a clear message was sent that the illegal shooting of wildlife will not be tolerated in Sublette County."
Hymas also recognized the efforts of Sublette County Attorney Allegra Davis and his office for their efforts in prosecuting the case and the individuals who commit wildlife crimes. "This is a good example of how justice was achieved through good investigative teamwork and great vigilance and attentiveness from those that care about Wyoming's wildlife resource," said Hymas. "I applaud both Judge Haws and prosecutor Davis for their continued dedication to our local wildlife."
Thousands of mule deer from the Sublette and Wyoming Range deer herds spend their winters in the Pinedale-Big Piney-LaBarge area. "It’s no secret these animals are vulnerable this time of year," said Hymas.
"Not just to poachers, but vehicle collisions and harassment by winter recreationists, including antler hunters and photographers trying to get too close."
In recent years, Game and Fish enforcement personnel have focused more attention on these mule deer winter ranges, but they still need your 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 Hymas.
"There are actually quite a few people out there watching deer and their reports of suspicious activity can really help us, as it did in this case. Whether you’re a hunter or just a wildlife enthusiast, people should be outraged about the illegal shooting of these animals," said Hymas.
People should look for the following poacher profiles:
• Vehicles with evidence of travel in the countryside – often sport utility vehicles or pickups with toppers.
• 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 are typically not readily visible.
To report information on this poaching incident or other suspicious vehicles or activities call the Pinedale Game and Fish office at 1-800-452-9107 or the STOP POACHING hotline at 1-877-WGFD-TIP (1-877-943-3847) or your local game warden. Information can also be reported through the hunting page of the department’s web site http://gf.state.wy.us. Any information leading to the arrest and conviction may result in a reward of up to $5,000.00.
March 16, 2009: "Dear Editor: I am disappointed in Wyoming Game and Fish for the article WGFD nabs Big Piney Deer Poachers, March 10, 2009 posted on Pinedale Online. Officer Adam Hymas applauded Judge Curt Haws for the sentence given the poachers which was thirty days in jail (25 of them were suspended), loss of hunting and fishing privileges for three years, 780 dollars in fines (all suspended), 80 hours of community service and one year of probation. So, five days in jail, no hunting or fishing PRIVILEGES for 3 years and 80 hours of community service...BIG DEAL. I think the unsolved poaching crimes were not considered, nor the deterrent that sentencing should cause. I thought that it was common practice for the vehicle and the weapon used in the commission of the crime be confiscated. Guess not. I also think that if Game and Fish is willing to pay the public $5000.00 for a tip leading to the arrest of the poacher, the poacher should be fined at least that. Utah men that were convicted of poaching a trophy Mule Deer near Big Sandy, in an article dated November 19, 2008, also posted on Pinedale Online, lost their hunting privileges for 10 years. In my opinion, they should loose their hunting and fishing privileges permanently. When thieves steal from the state, you and me, this slap on the wrist stuff is not an adequate penalty. I am originally from Washington State where the poachers are from, and the elk and deer populations are severely thin there. I would hate for Wyoming to become that way as well. Animals here are threatened by traffic and harassment. Softening the penalties of poaching only adds an additional threat. " - Mike Gants