Sublette County deer poacher convicted
One man shoots 4 mule deer last November ‘to vent pent up rage’
April 25, 2006
Wyoming Game & Fish (WYG&F) officials and law enforcement saw their investigative work rewarded earlier this month with the conviction of a man for a night-time poaching spree late last November that resulted in killing four mule deer bucks near Boulder.
Law enforcement first caught up with the man at a convenience store with a buck mule deer in the back of his truck. Sublette County Sheriff’s officers alerted WYG&F and booked the man into the Sublette County Jail for being a felon in possession of a firearm and the out-of-season deer.
Apparently the man first claimed the deer was shot in the Sheridan area where whitetail deer season was still open. When law enforcement officials pointed out the detail that the dead deer was a mule deer, not a whitetail, and receipts were found in his vehicle that tied him to Pinedale for the last 24 hours, the man claimed the deer was then shot near South Pass, where the season was closed.
Ultimately, the man finally admitted to killing the deer near Burnt Lake, along with another buck. He field-dressed and skinned one of the deer, then traveling about six miles to the Mesa area. During his travels, he encountered another bigger buck - with approximately 24-inch wide and heavier antlers - shot and loaded it, while discarding the skinned carcass from the previous location. He later assisted the investigation by drawing officers a map to find a fourth deer. Someone had called WYG&F earlier in the day to report the poaching of two buck deer in the Burnt Lake area. Off-road tire tracks crisscrossing the sagebrush terrain at the scene matched the tread on the man’s vehicle.
The told officers he drove to Pinedale from Jackson the previous day in his girlfriend's pick-up and decided to shoot deer to help vent pent-up rage. The deer were shot in the head or neck from 30-60 yards with a friend's 30.06 rifle.
Michael Benjamin Acuna, 37, was convicted of one count of the "winter range statute" for taking an antlered deer out of season, two counts of wanton destruction of deer, one count of taking a deer out of season and one count of using artificial light to take a deer. He was assessed $17,000 in fines and restitution - plus sentenced to 2-3 years in the Wyoming State Penitentiary for being a felon in possession of a firearm when committing the crimes. He was also sentenced to 2.5 years in the Sublette County Jail to run concurrently with his prison term and had his hunting, fishing and trapping privileges revoked for 20 years.
During sentencing March 23, Sublette County Circuit Judge John Crow said the fines and restitution would be waved if a $5,500 donation to the Wyoming Wildlife Protector's Association - administrator of the Stop Poaching Program - was made before the defendant's future parole was ended.
Wyoming Game & Fish credited Sublette County Attorney Ralph Boynton for being instrumental in helping with these cases by being available when needed over the Thanksgiving holiday to assist them in obtaining search warrants and offering advice and guidance.
Acuna was held in the Sublette County Jail until his girlfriend posted his $25,000 bond in late December. Following his April 6 District Court appearance, Acuna was returned to the penitentiary in Rawlins where he previously served nearly 4 years for aggravated assault.