Poachers Paying the Price in Oregon

JOHN DAY, Ore.- Poachers are paying the price for their crimes. Three recent court cases reflect the harshness with which Oregonians view wildlife crimes. All three cases involve mule deer that were illegally shot from rural roadsides in 2020.

First on the docket, a poacher who used a semi-automatic rifle to shoot a buck deer multiple times from the road, then left the animal mortally wounded, was sentenced to a one-year hunting suspension, forfeiture of his firearm, $1,000 in fines ($500 to the Turn In Poachers (TIP) Line) and a letter of apology to a private landowner.

On the night of Oct. 3, OSP Fish and Wildlife Sergeant Erich Timko and Senior Trooper Brian Jewett received a report of a 2X2 buck mule deer shot on private property in Wheeler County. The Wheeler County Sheriff’s office also responded, and deputies assisted the landowner in dispatching the wounded deer. They then field dressed the carcass. Witnesses identified a vehicle that was possibly involved, and Sergeant Timko worked with the sheriff’s office to follow up on the lead. They located the driver.

After questioning, the driver eventually admitted to Sgt. Timko that he had shot the deer while it was in his headlights as he and his juvenile companion drove along private property on Rowe Creek Road. He did not have permission to be on the property. The man shot the buck multiple times using a semi-automatic rifle with a high-capacity magazine. (When used for hunting big game in Oregon, semi-automatic rifles are limited to magazines with a capacity of no greater than five cartridges.) He then drove away, leaving the injured animal.

The man was convicted of: Unlawful take of game mammal; Waste of game mammal; and Unlawfully hunting on the enclosed lands of another. His juvenile companion was warned for: Aiding in a wildlife offense. Law enforcement officials salvaged the deer and donated the meat to the food bank.

Second on the docket is a poacher who used a handgun to shoot a large mule deer buck from the road and was subsequently arrested for driving under the influence of intoxicants. The subject received a three-year hunting suspension, forfeiture of the handgun used in the crime, $2,250 in fines ($500 to the TIP Fund), 120 hours of community service and 18 months of probation. Two adult passengers in the vehicle each received three-year hunting suspensions, $600 in fines and 40 hours of community service.

OSP Troopers were called out and reached the scene of the poaching incident only nine minutes from the time they were dispatched at 2:00 AM on Oct. 31. Trooper Patrick McCosker and Sergeant Erich Timko apprehended three adult males who were searching for a deer they had spotlighted and shot from their vehicle on Hwy 395 south of Canyon City. Surprised at the rapidity with which their crime was discovered, two of the three men made a run for it. They were later identified and interviewed.

The suspects first claimed to be shooting at a coyote. The driver and shooter displayed signs of impairment and was subsequently arrested for: DUII, Hunting from a Motor Vehicle, Hunting Prohibited Area- Public Road, Casting a Light while Armed, Hunting with the Aid of an Artificial Light, Hunting Prohibited Hours, and Unlawful Possession of Prohibited Species-Raptor Parts. Troopers continued their search for evidence. Troopers seized a .45 caliber handgun from the vehicle.

Weeks later, a member of the public reported finding a large dead buck mule deer near the shooting scene. Troopers recovered a .45 caliber bullet from the carcass which matched the ammunition possessed by the driver and shooter. The passengers then admitted that the driver had actually shot at the buck several times from the highway.

In addition to the DUII charge, the driver pled guilty to Unlawful take of buck deer; Hunting in prohibited area; and Waste of a game mammal. The two passengers pled guilty to: Aiding in a wildlife offense.

A third court case involved a poacher who shot a large 6-point mule deer buck from the roadway in broad daylight in Grant County. This subject lost hunting privileges for three years, forfeited his rifle, paid $1,000 fine, and was sentenced to 20 hours of community service and 18 months probation.

Last November, two elk hunters driving on a USFS road in the East Murderers Creek unit came upon a man dragging a large deer away from the roadway. The hunters could see that the buck had just been shot in the chest. They called in to the TIP line, where they gave a description of the suspected poacher, his truck, and his license plate.

OSP F&W Sergeant Erich Timko, and Troopers Khris Brandon, and Patrick McCosker investigated the case. They found the large buck left to waste near where the hunters reported it would be. With further investigation they identified the man as a Reedsport resident. Coos Bay F&W Troopers interviewed the suspect, who eventually admitted to having shot the buck. He pled guilty to: Unlawful take of buck deer.

Stop Poaching campaign coordinator Yvonne Shaw is pleased at the steps courts are taking.

“We all know that poaching is a serious crime that impacts all Oregonians,” she said. “Our OSP Fish and Wildlife Troopers in the field are doing a great job in solving these cases, and that should be a warning to anyone considering taking wildlife illegally.”

If you suspect poaching or see something suspicious, call the TIP Line at (800) 452-7888 or from a mobile phone call *677. The Stop Poaching Campaign educates the public on how to recognize and report poaching. This campaign is a collaboration among hunters, conservationists, land owners and recreationists. Our goal is to increase reporting of wildlife crimes through the TIP Line, increase detection by increasing the number of OSP Fish and Wildlife Troopers and increase prosecution. Oregon Hunters Association manages the TIP reward fund. This campaign helps to protect and enhance Oregon’s fish and wildlife and their habitat for the enjoyment of present and future generations. Contact campaign coordinator Yvonne Shaw for more information. Yvonne.L.Shaw@odfw.oregon.gov.