Trophy-class mule deer poached and left to waste in Grant County

JOHN DAY, Ore. — Two trophy-class mule deer bucks were the latest targets of poachers in Grant County, and OSP Fish and Wildlife Troopers would like to hear from anyone who has information on the crimes, which happened on Nov. 9 and 10.

The first was a large buck that stood along the highway near Mount Vernon, OR. The deer’s massive, unusual antlers created an irresistible photo opportunity. A hunter who drove by at about 9:30 a.m. on Nov. 9th stopped to take that photo of the trophy class buck, then continued on toward his legal hunting grounds. That afternoon, around 4:30, the hunter drove back through the same stretch of highway 26. He peered toward the area to see if the deer was there. It was. But this time, it was lying on the ground in a pool of blood, his magnificent head and antlers taken as a poacher’s trophy. The hunter again stopped, snapped a picture, then called the Turn In Poachers (TIP) line to report the crime to OSP Fish and Wildlife Troopers.

The following day, Nov. 10, another Grant County hunter found a trophy-class mule deer buck that had been poached in the Murderer’s Creek unit. This time, the carcass was fresh and warm. The hunter had narrowly missed seeing whoever shot and killed the buck near Crazy Creek in the Dark Canyon area. Witnesses reported seeing a dark-colored Dodge pickup in the area, and OSP Troopers would like to talk with the driver of that vehicle.

These incidents mark two more episodes of poaching reverberating across hunting and conservation communities alike.

“Poaching takes away wildlife that belongs to all of us,” according to Tim Greseth, Executive Director of the Oregon Wildlife Foundation (OWF).

“It’s illegal, indiscriminate, and does great harm to our collective efforts to conserve fish and wildlife species for now and for the future. Species that are already in decline, like mule deer, need all the help they can get from us,” Greseth said.

Advocates of legal, ethical hunting agree.

“I’m guessing they are incompetent at hunting, so resort to poaching for bragging rights among their friends—but poaching can never be considered hunting,” said Rich Thompson, a member of the board for Traditional Archers of Oregon (TAO). TAO is a non-profit dedicated to fair chase practices and camaraderie among bow hunters.

“We as hunters have provided the incentive to those peers through rewards designed to appeal to hunters,” Thompson said, “The (OSP Fish and Wildlife) officers that are out there in prevent mode are doing amazing work. Now that leaves the legal system to tighten the noose and make poaching so painful that the perps might actually think of the potential consequences before pulling the trigger.”

Consequences to poaching also impact herd numbers on the landscape. Those numbers are crucial when deciding how to manage wildlife in ways that make the most of available resources. It also impacts how- or if- the general public experiences those animals.

“These recent poaching cases are very troubling,” according to ODFW Wildlife Division Administrator Bernadette Graham-Hudson.

“Poachers take opportunities away from legitimate hunters, and any illegal take of wildlife makes it challenging to effectively manage the populations,” Graham-Hudson said.

Rewards are in place for information leading to an arrest or citation in either of these cases. The Oregon Hunters Association (OHA) is offering $500 for each case or reporting parties may opt for four ODFW hunter preference points, for information that leads to an arrest or citation in either case. OHA awarded more than $20,000 in rewards through the Turn In Poachers program in 2020 and is on track to match that number for 2021.

Anyone with information on the mule deer that was shot and left on Nov. 9 alongside Hwy 26 near Mount Vernon is asked to please contact OSP Fish and Wildlife through the OSP TIP Hotline: 1-800-452-7888 or *OSP (677) or TIP E-Mail: Reference Case # SP21316638

Anyone with information on the buck that was shot and left on Nov. 10 in the Murderers Creek unit, especially if they have information on the dark-colored Dodge truck or driver seen in the area is asked to contact OSP, and reference Case # SP21316834