Poaching: It’s the most abhorrent crime against nature a human can commit, and being stewards and guardians of nature, something every hunter should condemn. After all, game laws are there for a reason—to maintain an ecological balance in our hunting grounds, maintaining steady wildlife populations and rich, clean environments, while ensuring all outdoorsmen are given equal and fair opportunities to make a clean, ethical kill.
Some, however, pay little regard to those laws and choose to do things their own way under the guise of hunting. Though not real hunters in any modern sense of the word, these outlaws nonetheless give the rest of us ethical hunters a bad rap.
So a while back, we at Petersen’s Hunting started a semi-regular feature called the Dumbest Poacher Awards, in which we point out some of the more moronic, head-scratching moments in the illegal taking of game. From ignorance to outright greed, we’ve done our best to separate the lawbreakers from the rest of us just trying to legally put some organic meat in the freezer. Here are some of the highlights of the Dumbest Poacher Awards; while some may have been around before we started handing out awards, they are certainly deserving of a spot in our lowlight reel.
Jim Edward Page, 43, and Curtis Wallace, 45, were caught by police and admitted to trespassing. The initial charges led to further investigation that revealed the involvement of two other men—Wendell Taylor, 43, and Gregory Crokarell, 41—and as many as 41 deer mounts and antlers. As part of a plea agreement, Wallace lost his hunting privileges for seven years, was fined $2,500, received one-year probation and ordered to surrender his mounts, in addition to federal charges.
In addition to charges directly related to the killing of the animals, several were also charged with racketeering, computer crimes and identity theft because they apparently bought licenses in other people’s names, then illegally registered the poached deer. One of those charged, Miguel A. Kennedy, 26, of Springfield, Ore., received eight months in prison and three years probation for his role.
Kennedy also helped authorities track down 37-year-old Shane Donoho, the alleged ringleader of the operation, who was charged with racketeering, five counts of identity theft, 10 counts of unlawful computer use—all felonies—and 58 misdemeanors, including second-degree forgery, unlawful hunting of a cow elk and unlawful possession of a game mammal; five counts of unlawful taking of big game; and 50 counts of unlawful possession of big game parts, according to The (Eugene, Ore.) Register Guard. Other alleged members of the ring included Donoho’s father, Rory Edwin Donoho, 59; his mother, Sandra L. Shaffer, 59; his wife, Laura A. Donoho, 36; his uncle, Gerald Stanton Donoho, 64; and three unrelated members from Springfield.
Some of the whitetail and mule deer mounts and racks confiscated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ranged in size from 120 to 200 inches. Clients allegedly paid between $2,500 and $5,500 to participate in the illegal hunts. The Butlers were sentenced to a combined 5 3/4 years in prison and fined $70,000.
To top it all off, Waldo is a convicted felon who shouldn’t have even possessed firearms in the first place.
Apparently, the suspect thought he was perfectly within his rights to just cap a few geese with his trusty shotgun from the side of the road. After Long and a few other witnesses apprehended him, Cpl. Julie Jones with the Delaware Division of Natural Resources informed the poacher that he was in the wrong. As Long told our sister magazine, Wildfowl, “He plead ignorance. She said, ‘This is a federal refuge and you are in possession of lead shot, shooting from a roadway and have no hunting license, and are in illegal possession of waterfowl without stamps and have unlawfully discharged a weapon inside a federal refuge.’”
“We are idiots. We didn’t know how to do this [hunting] stuff,” director Ben Dickinson told DNAinfo.com.
Sheriff's deputies tracked the vehicle down and discovered a deer carcass flooding the back with blood. An investigation revealed that Lee, 46, and Saechao, 32, had shot the buck from the road, then loaded it into the back of their vehicle when it collapsed.
Apparently, the deer regained consciousness as the duo drove off. One of them allegedly climbed back and stabbed the deer to death, resulting in a river of blood flowing out of the car. Both were arrested on charges of poaching, animal cruelty and other charges.
However, believing their 911 call had been dropped, operators overheard the poachers say, "Hide the gun in them woods," and, "Not that far, we’re gonna come back and get it tonight." After being confronted with the recording of their admitted crime, the trio each made statements about several burglaries they had committed, and also confessed to killing an 8-point buck the previous August, trespassing on the land and leaving the animal to rot.
While 24 charges were piled on the three poachers, the trigger-happy, vigilante land-owner was charged with DWI and deadly conduct.
Scoring an unofficial 198 7/8 on the Boone & Crockett system, the antlers were the largest entered in the event, but were disqualified when Kent admitted wrongdoing to state officials, who compared Kent’s claim to a trailcam image taken in October 2011 of the same buck. Had the deer been taken legally, the antlers would have beaten a 35-year-old record set by Dennis Finger, who shot a buck scoring 198 2/8 in 1974 in Nemaha County, Kan.