HUNTING's Best of the Dumbest Poacher Awards

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.

Goose Poacher Caught Red-Handed

In 2012, photographer Charlie Long snapped some photos of this goose poacher helping himself to a few snow geese at Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge near Smyrna, Del., one of the top gatherings for snowies in the country.

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, 'ňúThis 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.' '

Wyoming Teen Banned from Hunting for Life

According to the Northern Wyoming Daily News, then-19-year-old Colton Lapp received 18- to 24-month prison sentences and forfeited his hunting, fishing and trapping privileges for life after he was convicted of three felony counts of taking antlered deer out of season, the first felony poaching case in Wyoming history. This all came after Lapp was convicted of two similar charges in 2010 — including illegally killing a 210-inch muley — for which he was placed on probation.

Indie Filmmakers Shoot Deer for Movie

In 2012, the minds behind the indie film First Winter apparently intended to kill only one deer for their film about a group of Brooklyn hipsters surviving an upstate New York winter, but the bullet passed through the targeted doe, killing another deer standing next to it. Thing is, these guys had no idea you couldn't just walk out into the woods and shoot a couple deer, resulting in actor Paul Manza being charged with shooting both deer without a license — and out of season.

'We are idiots. We didn't know how to do this [hunting] stuff, ' director Ben Dickinson told DNAinfo.com.

Poacher Brags About Kills on Facebook

In this high-tech digital age, we're taught to be careful about what we post on sites like Facebook. Be that as it may, some just can't help but jump at the opportunity to publicly out themselves via social media. Take Darin Lee Waldo, a Davenport, Fla., native who openly bragged on Facebook about how he illegally killed several whitetails. Waldo even extended invitations to illegal hunts to undercover wildlife agents who had messaged him through the social networking site.

To top it all off, Waldo is a convicted felon who shouldn't have even possessed firearms in the first place.

Poacher Outed at Whitetail Expo

In January 2012, David V. Kent thought he had clinched a 35-year-old record when he tried to enter his 14-point buck in the Monster Buck Classic in Topeka, Kan., presented by Mossy Oak.

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.

Texas Brothers Run Illegal Operation in Kansas

In 2011, two Texas brothers pleaded guilty to running an illegal hunting operation in Kansas. Martin and James Butler had a part in 160 trophy bucks illegally taken by about 60 clients or staff between 2005 and 2008. Those clients, with one of the two brothers personally guiding them, were found to have killed deer over the bag limit, shot them with rifles during the archery season, used spotlights to shoot deer at night and even used night vision scopes when shooting deer at night, showing complete disregard for any hunting ethics or game laws.

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 gallery=133,500 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.

Nine Busted in Massive Oregon Poaching Ring

In 2011, nine people were arrested for their involvement in the poaching of as many as 300 deer in the McKenzie Hunt Unit in Oregon between 2005 and 2010, the result of a 15-month investigation by Oregon State Police revealed between 2005 and 2010 following a 15-month investigation by Oregon State Police, who called it the single largest poaching case in the state's history. Law enforcement officers seized 108 racks, 18 rifles, 1,600 pounds of meat, timber company keys, numerous hunting licenses and tags, and two entire illegally taken cow elk.

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.

Leaking Blood Busts Poachers

On Nov. 18, 2012, the El Dorado County Sheriff's Office received multiple calls about a tan Toyota SUV driving down the road with blood dripping out the back, according to The Huffington Post. When the callers tried to get a look at the driver and passenger — Scott Lee and Nai Saechao — the truck would speed off, drawing suspicion.

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.

Tenn. Men Risk Lives to Poach

In 2011, four Tennessee men were arrested on charges of illegally killing "hundreds" of deer by sneaking into Fort Campbell, which the state had closed to hunting for munitions training. The illegal activities were first discovered after wildlife and local law enforcement officials on Fort Campbell confronted two men who had been spotted entering the closed area, apparently undeterred by the fact that live munitions were fired there.

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 gallery=133,500, received one-year probation and ordered to surrender his mounts, in addition to federal charges.

Poachers Chased, Fired On by Drunken Landowner

In 2012, according to Texas Parks & Wildlife, a Red River County game warden and two Bowie County deputies received a tip about a possible road hunting incident near a residence. Apparently, a couple outside their home heard gunshots, and the husband — drunk as a skunk — hopped in his truck to track the shooters down. When he did, he began firing upon their vehicle with a handgun. The "hunters" called 911 to report they were being shot at; when they were contacted by game wardens, they denied having a part in any illegal hunting.

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.

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