Game Warden Chronicles: Possible $162,000 in Poaching Fines, Restitution

In the latest game warden chronicles, Oregon officials charged three men with dozens of violations that could have a total penalty of more than $162,000.

Game Warden Chronicles: Possible $162,000 in Poaching Fines, Restitution

Antlers were among items seized after a two-year investigation yielded dozens of charges against three Oregon men and one woman by the state wildlife agency. (Photo: Oregon State Police/F&W)

Ever hear about a crazy arrest by game wardens and wonder why someone did what they did?

Game warden reports from state conservation departments always are a source for a few laughs and head-scratching moments. Take a look at some of these selections from around the country.

Three Oregon men have been charged with poaching 27 big game animals over the past two years after a concerned citizen alerted authorities. Restitution for the crimes, which occurred in western Oregon, may top $162,000.

Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife (OSP F&W) troopers issued criminal citations in lieu of custody for William Hollings, 34, of Philomath; Nicholas Lisenby, 39, of Lebanon; and Eric Hamilton, 33, of Alsea. Amanda Hughes, 37, of Lebanon, also was charged. The crimes occurred in Benton, Lane, Linn, Lincoln, Polk and Tillamook counties.

Details of the case remain confidential until trials are complete. However, after conducting several searches, OSP Troopers recovered evidence indicating numerous wildlife crimes. They issued multiple charges of unlawful take or possession of buck deer, bull elk, black bear, bobcat and cougar. Charges also include felon in possession of a firearm; illegal transfer of a tag; hunting during a closed season and hunting without big game tags.

Evidence of the crimes was discovered after an initial search warrant executed on Hollings’ residence on April 8, 2020. Based on those findings, Troopers served additional warrants for related suspects on April 25. They discovered multiple subjects, who allegedly poached at least 27 big game animals

OSP Senior Trooper Jim Andrews led the investigation. Andrews received a tip through the Turn In Poachers (TIP) Line which started the wheels turning. People who report poaching and other wildlife crimes are eligible for cash rewards or hunter preference points if their report leads to a citation or arrest.

“We had an anonymous member of the public lodge the original complaint,” Senior Trooper Andrews said, “He did an awesome job. He’s the reason we got this case going and he’s going to get some hunting preference points.”

New legislation passed in 2019 increased fines and restitutions for fish and wildlife crimes. Under Oregon Revised Statute 496.075, charges related to this case call for $162,700.00 in restitution to the State of Oregon. The three men will likely lose hunting privileges and pay additional fees. Restitution fines generally fund improved wildlife and habitat programs through the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Losing all my Cool

In Texas, a Polk County game warden was checking fishermen on a shoreline for freshwater fishing compliance when he spotted a man emerging from under a bridge with a pole and tackle box. When the warden asked if he had a fishing license, the man said he didn’t need one because he wasn’t fishing.

The warden showed the man the fresh bait and water dripping off the hook and asked if he would like to start over. The man then confessed to fishing, not having a license and being on probation. When asked if he had any weapons or illegal narcotics, the man said he didn’t want to go to jail and admitted to having marijuana in his car. The warden started to do a pat down search when the man turned and tried to distract the warden, then confessed to possibly having cocaine in his possession.

The warden found multiple folded dollar bills containing a white powdery substance. A Polk County Sheriff’s Office Narcotics and Probation Officer was contacted and took over the case. Charges pending.

Pinocchio and Pinocchietta

Also in Texas, a Hardin County game warden wrapped an investigation that began when he was looking for information on social media about a possible stolen boat. It turned out that the boat wasn’t stolen, but one of the individuals he was investigating had posted a photo last November of his fiancé posing with a white-tailed doe she had harvested.

The warden checked his records and saw that the woman had purchased her hunting license at a store near her home the same day as the post, but at 7 p.m. which was later than the social media post. Further investigation revealed that the deer was killed on a ranch in Real County and the warden enlisted the help of a Real County game warden to check the logbooks at the ranch.  When the Hardin County game warden interviewed the couple, they were adamant that they had purchased the hunting license before they had gone on their week-long trip to the Hill Country and denied buying when they returned. The warden explained to the couple that he had time and date stamped information about when the license had been purchased and they had posted the picture of a harvested deer in Real County the same day she purchased a license in Hardin County.

The couple still wasn’t convinced, so the warden went to the store where the license was purchased, and the loss prevention manager looked up the transaction. As expected, the video showed the couple together at the store at 7 p.m. purchasing the hunting license. After showing them the pictures of themselves from the video, they admitted to buying the license when they returned from their trip. Citations for taking a white-tailed deer without a hunting license and restitution are being filed. Case pending. 

Multiple Violations? Jail Time!

A 29-year-old Phelps County man was sentenced May 13 to jail time in Phelps County Court after being convicted of multiple deer hunting violations.

Nebraska conservation officers had investigated Arthur Underwood Jr. for multiple hunting violations during the 2019 hunting seasons. Underwood pled guilty to 12 counts, including five counts each of over-bagging deer and violation of deer regulations, and one count each of attempted tampering with evidence and false reporting.

The sentence included jail time of 300 days for each charge of tampering and false reporting – to be served consecutively, 30 days for regulation violations and 90 days for the over-bagging of deer – to be served concurrently.

Penalties of $22,000 in liquidated damages and a three-year suspension/revocation of hunting, fishing and trapping privileges also were assessed, plus court costs and fees.

Other persons in Underwood’s hunting party also were cited and had paid fines: Easton Kalb (two counts of violating hunting regulations, $100 fine for each count, $500 liquidated damages and court costs); Halley Helleberg (unlawfully taking/possessing game, $500 fine, $2,000 liquidated damages and court costs); Tristin Wood (violation of hunting regulations, $100 and court costs); and Johnathon Wood (hunting deer without a permit, $150 and court costs).

Michigan Man Arraigned on 125 Charges

A 56-year-old Pickford man was arraigned Wednesday morning ­in Chippewa County’s 91st District Court on 125 wildlife misdemeanor charges, following a months-long investigation by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division.

Kurt Johnston Duncan faces charges that include illegally harvesting 18 wolves over the past 18 months and killing and disposing of three bald eagles. Wolves are protected in Michigan and are on the federal endangered species list. Bald eagles are protected under state law, as well as the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

Duncan, who pleaded not guilty to all charges, faces:

  • Up to 90 days in jail and $1,000 fine for each wolf.
  • Up to 90 days in jail and $1,000 fine for each eagle.
  • Restitution of $1,500 per eagle and $500 per wolf.
  • Up to 90 days in jail and $500 fine each for the other wildlife crimes.

Duncan was served four search warrants in March. Other species involved in the charges include deer, turkey, bear and bobcat. DNR law enforcement detectives said Duncan was using the animals for a variety of reasons, including crafts, selling, or disposing of them, and stated that he was catching the animals because he could and “likes to do it.”

Conservation officers collected evidence to support the charges and identified additional suspects who are expected to be charged in the near future.

“We had a team of conservation officers that worked well together throughout this investigation,” said DNR Law Enforcement Division Chief Gary Hagler. “Investigations like this require a long-term commitment from everyone involved. I want to thank the prosecutors in this case who worked with our officers. We are happy with the outcome and hope this case sets an example to prevent future natural resource crimes.”

The Chippewa County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is seeking $30,000 in restitution to the state for the illegally taken animals. Duncan’s cash bond is set at $500. Other conditions of Duncan’s bond include having no contact with co-defendants, no possession of a firearm or dangerous weapon, and no engaging in hunting or fishing.


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