Poacher Sentenced to Deer Weekends in Jail
December 24, 2017
After a deer poaching case gets solved, a North Texas man gets sentenced to a unique punishment that has the story going viral across the country.
In a story that Game & Fish began following in late 2017, now comes viral news of a "go to jail during deer season" sentence being handed down.
That hefty and unique sentence has been given to a Whitesboro, Texas, man convicted of poaching a huge 202-inch white-tailed buck illegally killed last year near the Red River to the north of Dallas.
The viral nature of this deer poaching story comes because of a news release and reports about the unique sentence handed down by Judge Jim Fallon of the 15th District Court in Grayson County, Texas.
According to a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) news release, that sentence orders 34-year old John Walker Drinnon to spend every weekend of hunting season — beginning on Dec. 30, 2017 — in the Grayson County jail for the next five years.
The TPWD news releases (the one referenced above and another one from November 2017) also indicate that's in addition to serving five years of probation and paying $18,048.10 in civil restitution for the deer.
Those are the penalties after Drinnon pleaded guilty on Oct. 12 to a felony charge of taking a white-tailed deer without landowner consent. In that plea, Drinnon admitted to killing the 19-point buck with a rifle (Grayson County is an archery-only county) while trespassing on private property.
This story actually began during the latter months of 2016 when photos surfaced of Drinnon and the buck. His story — TPWD says that Drinnon claimed to have killed the buck on public hunting land in Oklahoma — quickly began to unravel when game wardens obtained a game camera image.
That photo showed the huge buck actually being on public hunting land on the Texas side of Lake Texoma, the border lake that separates the Lone Star State and the Sooner State.
Working with game wardens in Oklahoma and agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, TPWD game wardens were able to build a case against Drinnon, eventually obtaining a confession from him.
TPWD noted in one of the news releases that the confession found Drinnon admitting that he had killed the massive buck from a public roadway with a rifle. Charges filed against Drinnon included taking a deer without landowner consent (a state jail felony); hunting without landowner consent (Class A misdemeanor); hunting from a vehicle (Class A misdemeanor); having no hunting license; hunting from a public roadway; having no hunter education; and taking a deer with illegal means and methods.
"These cases exemplify the hard work and dedication state game wardens deliver day in and day out to enforce Texas game laws," said Col. Grahame Jones, TPWD Law Enforcement Division Director, in a news release.
"I want to extend special recognition and gratitude to Grayson County game wardens Michael Hummert and Daron Blackerby for a job well done."
More on Deer Poaching
Drinnon's conviction and subsequent sentencing is only part of a recent wave of poaching cases in Grayson County, which has only a modest population of whitetails, but also a history for producing older age class trophy bucks.
One such case involved Hummert as the lead investigator into a 2014 poaching ring at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge on the southern shores of Lake Texoma. TPWD game wardens — including now retired Grayson County warden Dale Moses — worked together with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents to apprehended a group of five subjects who were sneaking onto the refuge to poach trophy bucks. That investigation led to six felony charges and 34 Class A misdemeanor charges being filed.
Another poaching case involved 37-year old Timothy Kane Sweet of Sherman, Texas, who spun his own tale about taking another 19-point buck from Grayson County. While TPWD says the man originally claimed to have killed the deer in neighboring Fannin County, the 177-inch non-typical buck had also been captured on a game camera photo in Grayson County.
Sweet's initial claims proved to be unfounded as wardens investigated. According to TPWD, during an interview with wardens, Sweet claimed to have made a poor shot on the deer that didn't draw blood. After he returned to the area later in the evening, the buck jumped and started running away. That's when Sweet told wardens that he had illegally shot the deer '“ at night '“ five or six times with a pistol.
As a result, on Oct. 20, 2017, TPWD reports that Sweet pleaded no contest to charges of illegal means and methods; improperly tagged whitetail deer; and hunting out of season (all Class C misdemeanors). After the plea was made in a Justice of the Peace Court in Whitesboro, Texas, civil restitution was estimated at $10,664.35 according to TPWD.
TPWD also noted that the last case involved 47-year old Brian Eugene Culp of Gunter, Texas, who killed a big 10-point Grayson County buck last fall, attempting to take advantage of hunting license benefits reserved for disabled veterans.
Upon investigation, Culp was found to have tagged the 157-inch whitetail using a Texas Super Combo hunting and fishing license '“ which are available to disabled veterans at no cost '“ that he was not qualified to possess.
As a result, the agency says that on May 19, 2017, Culp pled no contest in the Justice of the Peace Court in Whitesboro. As a result of the hunting without a valid license charge, civil restitution was estimated by TPWD at $6,242.35.
Altogether, the three most recent poaching cases in Grayson County during the fall of 2016 '“ where the three illegally taken deer had a combined gross Boone and Crockett Club score of more than 535 inches '“ brought a combined civil restitution value of $34,954.80.
And a sentence for one of the men '“ Drinnon '“ to spend every weekend of hunting season in the local jail for the next five years.
All of which would seem to serve as a strict reminder to would-be poachers and wildlife criminals in the Lone Star State: don't mess with Texas' deer.