August 01, 2023
A group of seven alleged turkey poachers from out-of-state have been arrested in Illinois after a year-long investigation by conservation law enforcement officers. The case involved more than 20 wild turkeys and led to 63 misdemeanor charges and three felonies.
The alleged crimes were carried out using night-vision scopes and suppressed AR-style rifles, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Office of Law Enforcement reported.
The charges stem from an investigation that began in March 2022 after wild-turkey carcasses were located in the Alton-Wood River area of Madison County, Ill. During the course of the investigation, Illinois authorities identified a group of individuals who they say had been poaching wild turkeys at night in or near the city limits of Hartford, Alton and Wood River. It was determined the men allegedly used AR-style rifles equipped with thermal-imaging scopes and suppressors.
According to the DNR, seven people were arrested and multiple charges were filed. Individuals charged were Dustin Goldsmith of McCall Creek, Miss.; Hunter Baxter of Lucedale, Miss.; Nick Henley of Monticello, Ark.; Benjamin Emerson of Lucedale, Miss.; Dakota Jarratt of Wilmar, Ark.; Matthew McClendon of Augusta, Ga.; and Jacob Russell of Ruth, Miss.
Felony charges were filed against Baxter and Goldsmith. Baxter was charged with two felony counts in Madison County, including possession of a suppressed firearm and resource theft more than $3,000. Goldsmith faces a felony count of resource theft of more than $3,000.
In addition to allegedly poaching more than 20 wild turkeys, police also alleged that three cotton-tailed rabbits were poached from a vehicle that had a suppressed rifle in it, a rifle that was reportedly equipped with thermal imaging scopes in Calhoun County.
"Poaching is a serious crime that can cause tremendous harm to wildlife and biodiversity,” said Jed Whitchurch, director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Office of Law Enforcement. “Conservation laws are in place to ensure wildlife resources are around for future generations to enjoy,"
Court dates have been set in both Madison and Calhoun counties for all individuals allegedly involved.
To report any poaching and other outdoors related illegal activity, a person can complete the Target Illinois Poachers (TIP) incident reporting form.
"I encourage anyone who is aware of poaching crimes in Illinois to come forward with tips,” he Whitchurch. “People have a responsibility to understand these laws and to follow them."