Game wardens are investigating two mule deer poachings that occurred within 16 days of one another in Wyoming's Curt Gowdy State Park. While mulies being poached out of season is not a new thing for the park, game warden Allen Deru said the proximity in time of the two shootings is unusual.
Wyoming Game and Fish Department game wardens first found "a little fork horn" that was shot on Dec. 2 and abandoned. The poachers "didn't even walk up to it or anything," Deru said.
Wardens found no evidence associated with that crime, though Deru noted that his department received a call on Dec. 18 from someone who said he found "another 30.06 casing in the road, down toward where the two-point was shot."
"Another" refers to a 30.06 casting found by the second deer, poached on Dec. 15. That was a mature buck.
"They shot it from the road, ran up on the hill and dragged it down to the road," Deru said. "It looked like they started to field dress it, and then they just stopped, cut the head off and took it."
He found it odd that no locals heard any shots.
Lots of houses around, but it's winter time so the windows are closed, maybe the TV is on," he said.
Mulie seasons have been closed for some time so these are obvious cases of poaching, but a few more statutes are also involved. First is "wanton waste" or "wanton destruction," a law all states have which addresses wasting game meat.
Both animals are candidates for that violation. Deru said first-time violators can get a fine of not less than $5,000 and not more than $10,000, and/or imprisonment for no more than two years.
Wyoming also has a statute for taking a trophy animal out of season. Based on the body size of the second animal, Deru feels it could be a candidate for that law.
"I don't know for sure [the rack size of the second deer], but I assume if we do find the person, we will charge him with that particular violation," he said. "We consider anything over 25 inches to be a trophy deer."
That statute also carries with it a $5,000 to $10,000 fine and up to two years in prison. Plus, violators often lose their hunting and fishing privileges for five years and must pay restitution for each animal taken. Deru said that figure is about $6,000 per deer.
Under that law, repeat offenders can be charged with a felony.
"This one's going to come down to if they are repeat people, they'll keep doing it and hopefully we'll catch them one time," Deru said. "Or it'll be the public turning them in, or their close friends or relatives."
There's a pretty sizable incentive to turn in poachers: a cash reward up to $5,000 if the information leads to a conviction.
The 11,000-acre Curt Gowdy State Park is named after the famed outdoorsman, conservationist and sports commentator – and host of The American Sportsman TV show – who grew up in Wyoming. Among the many attractions of the park is trophy animals.
"I've seen quite a few trophy mule deer," Deru said. “Mule deer get poached all the time here – because during the winter months, the big ones that have been hiding out all hunting season come down and are pretty accessible so people get tempted by them."
Anyone with information on these or any other poached animals in Wyoming should call (877) WGFD-TIP or the Cheyenne office at (307) 777-4585, and can remain anonymous, Deru said.