One of the toughest ways to earn a living in the outdoors is as a wildlife agency game warden or conservation officer.
A combination of a convenience store surveillance video and good old- fashioned detective work led to the arrest and conviction of a pair of Wyoming mule deer poachers.
While the videotape didn’t catch the culprits in the act of shooting or loading two mule deer bucks into a vehicle, beer cans and snack wrappers helped direct a savvy game warden to the game thieves.
A local rancher notified Mark Nelson, Cheyenne game warden for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, that it appeared someone had dragged two deer from his field to the county road. Upon investigating the scene, Nelson found what was determined to be deer blood, as well as beer cans and beef jerky wrappers.
With little more than litter, Nelson went to a local convenience store, where he inquired if anyone had purchased a specific combination of beer and beef jerky the previous afternoon. Not only did a clerk confirm such a purchase, but he also provided surveillance tapes of the customer.
As a result, Frank E. Brennan, 35, of Cheyenne, was charged with wanton destruction of a mule deer, taking a mule deer out of season and being an accessory to each of the charges. His nephew, Adam R. Brennan, 20, was charged with taking a mule deer out of season and also as an accessory to the charge. They were fined $820 each and were ordered to pay restitution to the state.
Cracking Case Takes Guts
It was an elaborate scheme to cover up an illegal deer kill, but all a New Hampshire Fish & Game conservation officer had to do to crack the case was show some guts. Well, a gut-pile, actually.
The odd case of the moving gutpile began when New Hampshire Fish & Game officer William Boudreau was called by a landowner who reported hearing shots and finding deer entrails in an area closed to hunting. Boudreau quickly determined that the remains came from a female whitetail, while the marks on the ground indicated the deer had been dragged to a nearby gravel pit owned by the University of New Hampshire, where it was placed into a vehicle.
The Portsmouth (NH) Herald reported that Boudreau’s investigation then took him to local deer check stations, where he discovered that no doe deer had been registered that day.
The CO’s detective work next led to UNH public works supervisor David Howard, one of the few persons who had access to the locked gravel facility. Howard told the officer he had killed a doe on the date in question, but in a different township than the area near the gravel pit.
That’s when conservation super-sleuth Boudreau began to weave his intricate trap.
He returned to the site of the illegal kill, located the gutpile, and placed his Game and Fish Department business card (with the time and date hand-written on the back) inside the deer’s stomach. Boudreau then phoned Howard and requested that he (Howard) take him to the location of his kill the following morning. Howard agreed.
On the next day, when the two drove to the site where Howard claimed to have shot and field-dressed his doe, sure enough, there was a gutpile. And the deer stomach containing Boudreau’s business card? It was there, too.
In the end, Boudreau’s hunch that Howard would move the doe’s remains played out like something from a crime novel or a television script.
Here at Offbeat Outdoors, we’ll call it CSI: Gutpile.
Pot Growers Deliver to Wardens
Two illegal aliens were arrested after they were found loading 127 pounds of processed marijuana into a truck they thought belonged to their supplier in an after-dark back-country delivery. Unfortunately (for them) the vehicle was owned by the State of California and was being used by Department of Fish and Game wardens Scott Williams and Aaron Galwey, who were spotlighting for deer poachers in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest.
“Things unfolded so quickly that they immediately commanded them to keep their hands within view,” said DFG spokesman Pat Foy.
The men were booked into Tehama County Jail. In addition to weapon and drug charges, the illegal immigrants also face deportation.
According to the Redding Searchlight newspaper, Williams and Galwey were able to handcuff two of the men, one of whom was armed with a shotgun. But three others escaped on foot.
“We’ll be keeping an eye out for them,” Foy said. “They’re presumably still in the forest, but they came out to meet their supplier, so there’s a chance they might be gone.”