New law makes poached big buck worth $13,000

Columbus – From trumpeter swans to trophy bucks, poachers are
bagging hefty court-ordered restitution as a result of tougher
sanctions approved by the Ohio legislature and being enforced since
March 4.

Two hunters arrested for illegally taking a trophy-scored
whitetail in northwestern Ross County Nov. 1 became the first
Ohioans to be prosecuted under the new law that allows the
DNR_Division of Wildlife to seek restitution based on a revised
scoring formula after measuring a deer’s antlers.

Cory A. Posey, 19, of South Salem, and Kyle E. Kruger, 20, of
Washington Court House, were recently convicted of wildlife charges
in Chillicothe Municipal Court and each was ordered to pay $6,494
in restitution. In addition, the hunters were each fined $100 and
court costs and ordered to serve 200 hours of community service,
five years of community control along with suspension of their
hunting privileges for five years.

The poachers were arrested as part of a division task force
targeting spotlighting. The group comprised a supervisor, two
investigators, and wildlife officers Bob Nelson of Ross County, Roy
Rucker of Fayette County, Bill Bullard of Licking County, and Chris
Rice of Union County.

Alerted by vehicle lights shining in a remote field about 12:30
a.m., officers found an abandoned pickup truck with blood in the
truck bed along with a spotlight.

“We had a deer somewhere,” said Nelson as the officers began a
search for the suspects. The team later made three arrests,
including one juvenile, who led them to where a trophy buck was
recovered partly gutted in the field. Charges against the juvenile
were filed in Ross County Juvenile Court.

The trophy-sized rack recovered in Ross County scored 1877/8
Boone and Crockett inches, Nelson said.

“That is really big. I have talked to a lot of hunters who have
never seen that big of a deer in the wild,” he said. “To shine a
light and take a deer with a rifle makes people who care about the
resource just ill.”

If the antler size of the deer meets a minimum criteria of at
least 125 Boone and Crockett inches, the new law allows the DOW to
use a formula to determine a restitution value, which in the case
of the deer poached in Ross County was $12,988.

Nelson said the two hunters were unaware of the new law
concerning trophy game restitution and apologized to sportsmen
during their court appearance.

As the new law gains publicity in the press and on Internet
hunting blogs, it has also earned support, said Brad Turner, the
wildlife officer in Scioto County.

“When I go to sportsmen clubs and outdoor shows, (hunters) say,
‘Holy cow, that’s great. We need to ding these guys,'” said
Turner.

Turner took advantage of the new law April 27 in seeking
restitution for five fishermen who were charged with 38 counts of
overbagging striped and hybrid striped bass on the Ohio River near
the Greenup dam.

Turner said he had responded to a complaint from other fishermen
to the suspicious activity of the five anglers who were catching
fish and putting them in coolers in their vehicle.

A Scioto County court set restitution at $1,900, or $50 per fish
under the law’s stronger enforcement provisions. The old law
assessed a $10 restitution value per fish. Monies recovered in
poaching cases goes into the DOW’s wildlife fund, which finances a
variety of division programs.

Ohio fishing regulations at Greenup Dam call for a daily bag
limit of 30 fish, with no more than four fish over 15 inches. In
Turner’s case, some of the recovered bass exceeded 15 inches and
weighed up to 81/2 pounds.

A few days after the new law took effect, a Lorain fisherman was
convicted of overbagging six steelhead during a two-day period in
the Avon Lake area, and was ordered to pay $300 in restitution for
the illegal harvest.

More recently along Lake Erie, two hunters were ordered to pay
restitution for bagging trumpeter swans, which are on the state
endangered list (Ohio Outdoor News, Nov. 21).

A total of nine trumpeter swans have been illegally killed this
year. One of the incidents involved a 92-year-old hunter, said Paul
Kurfis, law enforcement supervisor for the DOW in northwest
Ohio.

“It’s tough to give a ticket to someone who looks like your
grandpa, but we cannot pick and choose to who we write tickets,”
Kurfis said.

The elderly hunter, who killed a swan on Sept. 1, the first day
of early goose hunting season, was ordered to pay restitution of
$2,500, which is the new value for trumpeter swans. The old value
was $1,000.

In a second swan restitution case, a hunter was ordered to pay a
total of $5,000 for two illegal kills. In addition, the hunter was
ordered by Port Clinton Municipal Court to attend a hunter safety
education course or risk losing his hunting privileges for five
years

“Whether it was early morning light or hunters looking into the
sun, I would like to think there’s some reason to misidentify
something like that,” Kurfis said in a recent interview with Ohio
Outdoor News.

Kurfis said he strongly supports the new recovery values for
Ohio wildlife.

“I think they have brought them in line with the current values
of the animals that are accurate,” he said.

The legislators who wrote the law also are glad to see the
legislation getting publicized and talked about.

“I like the attention it is getting,” said Ohio Rep. Jimmy
Stewart, R-Athens. “We want to make it very expensive and recoup
the money for that valuable resource. That’s the way we look at
those big deer in Ohio.”

When Stewart speaks to sportsmen groups, he said he is often
asked if the new law will be enforced by the judicial system.

“It is our hope and expectation that they will enforce it,”
Stewart said.

U.S. Rep. Bob Latta, R-Ohio, who helped introduce the new
legislation last year before he won a special election to Congress,
said he’s just glad the new recovery values are now in force.

“If we want to make sure that there will be trophy (game) for
all, then we have to have the rules and regulations in place,”
Latta said.

The DOW also as been busy updating its database with hunters who
have been convicted of wildlife crimes in Ohio and as well those
from other states as part of the Interstate Wildlife Violators
Compact (Ohio Outdoor News, Nov. 7). Ohio is one of 30 states to
have joined the compact since it was created in 1989.

The agreement allows member states to recognize suspension of
license privileges from state to state. For example, if someone’s
hunting privileges had been suspended in Indiana, he or she also
would prohibited from hunting legally in Ohio.

The DOW began enforcement of the agreement on Nov. 24, said Ken
Fitz, law enforcement program administrator. Fitz said he has
ratified an estimated 3,000 cases from other states and entered 45
cases from Ohio.

“From being in the field, the one big question (from hunters) is
‘am I going to lose my right to hunt or fish?'” Fitz said. “It will
be a big deterrent to know they can’t go to other states.”

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