Nonresident hunters pay for poaching Brown County deer

Georgetown, Ohio — Poaching four trophy whitetail bucks resulted in more than $9,000 in restitution after three nonresidents pleaded guilty to charges of jacklighting deer with rifles in Brown County.

Caleb Skelton, 32, of Wiggins, Miss.;  Robert Lins, 47, of Lucedale, Miss.; and Michael Brown, 43, of Bastrop, La., were charged for the nighttime poaching of five deer Nov. 18-20 in the Aberdeen area during bow season.

“If you come to our state, you need to know the laws,” assistant prosecutor Nicholas Owens said, calling the mutilation of whitetail deer “egregious.”

Acting District 5 Manager Brian Goldick concurred.

“Ohio is an annual destination for many out-of-state hunters, and we encourage them to familiarize themselves with Ohio laws,” Goldick said in a news release.

A hunter may only harvest one buck during Ohio’s deer season. Hunting deer with a rifle and at night is illegal in Ohio.

The investigation began in 2011 when the DNR‚ÄąDivision of Wildlife received a tip to possible poaching activity  involving Skelton, according to Joel Buddelmeyer, a DOW investigator.

An additional tip was received this year that Skelton had been seen in Brown County with deer parts, and Buddelmeyer reopened the investigation with the assistance of Brown County Wildlife Officer Eric Lamb, Adams County Wildlife Officer Mark Schemmel, Clermont County Wildlife Officer  Gus Kiebel, and Aberdeen Police Officer Cody Prince.

Investigators wrapped up a lengthy investigation that resulted in the discovery of two trash cans filled with venison and one-quarter of a deer stored in a bag in Skelton’s truck. Also recovered were three severed deer heads and two complete deer carcasses from a rural location.

An  unusual aspect of the case was the recovery of the severed trophy racks, which were lodged in a tree above reach of dogs or coyotes. The poachers apparently had hidden the heads in a tree temporarily but were cited before they could retrieve them, Buddelmeyer said. 

Four of the five poached deer scored above the trophy standard of 125 Boone and Crockett inches, Buddelmeyer said.

The largest buck scored 148 6⁄8 inches, which was killed by one of the juveniles who was not charged. The buck would have had a restitution value of $4,4121.33, Buddelmeyer said.

Skelton and Lins pleaded guilty to spotlighting, killing deer with a rifle, shooting deer from a motor vehicle, and failure to tag a deer.

Two bucks shot by Skelton scored 142 and 144 5⁄8 inches. Skelton was ordered to pay $7,196.39. In addition, he received a $50 fine. He was sentenced to a  suspended 240 days in jail, and his Ohio hunting license was revoked for five years.  He also forfeited two rifles.

Lins shot two deer that scored 142 inches, and 129 3⁄8 inches respectively. He was ordered to pay $1,923.77 in restitution, a $50 fine, and sentenced to a suspended 240 days in jail. Lins' Ohio hunting privileges were revoked for three years. Lins was required to forfeit one rifle.

Brown pleaded guilty to hunting deer with a rifle and hunting without a permit. He received a suspended 90-day jail sentence, fined $750 and had his Ohio hunting privileges suspended for a year.  He was not charged with killing deer. Brown pleaded guilty to hunting without a permit and hunting with a rifle.

Buddelmeyer said the five deer were confiscated and the antlers were destroyed according to Ohio laws  at “an approved facility” by smashing the antlers with a backhoe. He said the deer carcasses had not been dressed and most of the meat had spoiled, which prevented the DOW from donating the deer meat.

All three poachers’ convictions will be entered into Ohio's Wildlife Violator Compact database, which means if  a person’s  hunting, fishing, or trapping rights are suspended in Ohio, they could be suspended in 35 states participating in the interstate compact.

The successful investigation resulted from citizens getting involved, Buddelmeyer said.

"We are encouraged," he said, when concerned citizens call  the DOW tip line: 1-800-POACHER (1-800-762-2437). "We do work hard to protect Ohio’s natural resources during the course of our investigations, and I think this case shows the diligence of the officers involved in the case.”

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