Cheyenne, Wyo. — Three men charged with more than 100 wildlife violations were convicted on numerous charges in what is one of the largest poaching cases in Wyoming history.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) issued a press release detailing the case that stems back to the fall of 2015. According to the release, Russell Vick of Alabama, Robert Underwood of Oklahoma, and David Underwood of South Dakota were convicted of multiple wildlife offenses and cumulatively fined $171,230 and $131,550 in restitution.
Punishments also included prison time and lifetime hunting and fishing bans. The case involved charges of poaching multiple wildlife species that included bighorn sheep, elk, moose, mule deer and antelope.
The charges were prosecuted across four different Wyoming counties. It was the result of a seven-year, multi-agency investigation that spanned four states and involved thousands of hours of investigations.
“Investigating and successfully prosecuting a case of this size and scope required years of effort by many individuals and agencies,” said Rick King, Wyoming Game and Fish chief game warden. “Dozens of people worked hard to make sure that even though some of these violations occurred a decade or more ago, they would not go unpunished.”
According to the release, the case started in October of 2015 when a Gillette, Wyo., game warden received a request from a hunter for an interstate game tag to be used with a deer head being shipped to Vick for taxidermy work at an Alabama address. A database search showed Vick having a Wyoming address, and that he had purchased resident licenses in Wyoming for multiple years.
As the investigation of Vick widened to include cellular and social media sources, evidence began to implicate his acquaintances, Robert Underwood, and Robert’s son, David Underwood. According to the release, the Underwoods are former residents of Gillette.
Federal search warrants were simultaneously executed on the residences of both Vick and David Underwood (Edgemont, S.D.) in May of 2017, while Robert Underwood was interviewed at his home in Jones, Okla.
Digital evidence and multiple elk, deer, pronghorn and a bighorn sheep ram mount were seized from the Vick and Underwood residences.
According to the release, a second federal search warrant was conducted in November of 2017 after officers learned that Vick had removed more than a dozen wildlife mounts from his residence. They were later found hidden in a trailer over 60 miles away from his residence in Alabama.
Charges against the three individuals were brought forward in Campbell, Weston, Sheridan and Park counties in Wyoming.
Vick’s list of charges included 43 wildlife violations from Campbell County that took place between 2003 and 2012. Charges included illegally killing, possessing and/or transporting two doe and two buck antelope, 11 buck mule deer, pheasants and a bull elk. He also was charged with multiple counts of making false statements to receive resident licenses.
Vick’s total penalties include prison time, lifetime hunting and fishing bans and thousands of dollars in fines and restitution.
“He forfeited four bull elk mounts, one buck antelope mount, three buck mule deer mounts and a Winchester rifle used in the illegal killings,” the release stated, stemming from the charges in Campbell County. “He additionally abandoned three bighorn sheep rams, three moose, seven elk, eight antelope, one mule deer, a walrus mask and one gull mount to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after the November 2017 search warrant.”
Robert Underwood’s charges included 35 wildlife violations from Campbell County that occurred between 2003-2012. They included charges of killing or possessing eight mule deer bucks, two bull elk, a cow elk and a bobcat.
He was also charged with making false statements on applications to obtain Wyoming resident licenses for moose, bighorn sheep, wild bison and mountain goat for his son, David, and Vick.
Robert Underwood pleaded no contest to charges from both Weston and Campbell counties. He was sentenced to 50 days in jail, along with penalties that included a lifetime hunting and fishing ban and thousands of dollars in fines and restitution.
David Underwood’s charges included 16 wildlife violations that occurred between 2005-2015, including illegally killing a buck antelope and pheasants without a license. He too was charged with making false statements to obtain Wyoming resident licenses.
David Underwood pleaded guilty in Weston County as an accessory to Vick’s killing of a bighorn sheep ram. A judge ordered Underwood to pay $5,035 in fines, $5,000 in restitution and his hunting, fishing and trapping privileges were revoked for five years.
According to the release, he pleaded no contest to eight charges from Campbell County, and another eight charges were dismissed. A plea deal outlined $7,010 in fines and $3,000 in restitution. His hunting privileges were suspended for 15 years, beginning at the end of his five-year suspension from Weston County.