JACKSON, WY— Back in September 2015, Dayton Game Warden Dustin Shorma received a call that two buck mule deer were shot and abandoned west of Sheridan, Wyoming. The poachers had only taken the animals’ heads. A month later, a third deer was found killed and abandoned.
Now, nearly three years later, the case is finally closed, thanks to a tip from a member of the public, says the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Three Tennesse men plead guilty to poaching and have been fined more than $15,000.
Wyoming Fish and Game sent out a news release at the time of the incident soliciting public assistance in solving the crime. A local landowner then contacted Shorma with a top about a group of three antelope hunters from Tennessee. Thanks to that tip, Shorma was able to begin an investigation with help from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. Zachary Mathis, Philip Hickerson, and Cody Duncan had each killed a mule deer and only kept the antlers, leaving the rest of the meat to rot.
The men were cited with three counts of wanton destruction, three counts of taking big game animals from a motor vehicle and one count of taking a deer without a license. Through a plea agreement with the Sheridan County Attorney’s Office, the men paid $15,285 in fines and restitution, forfeited a $3,200 custom rifle and lost their hunting privileges for three years.
“This is an excellent example of how a single tip on a wildlife-related crime can go a long way,” said Shorma. “If people have tips on a poaching case there are several ways to get that information to us. They can call their local game warden, a Game and Fish Regional Office or the Stop Poaching Hotline. People might think that the little bit of information they know won’t help, but even a small piece of information may be just the piece of the puzzle we need to solve the case.”
Anyone with information on a wildlife-related violation can contact the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s STOP POACHING Hotline at 1-877-WGFD-TIP, or by sending a text to TIP411 with WGFD as the first word of the message, or online. Those reporting wildlife violations can choose to remain anonymous.