Poaching case and string of burglaries finally solved
Hanna Elk Mountain Game Warden Ryan Kenneda wrapped up a case that took place in winter of 2016 in which several deer were taken out of season. The investigation began as a burglary case, but soon became a wildlife violation. Warden Kenneda worked with the Hanna Marshall's office to obtain a search warrant for the residence.
The wildlife violations were settled out of court. The suspect pleaded guilty to two counts of taking deer out of season and was ordered to pay $5,040. His hunting, fishing and trapping privileges were suspended for 30 years. The suspect is currently serving a prison sentence for the burglary charge.
Timely Poaching Tip Results in Fine and Lost Hunting Privileges
Buffalo – A call to Buffalo Game Warden Jim Seeman from an archery hunter on the evening of September 13 began an investigation of a Florida man that was reported to have shot an elk on private land from a county road. Just before it got dark, the archery hunter observed a vehicle driving slowly on Hazelton Road south-west of Buffalo. Within seconds after the vehicle went out of sight of the archery hunter, he heard three gun shots. The archery hunter knew a person in the vehicle would not have had time to exit the vehicle prior to shooting, so he quickly drove to the location, recorded the vehicle license plate and called Seeman.
Seeman arrived at the location about one hour after receiving the tip and finding no one at the location at 9:30 p.m., returned to the scene early the next morning. Seeman found a white Florida vehicle with a license plate matching the one reported to him the previous evening. When Seeman asked the person driving the vehicle if he was looking for the elk he had shot the night before, the suspect was less than truthful and would only say he and his wife were just taking photos. While searching the area for a dead animal or other evidence, Seeman noticed orange flagging marking a trail from the right-of-way fence leading 300 yards onto private land. Seeman interviewed the suspect again, and after discussing evidence found at the site where the shots were fired and a roll of orange flagging in the suspect's vehicle, the man admitted to shooting from the county road and trespassing, but not hitting an elk.
Two days later, after the man went back to Florida, hunters in the area found a dead cow elk in the sagebrush within 200 yards of the orange flagging marking the trail. The man was then issued an additional citation for wanton waste of a big game animal. Through an agreement with the Johnson County Attorney's office, the Florida man agreed to pay a $750.00 fine and he will lose his hunting privileges for one year. Game Warden Jim Seeman indicated he would not have been able to catch this poacher had it not been for the observation and timely report made by the archery hunter.
Cow elk which was shot from a Johnson County road by a Florida man and wasn't found until three days after it was shot.
Cody – Last month, South Fork Game Warden Grant Gerharter responded to a report of multiple ducks killed and left in front of the Valley Elementary School. Several of the ducks were missing their heads and there was a blood smear left behind on the side of the building.
After it was determined that the school had a security camera, Gerharter thought he was finally catching a lucky break and the persons responsible for such a disrespectful act could be identified. After reviewing the footage, it was discovered that two owls had killed the ducks and even dropped one, which hit the side of the school, leaving a smear of blood on the building. Mystery solved!
Owls commonly choose to consume the brain and/or head of their prey first be-cause it is high in fat and nutrients. This may have been two juvenile owls sharpening their hunting skills.
One of the headless ducks found at Valley Elementary School that were killed by owls.
Deer Decoy Operation
Jackson – Wyoming Game and Fish law enforcement officers from the Jackson Region conducted a deer decoy operation on the west side of the Teton Range, near the Wyoming-Idaho border, in an effort to reduce the number of hunting violations occurring there. Game and Fish officials have received several complaints of out of season deer hunting occurring in the area over the years. The buck mule deer decoy was set up in Wyoming, two miles from the state line, on October 10 in deer Hunt Area 149, which closed to Wyoming deer hunt-ing on October 7.
During the eight hours the decoy was set up, a total of seven vehicles passed by with four vehicles stopping and three of them actually shooting at it. A total of five citations were given to the shooters for taking a deer out of season, which carries a $805 fine and for shooting from a public roadway.
"We don't use decoys a lot," says Jackson Game Warden Kyle Lash. "But when we have certain problem areas such as this, they have proven to be pretty effective. They're effective in that they put the wildlife, the game warden and the violator all at the crime scene at the same time. They're just a good tool to keep hunters playing by the rules."
Jackson Game Warden Kyle Lash and Jackson Wildlife Supervisor Brad Hovinga set up a deer decoy on the west side of the Tetons to help deter illegal hunting there.
Anglers: Avoid citations by reading regulations
Wheatland – Anglers are urged to read the 2017 Wyoming Fishing Regulations prior to fishing to avoid receiving a citation as many others have this summer. Recently the bass limits on Grayrocks Reservoir were changed. An angler can possess three bass and only one can be over 12 inches.
In the top photo, an angler had three bass, with two over 12 inches. The angler was issued a warning and one bass was forfeited and donated to another angler. In the middle photo, an angler had 6-and-a-half walleye fillets, cut from walleye caught in Glendo Reservoir. The daily creel and total possession limit is 6 walleye. Additionally, these fillets did not have a piece of skin attached to aid in species identification. The photo on bottom shows a seized batch of minnows. The owner of this bunch of minnows did not have a receipt, or a seining license, to accompany his minnows.
Coopers hawks found shot in Greybull
Greybull – Last month, Greybull Game Warden Bill Robertson investigated a report of two Coopers hawks that were shot in the town of Greybull. A tourist found both birds beneath a cottonwood tree in the city park. One bird was dead and the other injured. The injured bird was taken to Ironside Bird Rescue in Cody; reports from the facility indicate the bird is healing. Robertson has patrolled the area looking for someone with a high powered air gun and a news article was placed in the local paper asking for information. Unfortunately, no leads have arisen thus far. If you have information about his case, contact Bill Robertson at 307-765-2163.
An injured Coopers hawk that was found in the City Park in Greybull. Photo courtesy of Susan Ahalt.
Star of reality TV hunting show Wildgame Nation sentenced for poaching in Lincoln County
Kemmerer – On May 23, 2017 Billy A. Busbice Jr. of Olla, Louisiana appeared before Lincoln County Circuit Court Judge Frank Zebre and pled guilty to charges of intentionally allowing an antlerless elk to go to waste and an additional charge of taking an elk without the proper license. Busbice stars on Wildgame Nation, a reality hunting show on the Outdoor Channel, and also owns an outdoor products company.
The case started on October 16, 2016 when Kemmerer Game Warden Chris Baird received a report from a group of hunters that had observed a possible wildlife violation on the Spring Creek Ranch, which is owned by Busbice, on La Barge Creek. "The hunters told me that on the morning of October 15th they observed a man hunting on the ranch," Baird said. "Apparently, there was a younger man with the hunter who had a video camera and appeared to be filming the hunt. They watched the hunter shoot one elk, presumably a cow, and then shoot a bull. The first elk fell within around 60 yards of where the bull went down. They observed the hunter and the cameraman walk up to look at the bull and then leave the area."
Warden Baird also was told that another man came and field dressed the bull and hauled it away with a backhoe. "The hunters told me the first elk, which was later determined to be a bull calf, still lay in the meadow after the man had taken the bull away with the backhoe," Baird said.
Baird knew Busbice had a Commissioner's elk license and that there had been a very large bull elk frequenting the ranch. On October 17th Baird met with Busbice before he flew to Louisiana. Baird's summary of this encounter is that after a short interview, Busbice admitted to having accidently killed a calf elk while trying to harvest the large bull. Busbice stated that after the sun had gone down he had instructed the ranch manager and the cameraman to drag the calf elk into an irrigation ditch to conceal it. No attempt to field dress or preserve meat from the calf was made. Interviews of the cameraman and the ranch manager revealed similar stories and the men admitted to concealing the calf in the ditch and disposing of the bull's gut pile in the creek. Busbice admitted that he did not call Warden Baird because he was concerned about having recently been cited for previous wildlife violations. At this time Warden Baird seized both elk from Busbice and an unedited video of his hunt.
"Mr. Busbice told me they had been filming the elk hunt to feature on his reality TV hunting show," Baird said. The video and audio recording shows that Mr. Busbice shot several times at a large bull in a herd of elk and missed several times. The video then shows Mr. Busbice shooting and hitting a calf, and the calf goes down.
"On his fourth shot, Busbice hits the bull in the left shoulder," Baird said. It then falls to the ground. At the end of the video you can hear Busbice say, "We have to eliminate that part when I shot a cow." He also is recorded saying, "Yeah, but we got to get rid of that cow."
Judge Zebre sentenced Mr. Busbice to 180 days of jail suspended, providing that he lead a law abiding life during one and a half years of unsupervised probation; he was sentenced to pay the maximum fines for both violations and the maximum in restitution for the illegal take of both elk for a total of $23,000.00; and had all of his game and fish license privileges revoked for two years to include all of 2017 and 2018. Because Wyoming is part of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, this loss of his license privileges applies in 45 states, including his home state of Louisiana.
"There are many take-home messages from this event," Baird said. "We are extremely grateful to the sportsmen that reported these violations. The successful prosecution of this case likely would not have happened without them."
"The bull elk he was convicted of shooting illegally was a highly visible large bull elk. The bull roughly scored over 350 inches. Mr. Busbice was also cited earlier in 2016 of false oath for purchasing a resident general elk license as a nonresident and purchasing more than the authorized number of deer licenses and paid $1430.00 in fines for those violations.
Poached Antelope Case Solved
Buffalo – On May 10th, Buffalo Game Warden Jim Seeman received a report of a dead antelope that appeared to have been shot south of Buffalo on the Bull Creek state lands. Seeman arrived at the location and found a buck antelope that had been shot in the back of the neck. The only evidence Seeman was able to obtain from the field necropsy of the antelope was a small piece of orange plasticâ€“the polycarbonate tip of the bullet that killed the animal. Seeman suspected the animal had been shot the previous evening from the county road. Upon examining a portion of the nearby Klonkide Road, he was able to collect evidence where a vehicle had left the road and stopped about 175 yards from the poached antelope. Using a metal detector, Seeman was able to recover a .17 HMR cartridge case.
Photographs of the tire impressions were taken. After visits to the local sporting goods store and tire store, Seeman determined he was looking for a passenger car, a .17 HMR rifle and Hornady brand bullets. With other evidence collected from the scene, including a bag from a fast food restaurant that contained a receipt time dated May 9th at 6:25 p.m., Seeman had a hunch the perpetrators were most likely high school age boys. After two days of following leads and spending time in the Buffalo High School parking lot looking at vehicle tires, Seeman found a Honda Odyssey with the exact tires matching the impressions that were at the scene. In the back of the vehicle was a .17 HMR rifle. With the evidence collected, Seeman was able to get a 17-year-old boy to admit he was out target shooting with a friend and his 11-year-old brother when the antelope was shot.
The small plastic polycarbonate tip from the .17 HMR bullet that killed the poached antelope. Buffalo Game Warden Jim Seeman found the plastic tip while conducting the field necropsy of the antelope.
Off-road violations on Yellowtail WHMA
Lovell – On April 8, Lovell Game Warden Dillon Herman received a report a possible off-road violation on Yellowtail Wildlife Habitat Management Area. When Herman responded, he found two trucks buried up to their axles off road. "When I reached the last truck, I noticed a whole lot of beer cans and bottles thrown around, and several empty six pack boxes in the back of the stuck truck with batch numbers matching the littered bottles," Herman said.
"That was Saturday, April 8; the trucks had been stuck there since Thursday, April 6. Herman contacted the owner of one of the trucks later in the day when he came back for it. The man reported that several other individuals had been out there with him on one of the nights drinking and trying to get him unstuck. In the process of trying to get one truck unstuck, they drove other trucks off-road and managed to get another truck stuck as well. "Two individuals from Lovell were issued citations for littering and warnings for off-road use. They each received a $160 fine and six hours of community service picking up trash on Yellowtail," Herman said.
A truck that was traveling off-road on Yellowtail WHMA.
Off-road and trespass violations lead to $1,400 in fines
Laramie – Game Warden Jason Sherwood discovered a spate of illegal behavior on a Hunter Management Area south of Laramie recently. Three vehicles were traveling off road and another was being driven on a closed road. All occupants in the vehicles were trespassing and a few attempted to take wildlife without first taking a hunter education class.
More than $1,400 in citations were issued. Prairie dog shooters must remember to ask permission to hunt or ensure they are on public lands. It is illegal to shoot any wildlife from a motorized vehicle (except species legally defined as predators) and it is illegal to shoot from an improved public roadway.
Repeat poacher fined, loses privileges
Laramie – Laramie Region law enforcement personnel are pleased to announce the closure of a significant fish poaching case in March. In 2016, a Laramie man was cited for an over-limit of trout and lost his privileges for a one year period beginning June 9, 2016. However, Game Wardens Jason Sherwood and Bill Brinegar received tips from multiple sources that the man was continuing to fish and keeping several big fish.
Warden Sherwood obtained search warrants for the man, his vehicle, and his home in early November. While attempting to serve the warrants on the morning of Nov. 6, 2016, the suspect was again found to be fishing at Lake Hattie. As Warden Brinegar approached him, the man caught his sixth large trout of the morning. He was arrested for fishing while under suspension and his vehicle was impounded. He was charged with a total of 11 counts of fishing while under suspension and one count of over-limit of game fish.
Via a plea agreement, the prosecution agreed to dismiss one count of taking fish while under suspension and the over-limit charge. The man pleaded guilty to the other 10 charges. He was sentenced to $5,400 in fines and court costs, with an additional $2,200 in restitution for the minimum of 22 fish documented in his possession since June. He was also ordered to pay $720 in public defender fees and had his fishing privilege suspended for six more years. As part of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, the suspension applies in Wyoming as well as 44 other states. Assuming no further violations, he will regain his fishing privileges in June of 2023.
Trucks stuck in muck
Laramie – Two men received multiple citations after their vehicles became stuck while hunting jackrabbits on private property. The drivers said they were hunting jackrabbits in the early morning hours. One driver said he had run out of ammunition so he decided to try and chase jackrabbits with his truck. The vehicle got stuck in a marshy area, so he called his friend who was hunting jackrabbits nearby. When his friend came to help, his vehicle also got stuck. The two men spent the remainder of the night sleeping in their trucks because they could not get a hold of anybody else to help them.
The next morning they called their friends to help them, but the friends were spotted by a deputy sheriff who then called the landowners. The landowner would not allow the friends to enter his land, so the deputy called a wrecker to tow them out. The deputy sheriff wrote both men tickets for property destruction and Game Warden Kelly Todd wrote them citations for hunting on private property without permission and for using artificial light while hunting. One of the men also received a citation for shooting from the road.
Poached Great Horned Owl
Casper – West Casper Game Warden Adam Parks recently closed a case involving a tip from the public. The tip stated that an individual, later identified as Larry Coshow, had recently shot and killed a great horned owl with a pellet gun in a west Casper neighborhood.
During an interview with Game Warden Parks, Mr. Coshow admitted to shooting and killing the great horned owl, placing it in a black garbage bag and then throwing it away. Mr. Coshow stated that he was attempting to scare the owl away when he shot. However, he stated that the pellet ricocheted off of a branch and hit the owl in the eye, killing it. Given this information and the statement from the reporting party, Mr. Coshow pled guilty to taking a protected bird.
"This is a case that never would have been solved had the reporting party not gotten involved. As game wardens we encourage the public to call our stop poaching hotline at 1-877-WGFD-TIP and report suspicious activity as it relates to wildlife, "said Adam Parks.
Powell – Recently, an informational sign at the Willwood public access area south of Powell was vandalized. The new sign, which cost approximately $600 to replace, had recently been installed by the Cody Region Habitat and Access crew to assist sportsmen using the site by providing area specific information and in identifying boundaries.
"The new sign had been shot at close range six times with a shotgun," said Cody Region Habitat and Access Supervisor Brad Sorensen. "We installed the new sign only four months ago, replacing an old sign that had also been shot." Sorensen said that vandalism such as this is far too commonplace on Game and Fish wildlife habitat management areas and public access areas around the region.
Within the Cody region, there are five wildlife habitat management areas and 48 public access areas that provide important access opportunities to the sporting public. "Many of the access areas are private land in which the Game and Fish has purchased an easement so the public can access rivers, creeks, and landlocked public lands," Sorensen said. "Amenities such as informational signs and vault restrooms are often provided at access areas for the convenience and benefit of those using the areas."
"It is difficult to understand why someone would vandalize or shoot at a restroom or a sign that is provided at one of these areas. It is costly and time consuming to replace or repair these items and ultimately, it is sportsmen who are footing the bill for this senseless vandalism."
To report vandalism or misuse of an access area or wildlife habitat management area, call your local game warden, Sheriff's office or the Stop Poaching Hotline at 1-877-WGFD-TIP.
Last December, Habitat and Access technician Kendra Ostrom installed a sign at the Willwood Public Access Area south of Powell.
Lander – Brady Frude was able to track down a violator who, after weighing in a 3 lb rainbow at Lip Rippers, promptly threw it in the dumpster on his way back to the lake. He was able to observe the violation via the security cameras from the neighboring gas station and got photos of the suspect, his vehicle and noted the time he entered and exited the bait store. State Parks rangers tracked the vehicle down at Tough Creek and Brady was able to contact and cite the individual. Thanks to Angela at the Fast Lane and Crystal and Annette at Lip Rippers for their help in solving this case!
Three pound rainbow trout wasted in dumpster
Suspect caught on security camera
Unethical disposal of carcasses
Laramie – A seemingly innocent action by a sloppy goose hunter is another check mark against hunters. While most hunters are ethical and take the necessary steps and care in proper disposal of carcasses, some improperly dump remains in clear view of the public.
South Laramie Game Warden Bill Brinegar said goose hunters have discarded their breasted-out carcasses near a school bus stop south of Laramie in the past two years. Most people don't recognize the difference between a breasted-out carcass and a whole carcass, so they assume no meat was taken from the geese. Warden Brinegar says this has unfortunately become a common occurrence, and it is detrimental to the sport of hunting.
Improperly disposing of game animal remains presents a negative public image and provides a legitimate point of criticism that can be used by people who oppose hunting. "This unethical and sloppy behavior only fuels the fire for those members of society who don't agree with hunters," Brinegar said. Keeping animal carcasses out of view of the public can help prevent a non-hunter from becoming an anti-hunter.
Canada Geese Discarded â€” Edible Portions Not Removed
Gillette – South Gillette Game Warden Dustin Kirsch responded to multiple reports of Canada geese dumped outside of a local hardware store. Kirsch arrived on the scene and searched a garbage dumpster where he recovered the carcasses of 14 Canada geese. Kirsch found the breasts had only been taken from six of the 14 Canada geese, with the other eight Canada Geese being thrown away with no attempt to recover any of the edible portions of meat. A day later a suspect was identified and after being interviewed, confessed to the illegal waste of eight Canada geese and a citation was issued.
Canada geese spread on the ground to sort out possible violations. Eight of the geese were discarded with no attempt to remove edible portions.
Canada geese dumped in a garbage dumpster in Gillette.
Evanston – Evanston Game Warden Nick Roberts said the first day of December turned into a memorable day him. "The night prior, I received a call that someone had harvested a bull elk on private property without permission," Roberts said. "Upon arriving at the general location of the bull, I contacted a nearby landowner who suspected a hunter in an ATV had just shot at a herd of elk on his property. I knew that the ATV hunter would eventually be coming back through, so I returned to investigating the bull elk trespass call. While searching for the bull elk carcass, I located a dead cow elk that was not recovered.
"The cow appeared to have died recently and I suspected that the cow was possibly shot with the bull," Roberts said. "I was able to remove a bullet from the cow and then located the carcass of the bull elk nearby. Shortly thereafter, the ATV hunter came driving back through and stated that he was heading back home for the morning. Upon further questioning, the hunter admitted that he took three shots from the county road at a herd of elk crossing the county road. We returned to the location where the elk crossed the road and found a dead cow elk laying just out of sight in the sagebrush. I helped the hunter recover the cow elk and spent the rest of the day making phone calls and trying to piece together who killed the bull and other cow elk."
"The next morning, I received a call from a professional guide who stated that his hunter killed the bull several days prior," Roberts said."I interviewed the hunter who admitted to shooting multiple times at a running herd and accidentally killing the bull on his cow license. I was able to match the bullet from the cow elk back to the same hunter. All in all, that morning led to one citation and one warning for shooting from a road, one citation for taking an over limit of elk, one citation for shooting the wrong sex elk and one citation for a professional guide failing to report a violation. Take home messages and lessons to be learned: follow up your shots and take responsibility for your mistakes. Using good optics is a must.
Lyman – Southwest Access Yes Coordinator Andy Countryman, contacted Timothy Haws while he was elk hunting with his resident general elk license on the Red Dugway Road in Uinta County. Mr. Haws stated he lived in Lyman, Wyoming. However, during Countryman's contact with Mr. Haws, several concerns led him to investigate further into his Mr. Haws' residency status.
"Mr. Haws had been residing in Washington, Utah with his wife and at least one child while making false statements to obtain Wyoming resident hunting and fishing licenses from 2011- 2015," Countryman said. "Twenty false statement violations were detected. Utah and Florida both verified Mr. Haws' purchasing resident hunting and fishing licenses in their states during those years also."
"The case was finalized on December 8th, 2016," Countryman said. "Haws pled guilty to five counts of false swearing to obtain resident Wyoming hunting/fishing licenses from the years 2011-2015. The Uinta County court sentenced Haws to pay $10,880 in fines and restitution and he will have to serve five consecutive days in the Uinta County Detention Center. Also, he will have all Game and Fish license privileges suspended for 10 years and will be entered into the Wildlife Violator Compact agreement of at least 44 states."
Case resolved with help from the public
Cody – Recently, a case involving a poached deer in the city limits of Cody has come to a close, thanks to information provided by local citizens. The case began on Nov. 14, when North Cody Game Warden Travis Crane received a report of an injured mule deer at a residence in Cody. When Crane responded to the report, he discovered a buck deer with an arrow protruding from its hindquarters that had been shot with a crossbow. "The mule deer had been shot illegally because the buck season for the area was closed," Crane said.
Crane dispatched the wounded deer, retrieved the arrow and was able to follow the blood trail of the animal to Alger Avenue. While following the blood trail, Crane was approached by witnesses who reported seeing a man earlier that morning who seemed to be looking for something in the same area. "A couple who lived nearby gave a detailed description of a man they saw searching the area, looking over fences and into backyards," he said. "More information was made available after Game and Fish reached out asking the public to help solve the case through a press release," Crane said. "The fact that we had witnesses who came forward to report suspicious activity was key in solving the case."
In Park County Circuit Court on Jan. 6, Leonard Wascher of Cody was sentenced in this case for the take of a big game animal during a closed season. He was fined $1,000 and will lose his hunting privileges for three years.