Game Law Violations

Report from California

California Teachers Get an "F" in Ethics...
by Lieutenant Liz Schwall

An early morning phone call last July from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office immediately captured the attention of local game warden Lynette Reynolds. The Sheriff’s Office advised that a deputy had found a vehicle hidden in the brush just off of Highway 29 near the town of Kelseyville. The Sheriff’s Office believed that the vehicle belonged to a hunter who was trespassing on private property on the north side of the road.

Reynolds immediately responded to the location and met with the deputy and the landowner. Reynolds was directed to a hidden, white 4-wheel-drive pickup truck. Biding her time, Reynolds waited 4 hours for the truck’s owner to return. Her patience was rewarded when a man from Kelseyville approached the truck. When asked what he had been doing, the man replied to the warden, "My truck broke down." Skeptical, the warden asked him to try to start the vehicle. He climbed in the driver’s side, turned the ignition and the truck started smoothly. Reynolds then asked the man if he knew who owned the property that he had been on. He replied "no" but then said that he had seen the "no trespassing" signs so he knew that he could not hunt there. The man told the warden that he had no hunting equipment with him. Even after extensive questioning, he stuck to his story.

Reynolds then contacted the man's wife. Her story and her husband’s did not match. Determined to get the straight story, Reynolds kept the questions coming. The man finally admitted that he had in fact been archery hunting and had really had car trouble earlier in the day. He had called his wife to pick him up and drive him home. After depositing his hunting gear at his house, he returned to the same location to scout for deer. Warden Reynolds concluded the interview by telling the pair that it was discouraging that two respected members of the local community (both were teachers) would lie to a peace officer.

Later that afternoon, Reynolds, accompanied by her husband and the landowner, returned to the area for a thorough search. Soon they noted vultures circling over a meadow. The landowner then found a tree stand overlooking the meadow and Reynold’s husband located a blood trail. Following the trail, the group discovered a dead forked-horn buck partially covered with branches and grass. Further investigation revealed that the deer had been killed by an arrow. Only the backstraps and a portion of the hams had been removed. In the meadow where the deer was discovered, a large amount of grain consisting of oats, corn and barley was found. It is illegal in California to place feed out for game animals in order to hunt them. While Reynolds was examining the bait pile, her husband picked up another blood trail and then found a second dead deer. As he approached it, he saw a broken arrow protruding from the deer’s abdomen. When he pulled the arrow out, it was still wet and bloody. Partially digested grain spilled from the deer’s stomach. A subsequent analysis of the first deer’s stomach also revealed the presence of a large amount of grain.

Warden Reynolds wasted no time in obtaining a search warrant for the couples' residence. Accompanied by the another warden and a deputy from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, the warrant was served. After being read the Miranda warning, the man invoked his right to remain silent. He was subsequently booked into the Lake County jail and released on $1,700 bail. The search of the garage revealed a large quantity of hunting equipment, including several bows. A camouflage bow was seized. A backpack containing loose grain consisting of oats, barley, and corn was also confiscated. Arrows were taken from the garage and it was later confirmed that the broken arrows retrieved from the deer matched them.

A search of the freezer revealed packages of meat labeled "loin" and "backstraps." The meat was seized as evidence and then submitted to the DFG Forensics Lab for DNA analysis. A pair of Gortex hunting boots was seized and the tread pattern on the sole was later matched to a partial print at the kill site.

The man was charged with nine Fish & Game Code and Penal Code offenses including Hunter Trespass, Waste of Game, Unlawful Take of Deer, Use of Bait, Littering, and others. He was convicted in the Lake County Court and was ordered to pay almost $3,700 in fines and restitution. He was placed on three years searchable probation during which time he may not hunt or be in the company of hunters. He may not possess any firearm or bow while on probation. In addition, he was sentenced to 60 days in jail but was allowed to apply for home (electronic monitoring) detention.

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