Game Law Violations


Californian Gets Caught Violating Nevada Law

Nevada game wardens have spent several years compiling information about illegal activity on Granite Mountain near Gerlach, Nevada. The Division of Wildlife has received information on the poaching of trophy-quality mule deer in the Gerlach area for several years. It was only after enough information was gathered that Nevada's game wardens able to analyze the information in order to determine who was connected to who, who was involved in the actual illegal killing of wildlife, who was assisting in covering-up the criminal activity, and where some of the illegal wildlife was being stored.

In July 1996, more than 25 individuals were interviewed, including both suspects and witnesses. Initially, these interviews involved 16 officers from several law enforcement agencies including Nevada Division of Wildlife, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, California Fish & Game, and Washoe County Sheriff's Office. As a result of these interviews, several photos were seized, three deer heads were seized from three individuals, and enough information was obtained to initiate a grand jury investigation.

As a result, an indictment was issued against a Santa Rosa, California individual for the unlawful possession of a mule deer. The defendant pleaded guilty to the charge and was sentenced to 30 days in jail, $5,000 civil assessment, $1,000 criminal fine, forfeiture of his four-wheeler, rifle and deer mount.

More Nevada Crimes

A rancher reported a dead bull elk on his ranch. Investigation and interviews by game wardens led to the development of a suspect who had been hunting deer in the area during the season. The suspect confessed to shooting the elk and leaving it to waste. He said he thought he had killed a deer. The man was convicted of wanton waste, lost his hunting privileges and paid a $1,000 civil penalty.

The call was a familiar one. A rancher and a hunting guide had found a dead bull elk on an open hillside in the Snake Mountains north of Wells. Two pickup trucks were seen leaving the area.

Elk season in that unit was closed, but the rifle deer hunt was in full swing. Two wardens attended the scene and recovered a .30 caliber bullet from the small bull. There wasn’t much else. One of the wardens recalled contacting a group of hunters camped at a cabin a couple miles from the scene while on routine patrol a few days earlier. One of the pickups in camp matched the rancher’s description. The warden had written the tag holder’s name down in his notebook.

The wardens checked the cabin and found it cleaned up and deserted. The bullet was washed in the creek and examined to determine characteristics that might lead to the rifle that fired it. Later in the investigation, a computer analysis of those characteristics generated a list of possible rifles. At the top of the list was a bolt action .30-06, Model 810-A, made by Mossberg.

Interviews were conducted with the three members of the hunting party. Two brothers lived in Wells and the other, the tag holder and longtime friend of the brothers, lived in Las Vegas. The Wells’ brothers were eager to explain the case of mistaken identity involving their friend from Las Vegas. Seems they hadn’t been sleeping real well and it didn’t help living in a small town where they bumped into the local game warden all the time. After seeing some deer on the mountain, the party split up with one brother going through the trees "dogging" and the shooter and other brother going to the canyon bottom to see what developed. Once at the bottom, the tag holder made an incredibly long shot on what he thought was a buck deer that had been spooked out of the quakies. The "dogger" got to the animal first and was shocked to see a dead bull elk piled up on the open hillside. He ran toward the other two, who were climbing the hill, shouting that an elk was down. Panic set in and some poor decisions were made, not the least of which was leaving the elk on the hill to go to waste. What was the rifle? A bolt action 06!

Learning that his friends had given him up, the shooter agreed to meet with wardens in Las Vegas to give his statement and turn over the rifle used in the crime. The statement was the same as what had already been given; however, the rifle presented for seizure was a .30-30 Marlin lever gun. "Where," asked the wardens, "is the rifle you used to kill the elk?" "I just gave it to you," he replied. "No, the rifle that killed the elk is a bolt action .30-06, probably a Mossberg."

A look of disbelief and defeat crossed the shooter’s face. He told the wardens that they were right, that he was afraid of losing that rifle and that it was hidden in a wall in his garage. The rifle was a Mossberg, Model 810-A, bolt action .30-06, a perfect match to the bullet and the first rifle on the list.

Not very many "dead elk, deer, antelope on the hillside" cases get solved. Fewer still result in convictions, fines, civil penalties, license revocations and forfeitures. This case did because of teamwork, persistence and a new computer program tool called GRC, General Rifling Characteristics. Poachers would do well to take note!

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