Photo courtesy of the IDNR.
Conservation Police Officer, (CPO) Fay received notification through the Target Illinois Poacher (TIP) Hotline with information of possible ongoing poaching in his District. CPO Fay gathered all the information and spoke with the caller who described in detail what was going on during the current firearm deer season. CPO Fay was familiar with several of the persons involved as well as the property in question. The caller was able to remain anonymous and CPO Fay went to work.
Allegedly, six hunters would hunt from tree stands, spread out in a tree line encompassing a 30-acre field, while other hunters would illegally drive deer from an adjoining property towards the awaiting hunters. The deer would be harvested, dragged back to a waiting pickup, covered up with straw and transported to a residential garage at a different location. The deer would be processed, then sold or bartered. The hunters would then repeat their system of poaching.
CPO Fay enlisted the help of numerous other CPOs and a plan was quickly constructed. Prior to daylight, the officers moved into position to surveil the property and the actions of the hunters. At the same time, additional CPOs set up surveillance on the residence where the deer were reportedly being transported. After a long day of surveillance, during the last hour of legal hunting, the hunters begin to walk from a nearby residence, all wearing blaze orange, seemingly legal. Upon reaching their tree stands, each hunter removed their orange vest and climbed into a tree. As they waited, the ‘drive’ from adjoining property began as CPOs witnessed deer running into the field with hunters waiting. Four deer were shot by three hunters. As a group, the hunters retrieved the deer and transported them back to the house. After giving the hunters sufficient time to conceal their deer, CPO Fay and his team made their approach. At the same time, the CPOs surveilling the processing residence made their presence known with a warrant in hand.
Arrests were made and citations issued including, but not limited to: hunting without a deer permit, possession of another’s deer permit, tagging a deer with another’s permit, hunting with no blaze orange and participating in a deer hunt with no hunting license/deer permit. Also, charges were issued for possession of deer with no proof of harvest and the illegal sale/barter of deer meat. All deer meat and firearms were confiscated, court dates were assigned, and ultimately fines and suspension of hunting privileges were issued by the courts.
When interviewed, one of the hunters explained that the ‘rounding up’ of deer had been going on for a while, and admitted that what he was going through then was a serious ‘ROUND UP.’
Conservation Police Officers need all the help they can get when it comes to enforcing game laws and protecting our natural resources. Contact the TIP Hotline or call 1-877-2DNRLAW (1-877-236-7529) with any information that might help protect our natural resources. As always, stay safe and have a great hunting season!
Retired Lieutenant Eric Bumgarner spent 24 years with the Illinois Conservation Police. Bumgarner is an avid outdoorsman and has a passion for protecting the natural resources.