Recently, game wardens with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation wrapped up an important case that proves illegal hunting activity just isn't worth the cost.
In the landmark case - completed in October 2013 - a total of 73 wildlife violation charges were filed against 13 individuals who pleaded guilty in both Oklahoma and Arkansas courts, mostly for crimes involving the illegal killing of deer and obtaining fraudulent hunting licenses. They paid a total of $22,356 in state fines and court costs with no restitution, including over $10,306 paid for 18 charges filed in Oklahoma and $12,050 for 55 charges filed in Arkansas. In both states combined, only two charges were dismissed. Those charged were members of private hunting leases in southeast Oklahoma and adjoining leases in Arkansas.
The case began in June 2012, when McCurtain Co. game warden Kenny Lawson was contacted by a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special agent regarding an illegal lifetime license purchase and information that several private hunting lease members were involved in killing deer illegally in Oklahoma and transporting them into Arkansas.
Lawson followed up on the lifetime license information and learned that a resident of De Queen, Ark., had in fact used a relative's Oklahoma address to obtain an Oklahoma driver's license and lifetime hunting license. Then Lawson teamed up in mid-October 2012 with two USFWS employees to begin surveillance on the associated leases along the Oklahoma/Arkansas state line near Eagletown.
In all, law enforcement officers, including primary investigator and McCurtain Co. game warden Kenny Lawson, documented 45 illegal deer (29 bucks and 16 does) and one bear illegally killed by the group in 2012 - not including deer checked in Arkansas. All the deer killed in Oklahoma were determined to be illegally taken, as no person in the group had a valid Oklahoma hunting license or deer license - including the Oklahoma resident who killed two bucks. One of the suspects killed 13 deer in 2012, seven of which were killed illegally in Oklahoma. One of the suspects also aided a younger brother in illegally obtaining an Oklahoma lifetime hunting license by using his Oklahoma address. The primary poaching method observed by the officers included using dogs to run deer between the two leases, a technique legal in Arkansas but illegal in Oklahoma and most other states.
Through their covert investigations, officers identified suspects and 15 vehicles used in crimes. They also observed illegal hunting with rifles every day from mid-October throughout the nine-day Oklahoma muzzleloader season and the archery season as well as throughout the 16-day Oklahoma deer gun season. More....