(Lusk, Wyo.) — A joint poaching investigation last November between the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and Nebraska Game and Parks netted four Nebraska residents for poaching mule deer near the Wyoming/Nebraska stateline. The men plead guilty to several poaching violations, resulting in more than $17, 500 in fines and restitution.
The investigation began after Lusk Game Warden Brady Vandeberg received reports from local landowners that Nebraska hunters were illegally taking mule deer in Wyoming while the season was closed.
Art Smith, age 64, Nebraska was found guilty of hunting on private land without permission, illegally baiting big game and knowingly taking antlered big game out of season. Smith received probation until June of 2016, over $10,000.00 in fines, and ordered to pay $4,000.00 in restitution. Smith was also given a suspended 120 day jail sentence, which was suspended, and lost his hunting, fishing, and trapping privileges for life in Wyoming. Additional charges of taking big game from a vehicle and with artificial light were dismissed as part of a plea agreement.
Zachary Smith, 32, Nebraska was convicted of hunting on private land without permission, illegally baiting big game and illegal take of big game from a vehicle. Zachary Smith was fined $1,500.00, four years probation, and loss of hunting, fishing, and trapping privileges for two years. Zachary was also ordered to serve 60 days in jail, which was suspended. Additional charges of taking big game with artificial light, taking big game after hours, and knowingly taking antlered big game out of season were dismissed as part of a plea agreement.
Ryan Knutson, 41, of Nebraska and Dave Knutson, 65, of Nebraska were also convicted of hunting on private land without permission and taking big game without a license.
“Poachers like these are taking hunting opportunities away from law-abiding hunters and negatively impacting the wildlife resources,” said Vandeberg. The suspects were observed hunting in Wyoming while the season was closed, trespassing on neighboring properties, baiting deer to hunt them (which is illegal in Wyoming), chasing deer off road with a vehicle, and spotlighting and shooting after legal hunting hours.
Anyone with information on a wildlife violation may call the Stop Poaching Hotline at 1-877-WGFD-TIP. Tips may be reported online at wgfd.wyo.gov. Callers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a cash reward of up to $5,000 if the information leads to a conviction.