Thursday, July 21, 2016
The numbers speak for themselves in a Northwest Colorado poaching case involving four parties across three separate states with more than one year of investigation and thousands of dollars in fines.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife released details Thursday about a November 2014 poaching incident involving a Moffat County outfitter and parties from Mississippi and Missouri.
Danny Jeffcoat, 60, of Hamilton, was sentenced in Moffat County Court in early July for felony possession of a forged instrument, required to serve a 12-month deferred judgment and sentence, as well as unsupervised probation for his role in the poaching of a trophy mule deer in 2014 with out-of-state hunters John Summerville, 65, of Carrollton, Mississippi, and Summerville’s son, Jon, 36, of Batesville, Mississippi.
According to CPW, an anonymous tip made in early 2015 to Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks alleged that the parties had engaged in illegal activity during Colorado’s third rifle hunting season by using another hunter’s license, known as “party hunting.”
Officials determined that Kirk Anderson, 48, of St. Peters, Missouri, left his unfilled deer license at Jeffcoat’s ranch in Hamilton, south of Craig, which the younger Summerville used to unlawfully tag a buck.
The elder Summerville also aided his son, while Jeffcoat forged a transportation document in Anderson’s name for the father and son to transport the deer to Mississippi for taxidermy.
In February, the Summervilles both pleaded guilty in Moffat County Court to felony possession of a forged instrument, each receiving a 12-month deferred judgment and sentence, as well as a charge of hunting without a license.
The younger Summerville was found guilty of illegal possession of wildlife and must pay more than $2,000 in fines, while his father volunteered to take on the fine for aggravated illegal possession of wildlife, due to the size of the animal in question under the Samson Law, which incurs a charge of $10,000 for those who illegally harvest a mule deer with an inside antler spread of at least 22 inches. The buck was considered a trophy animal with an inside spread of 23 and five-eighths inches.
CPW District Wildlife Managers Johnathan Lambert and Evan Jones, both of Craig, investigated the incident over the past year. Lambert noted that the inside spread was somewhat misleading due to the much larger outside spread, and the buck in question was no doubt enormous.
The antlers confiscated will be used by CPW officials for educational purposes and as an example to show poaching is taken seriously.
The elder Summerville’s total fines come to more than $12,000. Likewise, Jeffcoat is responsible for providing a $10,000 donation to Operation Game Thief for his part in the incident, as well as $408.50 in court costs.
In November 2015, Anderson was cited by CPW and Missouri Department of Conservation for his involvement, deemed an unlawful transfer of a hunting license, involving $220 in fines.
Officials were unable to determine Anderson’s level of awareness of the events, though CPW personnel maintain the Missouri man acted irresponsibly with his license.
“Whether he knew about it or not, that’s what we had to go on, and he was charged accordingly,” Lambert said.
Jones, who was unavailable for comment Thursday, said in a press release that the entire situation showed “bad judgment” on all parts, if not actual malice.
“Now they are paying a steep price for what they did,” he said.
Jeffcoat and the Summervilles are prohibited from Colorado hunting for one year by court mandate for their actions. Additionally, a pending review of the case by a CPW hearings officer could result in suspension of hunting and fishing privileges in within the state and 43 other states as part of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact.
Jeffcoat’s outfitting business is also up for review by Colorado’s Department of Regulatory Agencies as a result.
Eric Hamilton, owner of Big Rack Outfitters in Northwest Colorado, said he was saddened by the events occurring in the area though he does not believe the actions are an indicator of outfitters and others working in the field.
“Most poaching comes from renegade guys who are on their own and just trying to get away with something a little extra,” he said. “In my experience, it usually doesn’t involve people trying to make a living in the hunting industry.”
CPW officials credit the program Operation Game Thief as a way for the people of Colorado to help protect their wildlife. The CPW website states that since 1981, the agency has received more than 2,400 reports of poaching and more than 700 convictions. More than $600,000 in fines have resulted, with the seizure of more than 1,300 animals, with $130,000 in reward money paid out to citizens who speak out on illegal activity.
“The rules and regs are in place for a reason,” said Mike Porras, public information officer for CPW’s public information officer. “Bottom line: the wildlife in Colorado belongs to the citizens of the state, not Colorado Parks and Wildlife or the governor or landowners. When someone poaches a trophy quality animal like this, it denies the opportunity for a legal, ethical hunter.”