PRESTON, Idaho | By Ryan Hilton, IDFG – Poachers in the Preston-area case charged with various wildlife crimes, including killing and wasting gross over-limits of elk
Jay Reeder, Brandon Porter, Rick and Jesse Earl and Dustin Hollingsworth of Preston, Idaho and Brian Miller of Pennsylvania all reached plea agreements in a Franklin County court for the illegal killing and possession of three mule deer and 16 elk, including several trophy class animals in the fall of 2018 near Preston, Idaho.
Through an investigation conducted around that time, Fish and Game conservation officers learned that over course of several months, multiple poaching incidents took place on the “Reeder Ranch” and surrounding private property northwest of Preston, with complete disregard for season and weapon restrictions or tagging requirements. The individuals involved left most of the elk carcasses to waste and recovered only the antlers and choice cuts of meat from others.
“It seemed as though they just couldn’t stop killing”, said Idaho Department of Fish and Game Regional Investigator Cody Allen. “Most of the animals were simply shot and left with no attempt to salvage the meat; some with rifles during muzzleloader seasons and others when the seasons were completely closed.”
Reeder and Porter, the most egregious poachers, combined to illegally kill three mule deer bucks and 13 of the 16 elk. Many of the poaching incidents were directed at large groups of elk, and Fish and Game investigators verified the men wounded and crippled other elk with no attempt made to recover the animals.
Fish and Game learned through their investigation that Reeder and Porter not only killed gross over-limits of elk and deer, but also sold some of the elk and deer meat and antlers in order to purchase a new rifle. Members of the group also unlawfully killed pheasants, magpies and wild turkeys baited onto the property.
While serving search warrants on the Reeder Ranch for the wildlife violations, Franklin County Sheriff’s Office arrested Reeder and Porter for felony possession of a controlled substance, which was located in the residence during the search. Officers also found Reeder in possession of an unlawfully taken bear he poached in California.
All six men reached plea agreements with the Franklin County Prosecutors office. As part of the agreements, Jay Reeder and Brandon Porter each pleaded guilty to four felonies and received lifetime revocations of their hunting privileges. Both men received suspended two year prison sentences held at the discretion of the court to impose if the men were found in violation of the conditions of their 20-year felony supervised probation. Both men each spent 30 days in jail.
Rick Earl pleaded guilty to one felony and one misdemeanor for killing two unlawful elk and illegally possessing three other poached elk and deer. He received a two year suspended prison sentence and five years of felony-supervised probation. He served 10 days in jail and received a five-year hunting license revocation. The court ordered Reeder, Porter and Rick Earl to each provide 50 hours of community service, pay a combined $72,050 in fines and civil reimbursement for the unlawfully taken animals, forfeit their guns and animals and prohibited them from possessing any firearms.
The other three men involved – Jesse Earl, Brian Miller, and Dustin Hollingsworth pleaded guilty to misdemeanors for their role in attempting to legitimize the poached elk by possessing the animals and using or facilitating the elk tags of others to cover the unlawfully taken elk. They each received one year hunting license revocations and combined fines, civil reimbursement and court costs of $3,767.
Regional Investigator Allen, who has worked some large and complex cases throughout his career, found it difficult to summarize the egregious nature and seriousness of the poacher’s actions.
“These men demonstrated a complete disregard for wildlife and wildlife laws and used the seclusion of private property – theirs and trespassing on others – to carry out their desire to kill and poach, stealing animals from legitimate sportsmen and women and leaving most of them to waste”.