A man who allegedly shot deer while being a mentor during the youth hunt has pled guilty. It is the first case of a violation meeting the new enhanced sentencing guidelines for poaching that became law in Michigan earlier this year.
According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, conservation officers responded to a complaint phoned in to the Report All Poaching (RAP) Line on September 21, involving an adult suspect who allegedly killed two trophy white-tailed deer in Montcalm County during the 2014 Youth Hunt, while acting as a mentor to an 8-year-old hunter.
After receiving the information from the RAP Line dispatcher, three DNR conservation officers (Sgt. John Jurcich, Officer Cary Foster and Officer Dave Rodgers) began an investigation in Lowell and Grand Rapids attempting to locate Jacob Powers, 25, of Lowell, and the two deer. They located Powers at approximately 3 a.m. at his workplace. Officers obtained a confession to the incident and returned to his residence, where they were assisted by the Lowell City Police in recovering evidence to complete their investigation. Officers seized two large antlered heads, meat and a shotgun used to take the animals.
It was determined Powers had taken both deer himself that morning in Bushnell Township, Montcalm County, while accompanying an 8-year-old youth on his first hunt. Powers illegally tagged one deer with the Mentored Youth Tag issued to the young hunter and procured a second license tag from a 6-year-old female family member prior to transporting the animals. Officers established Powers had captured trail camera images of the deer prior to the hunt and knew trophy deer were present in the hunt area. Officers concluded their investigation by issuing an appearance ticket with a court date and left the home.
Five days later, a conservation officer discovered two hides and evidence of deer processing that had been dumped in a parking lot at the Lowell State Game Area, in Ionia County. Having not recovered these items on the night of the original investigation, the officer returned to meet with Powers and obtain a confession to the littering on state lands, leading to an additional charge.
Powers was arraigned October 3, on the charge of taking two white-tailed deer during the closed season before a magistrate of the 64B District Court at Stanton, in Montcalm County. At arraignment, Powers entered a plea of guilty to the charge and was sentenced. He was assessed $335 in fines and costs, $12,000 in restitution for payment to the state’s Fish and Game Protection Fund, and five days mandatory minimum jail time to be served as community service. In addition, Powers now faces up to five years of hunting license revocations in Michigan and 41 other states that participate in the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact. Powers has yet to appear on charges in Ionia County for littering.
“The tougher poaching penalties were developed last year and approved by the Legislature and governor, and represent the first major changes to poaching laws in our state since 1990,” said DNR Law Enforcement Division Chief Gary Hagler. “Concerned hunting organizations and conservation officers have noticed an increased interest and demand for large antlered deer, which are frequently targeted by poachers who trespass, hunt at night and without a license. This is the first case prosecuted under the new law to enhance penalties and represents a great case of our officers and the local justice system working together to bring justice to individuals targeting trophy animals.”
Recent changes to penalties increased fines in this case by $10,000 and added two years of additional license revocations. Under the new law, antlered deer are assessed an additional $1,000 in restitution plus the standard $1,000 for illegally killing any deer. Deer with eight points but not more than 10 are $500 a point, while deer with 11 points or more are assessed a penalty of $750 per point.
“Ethical hunters, wildlife viewers and our officers are hopeful that increased penalties will cause potential violators to rethink the temptation of poaching a trophy deer while providing additional protection for this valuable wildlife resource,” Hagler said.
For more information on the laws and regulations for hunting and fishing in Michigan, go to www.michigan.gov/conservationofficers.