18-year-old Arrested In Walla Walla Co. Deer Spree-killing Case

(MIKE CENCI, WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT DIVISION DEPUTY CHIEF)

The Walla Walla County coyote hunter knew the modern firearm mule deer season didn’t open until October 16, and yet he was staring at two dead bucks just north of Woodward Canyon Road. He did the right thing and called Fish and Wildlife Enforcement.

Officer McQuary could tell from a distance that the animals were well on their way toward spoilage from their bloated bellies. Obviously the shooter didn’t care about the meat……..no, this was probably about antler hunting and things only a psychologist can explain. McQuary called his partner, Mike Johnson, and they agreed to set up surveillance after dark in hope the bad guy would come back for trophies he didn’t deserve. Just before 11:00 p.m. the officers watched a car drive up a nearby road shining a spotlight out of the window.

Spot-lighting. Jack-lighting, Shining. It all means the same thing – a technique used by poachers. The hours of darkness are an active time for big game animals, especially when they need to escape the blistering Eastern Washington heat. It’s also an active time for poachers as they search fields, logged off areas and hillsides in an effort to find, blind and kill these animals. When faced with searing lights more brilliant than a million candle power shining into their eyes, they are immobilized and an easy target. Definitely not fair chase, and definitely not something any sportsman or woman would do.

Officer McQuary heard the crack of a gun- shot pierce the night. Over the course of two minutes he heard 6 more. Because the location was close to the two animals that had brought him here, he expected that this was their suspect. As he closed in on him with his blacked out patrol truck, he heard Officer Johnson’s voice over the police radio. The suspect just went by Johnson’s location at a high rate of speed, and he was still using the spotlight.

Dealing with armed poachers is always risky, and the officers took him down with that in mind. They found a 30.30 rifle with an empty shell casing in the chamber and live rounds in the magazine. It didn’t take long for the 18 year old to confess. And why not? It’s wasn’t as if there was much to hide here – he had been caught in the act. He admitted to shooting four deer total………the two the officers were investigating, plus two more. It was 2:00 a.m. at this point, and despite their best efforts, the dog tired officers were only able to find three out of the four deer. After some badly needed sleep, they located the fourth deer the next day. All were bucks, and one was a 5×5, classified as a trophy by Washington state law. This kid is in some real trouble. And I don’t mean just because he was caught poaching.

(WDFW)

(WDFW)

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