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Case File  #56   April 2014

On November 5, 2013, Warden Mark Merrifield received an Operation Game Thief complaint stating that a shot had been fired from a vehicle in the town of Warren in Knox County. Warden Merrifield also learned that the vehicle had left the area and returned with other subjects in the vehicle using lights to illuminate the field. The informant felt that they had returned to look for the deer they shot. The caller had collected a plate number of the vehicle. As Warden Merrifield drove to the location he called and requested the Warden Service aircraft, which was nearby, to respond to the area to see if it could locate the vehicle. As the warden arrived in the area the warden pilot advised he located a vehicle illuminating fields on another road in the area. The pilot directed Warden Merrifield to the location of the truck. As the warden neared the field he could see lights out in the field area which were coming from the poacher's truck. Warden Merrifield met the truck head-on and turned his blue lights on and could see three subjects in the truck. The plate number was the same plate number as the OGT informant had provided. The driver and passengers were all identified and the warden noted that they had headlamps on their heads and a hand held spot light was collected from the truck. Looking the truck over the warden located several areas of blood and deer hair in the bed of the truck. The driver of the vehicle maintained it was paint. No firearm was found in the vehicle. While other wardens stayed with the subjects, Warden Merrifield drove to an area he learned about earlier in the week of being involved in possible illegal hunting. The warden noticed the car belonging to one of the subjects in the vehicle and also noticed a small deer hanging from a tree in the yard. The warden looked at the deer and could see that it appeared to have been shot with buckshot. All of the subjects provided written statements. One of the occupants' statements indicated that the deer the warden found hanging in the tree was night hunted and he claimed that he bought the deer for $70.00. One of the subjects was not with them when the deer was shot but said that one of the subjects who is a convicted felon had stopped by to ask to borrow his .20 guage shotgun. The warden was told where he could find the shotgun in one of the subjects' shed. The other wardens collected the deer from the residence. On November 6, 2014 Warden Merrifield returned to the field in Warren to look for the deer and found a dead doe just inside the woods line that the shot had been fired the night before. The deer had been shot with buckshot. The outcome? The driver, a convicted felon was charged with night hunting, possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, buying a deer and unlawful illumination. He received 30 days in jail for possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, Night Hunting a $1,000 fine and 3 days in jail, Buying a Deer $1,000 fine and 10 days in jail and illumination $200.00. The case was closed. This is the type of case game wardens would not have msde were it not for a concerned citizen making the call to Operation Game Thief. Excellent warden work by ground wardens and a warden pilot made the difference. Thanks to the caller for making this case possible.

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