Reacting to a tip from a sportsman, Franklin County Pennsylvania Game Commission Wildlife Conservation officer Barry A. Leonard began an investigation that led to 23 charges being filed for unlawful taking or possession of deer. From one residence, WCO Leonard confiscated two sets of antlers from deer illegally killed in 1992, seven sets from 1995, four from 1996, four from 1997, one in 1998, two in 1999, two in 2005, and one in 2008.
“It was amazing that one person would illegally kill so many deer,” Leonard said.
These charges were filed against Jonathan D.
Goshorn, 33, of Fannettsburg. If convicted of all charges, he will face fines up to $23,000, as well as 69 years revocation of his hunting and trapping privileges.
McKean County WCO Len Groshek recently worked several cases where deer were killed either from the vehicle or from just outside the vehicle after the shooter exited. “In one case,” Groshek said, “a nice 10-point was shot as it approached a legal hunter on stand in the woods.”
In another of Groshek’s cases, two does were shot after dark by a man accompanied by his 12-year-old step-son. One deer was loaded, untagged, into their vehicle, but the second deer was left lying in the woods.
According to Groshek, both of these cases were reported by concerned sportsmen, and both investigations resulted in successful prosecutions.
Elk County WCO Dick Bodenhorn reported that two Johnsonburg men pled guilty to shooting two deer with a 30-06 rifle during the flintlock muzzleloader season. One man paid a fine and costs of over $750, while the other paid nearly $850 in fines and costs since he had also been charged with illegally operating a motor vehicle on closed lands during the incident.
Two Lititz residents, Shane Shue and Jeffrey Trogdon, had charges filed against them for killing three deer at night and attempting to kill a fourth in Derry Township, Dauphin County, on Jan. 10 and Jan. 17.
Game Commission officers discovered a dead deer in a field along Swatara Road. The next day, a second deer was found a short distance away. Examination of the deer indicated that they had been killed with a .257 caliber rifle during the previous weekend.
The following weekend, Game Commission officers staked out the same road and observed a truck spotlighting the fields shortly after midnight. Shortly thereafter, they witnessed a passenger fire a shot from the window at a group of deer grazing in the field.
“When the vehicle was stopped, we discovered Shue and Trogdon in the truck with a spotlight and loaded rifle,” said Dauphin County WCO Mike Doherty. “Two young boys, who were not charged, were in the back seat.”
WCOs found bloodstains on the sides and in the bed of the truck, and evidence was found to link the men with the two deer killed and left to rot the previous weekend. When confronted with the bloodstains, the men admitted that they had killed another deer and had taken it home to be butchered.
Officers seized two rifles and two spotlights, as well as nearly 50 pounds of frozen deer meat from Shue’s freezer. Under current law, the rifles and spotlights will be returned to the violators. However, thanks to Harold Daub, a Game Commission volunteer Hunter- Trapper Education instructor, and friends, the meat is being prepared into venison jerky and will be sent to U.S. troops serving overseas.
Wildlife poaching — particularly the illegal killing of deer — continues to run rampant as evidenced by recent Pennsylvania Game Commission news releases and officer notes. None of these recent cases are from Centre County, but do not kid yourself — it happens here, too.
Wildlife Conservation Officers typically have large territories — just three cover all of Centre County — and they cannot be everywhere. Poachers are sometimes crafty and difficult to catch, but not all evade the law to kill again.
Two recent events might help to curb future poaching. The first was an action taken at the Pennsylvania Game Commission meeting in January, and the second was a new bill introduced by Representative Ed Staback.
PGC votes to add replacement cost
At their winter meeting, the PGC commissioners voted on “proposed rulemaking” to establish replacement costs that might be assessed and imposed on poachers. If approved by the Board at its spring meeting, regulations would specify replacement values for certain species illegally killed.
Under the proposal, a judge would be able to assess a replacement cost of $1,500 to anyone convicted of illegally killing an elk or bear, $800 for a deer, $500 for a bobcat or river otter, $300 for a wild turkey or beaver, and $200 for any other wildlife. Endangered or threatened species would carry a replacement cost of $5,000.
If the illegally-killed animal was considered a “trophy class animal,” judges would be able to require a replacement cost of $5,000 for an elk with a minimum Boone & Crockett green score of 200 points, a deer with a minimum Boone & Crockett green score of 115, or a bear with a field-dressed weight of more than 350 pounds.
“These replacement costs would be on top of those fines and penalties already specified in the Game and Wildlife Code, which may only be changed by the state Legislature,” said Rich Palmer, Game Commission Bureau of Wildlife Protection director. “In addition to this action by the Board, we are, once again, asking the General Assembly to consider legislation that would increase the fines and penalties for poaching.”
House Bill 97
House Bill 97, sponsored by House Game and Fisheries Committee chairman Edward Staback, proposes to do just that for a variety of wildlife violations. The 21-page bill would create felony-level offenses, with the possibility of imprisonment, for significant poaching activity. The bill, which was introduced and referred to the Game and Fisheries Committee on Jan. 28, has 23 co-sponsors, none of whom is a local elected official.
“This [bill] would elevate the punishment for those who willfully steal Pennsylvania’s wildlife resources to the same degree as any other major theft offenses,” said Carl Roe, Game Commission executive director. “Presently, such violations are classified as summary offenses, which are on par with a traffic ticket.”
Staback introduced a similar bill last session, House Bill 2205, which was not acted on by the legislature. The main difference between last year’s HB 2205 and this year’s HB 97 is the treatment of weapons used in poaching. HB2205includedaprovisionto permit the confiscation of any firearm or bow used during a poaching act. HB 97 does not include this provision.
National Rifle Association did not back HB 2205, and at least one local representative expressed reluctance to co-sponsor or even vote for a bill that included firearm confiscation.
I found this lack of support disturbing. In my view, firearm confiscation would be a logical consequence for the owner’s decision to use a gun for poaching. Do we give murderers and bank robbers their weapons back if and when they are released from prison?
According to Chuck Miller, who works in Staback’s Harrisburg office, the representative has not changed his views about confiscation. Staback hopes to introduce separate legislation later this year to include firearm confiscation as a punishment for major poaching offences.
I hope that the PGC takes final action of their “replacement cost” provisions in April, and I call upon our local representatives to help pass HB 97. The only constituents that I can see opposing this legislation would be poachers, and hopefully they will not wield too much influence over our elected officials.
Mark Nale, who lives in the Bald Eagle Valley, is a member of the PA Outdoor Writers Association. He can be reached at [email protected]
Dauphin County WCO Mike Doherty displays rifles and spotlights seized from Shane Shue and Jeffrey Trogdon, both of Lititz, as part of an investigation that led to charges against them for killing three deer at night and attempting to kill a fourth in Derry Township. Also pictured is the confiscated meat, which will be donated to Pennsylvania military personnel serving overseas
Photos courtesy/Pennsylvania Game Commission
These antlers were recovered during Franklin County WCO Barry Leonard’s investigation into poaching activity by Jonathan D. Goshorn, 33, of Fannettsburg