9 cases of illegally killed 'trophy' deer and elk currently being prosecuted
Salt Lake City — Utah Division of Wildlife Resources conservation officers have recently investigated several cases involving large, trophy-sized deer and elk that were killed illegally across the state.
A "trophy" deer is defined in Utah state code as a buck deer with an outside antler measurement of 24 inches or greater. A "trophy" bull elk is defined as having six points on at least one side of its antlers. These animals also have a higher value associated with them, and when they are killed illegally, it is typically classified as a felony-level violation. Conservation officers confirmed that a total of 23 trophy deer and 29 trophy elk were illegally killed in 2022.
Here are a few of those cases that are currently being prosecuted:
- In October 2022, a trophy bull elk was illegally killed in the La Sal Mountains in San Juan County. A witness provided information to DWR conservation officers, and it was discovered that the individual who shot the elk didn't have a permit. The individual was identified earlier this month, and charges are currently pending.
- A 4-point, 28-inch trophy buck deer was illegally harvested outside of the hunting season in Davis County in November 2021. Conservation officers were able to locate the individual responsible, and the individual was ordered to pay $8,000 in restitution.
- In November 2022, conservation officers seized the head of a large trophy buck deer that had been poached on the Oquirrh/Stansbury hunting unit. The buck was well known by local residents since it spent the summer months grazing on private property in the area. During the investigation, officers discovered that an individual without a hunting permit killed the deer during the late-season muzzleloader hunt. Charges are currently pending.
- On Dec. 9, 2022, a concerned Utahn called the DWR's UTiP hotline to report a possible poaching of a trophy buck deer in Emigration Canyon in Salt Lake County. The individual who submitted the report provided conservation officers with a recent photo of the buck deer when it was alive, as well as an approximate location of where the deer may have been killed and the license plate number of a vehicle seen in the area at the time of the suspected poaching. A homeowner in the area confirmed that they'd seen someone drag a dead deer behind their house on Dec. 2. DWR conservation officers contacted the owner of the vehicle that was seen in the area at the time. The individual told officers he had killed the deer on Nov. 30, the last day of the extended archery deer season. He showed them a photo of the deer and officers recognized it as the trophy deer from the photo they had received from the tip. Officers obtained a search warrant and recovered the antlers of the illegally killed trophy deer from the suspect's home. The individual is currently facing charges.
- A trophy buck deer was killed on the Paunsaugunt hunting unit in Kane County in October 2022. Upon further investigation, DWR conservation officers discovered that a non-resident had applied as a Utah resident for the highly-sought-after Paunsaugunt deer permit, in an effort to increase their chances of obtaining the permit. Charges are currently pending.
- In a second unrelated case, another trophy deer was also illegally killed on the Paunsaugunt hunting unit in October 2021. DWR conservation officers investigated the case, and charges are currently pending.
- There were also three additional unrelated fraud cases where two trophy bull elk were killed in southeastern Utah and one bull elk was killed in southwestern Utah by individuals who lived out of state and applied for hunting permits as Utah residents to increase their chance of obtaining the permits. Charges are pending in these cases, as well.
"Our system in Utah is unique and tries to create a fair and equitable process that provides good opportunities for all hunters," DWR Investigations Capt. Wade Hovinga said. "These limited-entry and premium limited-entry units provide a very limited number of permits so they can provide a quality big game hunt. When someone commits license fraud to cheat and obtain one of these desired permits illegally, they're stealing the opportunity from a legitimate hunter who has, in some cases, waited over 25 years hoping to draw one of these permits. We need and rely heavily on tips and information from the public to help us identify these poaching incidents."
Anyone with information regarding any wildlife-related crimes in Utah is encouraged to report it to DWR conservation officers in one of the following ways:
- By calling the UTiP Hotline at 800-662-3337
- The UTDWR Law Enforcement app
- By texting 847411
- Online through the DWR website; however, contact with an officer may be limited with this option
Every year, Utah conservation officers conduct numerous investigations into the illegal killing of wildlife. In 2022, officers confirmed a total of 1,283 wild animals and fish were illegally killed, valued over $609,000.