by Senior Conservation Officer Randy Martinez, New Meadows, Idaho
Imagine scouting your favorite elk hunting area and finding a nice bull the evening before elk season opens. The excitement for the possibilities of the next morning’s hunt would definitely lead to a restless night of sleep for most hunters.
Imagine again now, hearing several rifle shots and watching the same bull stagger and fall to the ground. What would you do now?
A concerned and surely disappointed hunter this past fall decided to “Make the Call” to Idaho’s Citizen’s Against Poaching line.
I received the call right before dark on October 24, 2013. The caller stated that the bull elk had been shot near the West Branch of the Weiser River, and that individuals on 3 ATVs had returned to the area to pack it out.
I was at least an hour from the area, but knew the importance of catching the poacher with the bull before it came out of woods in the closed area. I also knew the area the bull had been poached in had several trails which were closed to motorized vehicles.
Recruiting assistance from the Adams County Sheriff’s Office via radio was simple as usual, and Deputy Barghoorn and I were on our way. I directed the Deputy to a possible exit area of the poacher and continued up the mountain for some quick follow up with the reporting party. After speaking to the hunters I was sure Deputy Barghoorn and I were in the correct area, and I headed to the most likely exit area.
ATV lights lit up the darkness around 11:00 p.m., as the poacher and his friends made their way out of the trail, which was closed to motorized access.
I could see heads and shoulders drop as the blue lights from my patrol vehicle flashed through the darkness, I knew I had the right group. As the lead ATV hit the main road, the bull elk loaded in the back confirmed my suspicions.
Michael Buchanan was issued several citations for taking the 6 point bull during closed season, failing to tag the elk and violating the Forest Service road closure. Buchanan’s partners were cited for their assistance with transporting the illegal bull and using their motorized vehicles where restricted.
A long night for sure, but I was happy the concerned sportsman made the call and I was able to catch the poacher literally red-handed. Something one of the suspects stated in one of the late night interviews bugged me though. I needed to check the camp early the next morning and see if there was another elk somewhere.
A short couple hours of sleep later and on October 25, 2013, I enlisted help from nearby Senior Conservation Officer Chad Wipperman. I told him about the situation the night before and my suspicions of another illegal elk in Buchanan’s camp.
Driving into the camp, we could see an elk hanging from a makeshift meat pole. SCO Wipperman and I weren’t even out of our patrol vehicles yet, as a small truck pulled past us and further into camp. As the older man exited the vehicle in clean street clothes, SCO Wipperman and I looked at each other and we knew what our Game Warden senses were telling us.
We kept the 2 individuals from speaking to each other, with Officer Wipperman talking to the elder Bruce Buchanan while checking the cow elk he was claiming as his in camp. I talked with Michael Buchanan about the elk and after a while was able to retain his confession of illegally shooting the cow elk the morning before and placing his father Bruce Buchanan’s tag on it.
One quick call from a concerned sportsman helped catch a poacher who stole 2 elk from the citizens and hunters of Idaho in one day.
Michael Buchanan age 42, pled guilty to unlawfully taking the 6 point bull and cow elk, as well as using the elk tag of another, and violating a Forest Service road closure. Adams County Judge Meienhofer ordered him to pay $1,420 in fines and court costs, pay $2,250 in civil penalties for the elk to the Idaho Fish and Game, as well as $500 in processing fees for the 2 elk carcasses.
Michael Buchanan also received a 5 year hunting license revocation, with 2 years of probation, where he isn’t allowed to be in the field with anyone who is hunting. Judge Meienhofer also ordered 90 days in jail, with 80 suspended. Buchanan served 3 days immediately after court, with the option of community service for the remaining 7 days.
Bruce Buchanan age 66, pled guilty to transferring his elk tag to his son Michael and received a 1 year hunting license suspension, with $500 in fines and court costs, 90 days jail with 80 days suspended – 10 days community service in lieu of jail time.
Idaho is a member of the Wildlife Violator Compact, which means that if an individual’s hunting, fishing or trapping license is revoked by any of the 42 member states; all the remaining states will revoke the same license or privilege for the same time period. Anyone with information about a wildlife violation are encouraged to “Make the Call” and contact the Citizens Against Poaching (CAP) hotline at 1-800-632-5999. Callers may remain anonymous, and they may be eligible for a reward.
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