A Fouke, Arkansas couple pled guilty in McCurtain County District Court and also pled guilty in Miller County District Court in Arkansas on Wildlife Charges including illegally killing deer and bear. They paid fines totaling $9,841.
A Fouke, Arkansas couple recently plead guilty in McCurtain County District Court. Game wardens in southeast Oklahoma’s McCurtain County have closed the case on an investigation into the illegal taking of bear and deer by members of a private hunting lease north of Eagletown, Oklahoma. The investigation began when Oklahoma game warden Kenny Lawson received information that many members of the lease were implicated in an ongoing poaching scheme that involved mostly residents of Texas and Arkansas.
Throughout the summer of 2021 Lawson documented approx. forty-five lease members and their license and harvest histories. As time went on it became clear that many lease members were taking advantage of the state’s non-resident archery deer license that allows non-residents to harvest all six of the combined seasons deer limit of six, of which only two may be antlered. However, throughout the investigation Lawson learned that many, if not most of the non-resident hunters were harvesting their deer during the deer gun season. The wardens speculated that a number of those hunters were using high power rifles to harvest their deer during that season and not using archery equipment.
As more information was obtained by the veteran warden, it was determined that some members had illegally killed a bear and a few antlered deer on the lease, but those animals were checked in Arkansas. A resident sportsman’s license in Arkansas includes a bear tag and several deer tags for $25. By contrast a non-resident bear license in Oklahoma is $500. Likewise, a non-resident deer archery license is $280 as is the non-resident muzzleloader and rifle deer licenses.
On November 20, opening day of the deer gun season, wardens went to the Wolf Hole lease to attempt to contact some of the members who were suspected of illegal hunting. The wardens first contacted two individuals, a Texarkana, Texas man and a Hallsville, Texas woman. The woman allegedly shot a deer with a crossbow, quartered the carcass, but had not tagged the deer. The woman was issued a citation for failure to tag a deer and the man was cited for deer hunting without a license. Wardens also located another lease member, an Eagletown, Oklahoma man. He had killed a deer previously and had not checked the deer and was cited for not checking in his deer.
The wardens then located one of the members who was a focus of the investigation. The Fouke, Arkansas man was at his camp with a freshly killed buck. Warden Lawson interviewed the man regarding the bear killed in 2019 by his wife and three deer killed illegally by their juvenile sons in 2019 and 2020. The man maintained that all the animals were killed legally and checked in Arkansas. However, after Lawson revealed that a search warrant had been served on the suspect’s cell phone and the data clearly showed that he was at the lease on all the dates the deer and bear were killed. The suspect confessed to the crimes.
During this time, the suspect was asked the whereabouts of his wife. He stated he had taken her back to her deer stand. The wardens had a few moments earlier checked the license status of the woman and she only possessed a non-resident archery license. When asked if the wife was hunting with a rifle, the husband stated that she was afield with a rifle. The husband stated that he knew she did not have a deer gun license as required. When the woman arrived approximately a half hour later, she stated she had bought a deer gun license first thing that morning but after checking electronically the wardens determined she had purchased the license online nine minutes before arriving back to camp.
The couple were charged with several counts of possession of illegally taken deer and the bear and hunting without required licenses and several counts of failure to check in the deer and bear. Warden Lawson arranged for Arkansas game warden Jay Thomas to meet the suspects at their home to seize the deer and bear. During this time warden Thomas located other illegally taken deer by the family and issued citations for those violations as well.
All the violations are federal Lacey Act violations particularly, transporting illegally taken wildlife across state lines. The Fouke, Arkansas couple pled guilty in McCurtain County District Court and paid $7001 in fines. They also pled guilty in Miller County District Court in Arkansas. They paid fines totaling $2,840. The guilty pleas in Oklahoma carry an administrative license revocation of two years for the husband and one year for the wife. The charges in Arkansas carry a minimum revocation of five years. Both states are members of the Interstate Wildlife Violators Compact which means any revocations of a member state include revocations in all 48 member states.