Poaching suspects left lengthy digital trail for investigators to follow

William Haynes and Erik Martin
William Haynes, left, and Erik Martin pose for a selfie in Haynes’ pickup truck. The image was sent from Martin to his girlfriend on November 19, 2016, according to case reports. In the back of the vehicle, multiple deer can be seen. According to case reports, the deer were illegally killed in Oregon and transported across state lines to Washington.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife case report

For individuals who apparently got a thrill by stalking and illegally killing wild animals, William J. Haynes and Erik Christian Martin did a poor job of covering their own tracks.

The suspected poachers unwittingly provided law enforcement officers with a huge cache of evidence, allowing Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife investigators to build a massive case against them and five other members of an alleged poaching group.

Based on case reports reviewed by The Daily News, there’s little sign the men ever thought about getting caught.

Instead, the 23-year-old Longview residents are suspects in an investigation into the killing of more than 50 animals including deer, elk, bears and bobcats in two different states. Along the way, they left a digital trail of shocking evidence for Fish and Wildlife investigators to follow.

The painstaking task required two Fish and Wildlife officers and a sergeant, who spent a majority of the past winter and early spring diligently retracing the suspects’ bloody steps.

Investigators were also assisted by more than 30 officers from multiple agencies, including the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office.

“We’ve used a lot of our manpower in this region in Western Washington to accomplish this case,” Fish and Wildlife Sergeant Brad Rhoden said in an interview.

Rhoden said he doesn’t want intense interest in the case to lead to a negative perception of honest hunters.

“I don’t want anybody to view the majority of our hunters in Washington as these types of individuals,” he said. “I don’t think there’s a sportsman out there who would say this is OK.”

Haynes is facing 61 separate charges in Skamania County District Court, including 26 charges of first-degree illegal hunting of big game. All of the charges are related to the use of dogs while hunting, which is illegal in Washington without a special permit that’s only granted in specific instances. Haynes was previously convicted of second-degree unlawful hunting of big game in Cowlitz County on Oct. 3, 2013. As a result, all of Haynes’ big game charges could be considered Class C felonies, which are punishable by up to five years in jail and a $10,000 fine.

Martin, who does not have any previous violations, is facing 28 separate charges for gross misdemeanors.

In addition to Haynes and Martin, three other suspects have been named in the investigation.

They are Joseph Allen Dills, 30, of Longview; Eddy Alvin Dills, 57, of Longview; and Bryan Christopher Tretiak, 31, of Morton. All of the suspects are awaiting preliminary appearance hearings in Skamania County later this month. Two female suspects were named in the case reports but no charges have been filed against them yet.

Dills, who has bear claws and dog paws tattooed on his left arm, pleaded guilty in Wahkiakum County District Court in 2008 to second-degree unlawful hunting of big game and second-degree criminal trespassing. He’s now facing 64 separate charges, including four first-degree unlawful big game hunting charges for the illegal use of dogs.

Had Haynes and Martin known that the contents of their phones would result in so many charges, it’s possible they may have opted not to document such a staggering number of alleged illegal hunting activities.

A mountain of evidence

Based on case reports, it’s not clear if Haynes or Martin thought twice before agreeing to allow two Oregon State police officers to look through their devices on December 3, 2016.

According to reports, the troopers had stopped the men after recognizing Haynes’ Toyota pickup as the same vehicle that appeared in several images captured by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife game cameras. The motion-activated cameras were set up in response to past illegal big game hunting activity in the Mount Hood National Forest during the months of November and December.

Upon questioning, Haynes and Martin confessed to illegally killing two buck deer and a silver gray squirrel, according to reports. The two men admitted to taking only the heads of the two deer and the entire squirrel back to a house in Longview, leaving the rest of the animals to rot.

At this point, Senior Trooper Craig Gunderson requested that Washington Fish and Wildlife Sergeant Brad Rhoden assist with recovering the illegally transported deer heads.

When Rhoden arrived, Gunderson informed him that Haynes and Martin had consented to having their cell phones searched. According to reports, it was at this point that the true scale of the ensuing investigation began to emerge.

An initial look through the devices revealed numerous photos of antlered deer skulls, dead bull elk, and — perhaps most disturbing — bear hunting with the use of dogs.

Gunderson seized the phones as evidence and obtained a search warrant to have a forensic analysis performed on the devices.

On Dec. 16, 2016, Rhoden met with Gunderson and several other officers to transfer evidence from the analysis.

The contents of Haynes’ phone provided hundreds of photos and videos documenting a pattern of brutal killings on more than 20 separate occasions.

In some cases, bears were still alive as Dills’ dogs gnawed on their flesh, Rhoden said.

Martin’s phone also held numerous photos and videos of the unlawful harvest of big game.

In addition to incriminating photos, videos and text messages, the evidence included crucial metadata which allowed investigators to pinpoint exactly where the illegal killings occurred using GPS coordinates.

Investigators could not have retraced the suspects’ steps if Haynes had not granted his phone’s camera permission to access its GPS location data.

“What was most difficult about this case is that we had to pore through so many records,” Rhoden said.

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Poaching Death of Popular Oklahoma Elk

From Oklahoma KC local news:

He was a little scruffy looking and didn’t have a majestic set of antlers,
but a very popular
Nickel Preserve bull elk with the nickname Hollywood was killed on Friday
night. He was very
laid back and kid-friendly and well known to the preserve visitors.
Poachers on late Friday or on early Saturday found the elk a few yards
off a country road
and shot it with a crossbow and a rifle. Then they took its head and one
hindquarter and left the
rest to rot.
News of the killing exploded on social media Sunday and Monday as the
Nature Conservancy
offered a $1000 reward for information leading to the conviction of those
responsible. And on Monday
the Tulsa-based NatureWorks pledged to double that reword.
The president of NatureWorks stated “Our board members are outraged by
this totally classless
act. NatureWorks hopes in matching the reward that the responsible party
will be apprehended
and prosecuted to the fullest extent.”
The $2000 comes in addition to a reward of $500 that could be offered
thru the Okla. Dept. of
Wildlife Conservation’s anonymous tip line, Operation Game Thief.
The Director of the preserve said the elk’s small rack and scruffy look
may have kept him
safe for a time.
The Nature Conservancy’s 17,000 acre Nickel Preserve, in the Cookson
Hills NE of Tahlequah, Okla.,
is home to a herd of about 50 elk and a group of five bulls and 15 cows
were transplanted to the
preserve in 2005 to re-establish the herd in the Ozarks.
The bull elk was nicknamed Hollywood because this 8 to 9 year old bull
had taken up residence
near the county road on the preserve and was a regular feature of social
media posts from nearly
everyone who came to the preserve. He seldom ever left the preserve.
The old bull was indeed a good one for people who wanted to get close to
him.
A preserve visitor states “We called him Lawrence Elk.” She saw the elk
for the first time last
year and since then, she and her daughters have visited the preserve one or
twice a month.
She added “There have been many times I pulled up and he was within 4
yards of my car,
and he would just lie down and chew his cud. I think he saw cars so much
he just became
accustomed to it.”

Field reports: Asotin County men charged in elk case

http://www.spokesman.com/outdoors/stories/2015/jan/11/field-reports-field-reports-asotin-county-men/

Evidence in a Blue Mountains trophy elk poaching case is confiscated by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife police officers Sabo and King.  (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife)
Evidence in a Blue Mountains trophy elk poaching case is confiscated by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife police officers Sabo and King. (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife)

POACHING – Two Anatone, Washington, men have been charged in the November illegal killing of two trophy-class bull elk in Asotin County.

Richard Kramer, 39, and his son, Jonathan Kramer, 22, face multiple charges in the cases, which were made with the help of tips from the public, according to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife police.

The unlawful hunting charges involve spotlighting, trespassing, and wasting game.

Officer Matt Sabo had reported that the two bulls were killed within about 100 yards of each other near the intersection of Weissenfels Ridge Road and Kiesecker Road, and both had their heads removed and backstrap meat taken. One of the elk’s hindquarters were also taken with the rest of the meat left to waste.

They are set to appear in Asotin County District Court on Wednesday.

Washington offers only a few hunting tags for coveted branch-antlered bull elk in that area through a lottery drawing each year.

More: http://www.spokesman.com/outdoors/stories/2015/jan/11/field-reports-field-reports-asotin-county-men/

Who Should Read Exposing the Big Game?

Imagine you’re a hunter and you just bought a copy of Exposing the Big Game to add to your collection of books and magazines featuring photos of prize bull elk, beefy bison and scary bears (the kind of animals you objectify and fantasize about one day hanging in your trophy room full of severed heads). This one also includes pictures of “lesser” creatures like prairie dogs and coyotes you find plain ol’ fun to trap or shoot at.

You don’t normally read these books (you’re too busy drooling over the four-legged eye candy to be bothered), but for some reason this one’s burning a hole in your coffee table. So you take a deep breath and summon up the courage to contemplate the text and its meaning. Several of the words are big and beyond you, and you wish you had a dictionary, but eventually you begin to figure out that Exposing the Big Game is more than just a bunch of exposed film featuring the wild animals you think of as “game.”

This book actually has a message and the message is: hunting sucks!

You don’t want to believe it—the notion that animals are individuals rather than resources goes against everything you’ve ever accepted as truth. But reading on, you learn about the lives of those you’ve always conveniently depersonalized. Finally it starts to dawn on you that animals, such as those gazing up at you from these pages, are fellow earthlings with thoughts and feelings of their own. By the time you’ve finished the third chapter your mind is made up to value them for who they are, not what they are. Now your life is changed forever!

Suddenly you’re enlightened and, like the Grinch, your tiny heart grows three sizes that day. The war is over and you realize that the animals were never the enemy after all. You spring up from the sofa, march over to the gun cabinet and grab your rifles, shotguns, traps, bows and arrows. Hauling the whole cache out to the chopping block, you smash the armaments to bits with your splitting maul. Next, you gather up your ammo, orange vest and camouflage outfits and dump ‘em down the outhouse hole.

Returning to the book, you now face the animals with a clearer conscience, vowing never to harm them again. You’re determined to educate your hunter friends with your newfound revelations and rush out to buy them all copies of Exposing the Big Game for Christmas…

Or suppose you are a non-hunter, which, considering the national average and the fact that the percentage of hunters is dropping daily, is more than likely. Avid hunters comprise less than 5 percent of Americans, while you non-hunters make up approximately 90 percent, and altruistically avid anti-hunters represent an additional 5 percent of the population. For you, this book will shed new light on the evils of sport hunting, incite outrage and spark a firm resolve to help counter these atrocities.

And if you’re one of the magnanimous 5 percent—to whom this book is dedicated—who have devoted your very existence to advocating for justice by challenging society’s pervasive double standard regarding the value of human versus nonhuman life, the photos of animals at peace in the wild will provide a much needed break from the stress and sadness that living with your eyes open can sometimes bring on. As a special treat cooked up just for your enjoyment, a steaming cauldron of scalding satire ladled lavishly about will serve as chik’n soup for your anti-hunter’s soul.

So, who should read Exposing the Big Game? Any hunter who hasn’t smashed his weapons with a splitting maul…or any non-hunter who isn’t yet comfortable taking a stand as an anti-hunter. The rest of you can sit back and enjoy the pretty pictures.

______________________________________________________________

The preceding was an excerpt from the book, Exposing the Big Game: Living Targets of a Dying Sport.

front-cover-low-res6

There’s no rest for game processors during hunting season

There’s no rest for game processors during hunting season By CHRIS CIOFFI ccioffi@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette
11 hours ago  •  By Chris Cioffi

The large walk-in coolers at Project Meats have been crowded the last few weeks with harvested elk and deer on their way to the dinner table.

Even more elk and deer are piled on the loading dock, waiting their turn on the butcher block….

Read more: http://billingsgazette.com/business/features/there-s-no-rest-for-game-processors-during-hunting-season/article_c4a9d25b-7ed9-522b-98f2-8753020da2a2.html#ixzz2mFa3vzvq

For the Bragging Rights

Autumn in elk country would not be complete without the stirring sound of solicitous bulls bugling-in the season of brightly colored leaves, shorter days and cooler nights. Nothing, save for the clamor of great flocks of Canada geese, trumpeter swans or sandhill cranes announcing their southward migration, is more symbolic of the time of year. And just as any pond or river along their flyway devoid of the distinctive din of wandering waterfowl seems exceedingly still and empty, any forest or field bereft of the bugling of bull elk feels sadly deserted and lifeless.

Yet there are broad expanses of the continent, once familiar with these essential sounds of autumn, where now only the blare of gunfire resounds. By the end of the nineteenth century, the great wave of humanity blowing westward with the force of a category five hurricane—leveling nearly everything in its destructive path—had cut down the vast elk herds, leaving only remnants of their population in its wake.

Nowadays, a different kind of rite rings-in the coming of autumn across much of the land. Following in the ignoble footsteps of their predecessors who hunted to extinction two subspecies, the Mirriam’s and the Eastern elk, nimrods by the thousands run rampant on the woodlands and inundate the countryside, hoping to relive the gory glory days of the 1800s.

On the way back from a trip early last evening I saw one such nimrod as I turned at the local mini-market on the final stretch home. I have no doubt in my mind that he was parked there just to show off his kill; the antlers of a once proud, now degraded and deceased bull elk were intentionally draped over the tailgate of the assassin’s truck—clearly on display.

I can’t say that I see just what the hunter was so proud of. It’s not like he personally brought down the mighty animal with his bare hands. Elk follow a pretty predictable path this time of year, and the bulls are distracted and preoccupied with escorting their harems around. Taking advantage of them during their mating season is about as loathsome as anything a human can come up with (and that’s saying a lot).

All a deceitful sportsman has to do is blow an imitation elk bugle to lure a competitive bull within range of their tree stand or wait in hiding above the herd’s traditional trail to the evening feeding grounds. When the procession passes by (right below the camouflaged killer’s perch), the most challenging thing for the sniper is deciding which individual animal to shoot or impale with an arrow.

The fact that they let groups of cows and young spike bulls pass by and wait for the largest, “trophy” bull is proof positive that they’re not hunting for food, but rather for sport—and for bragging rights.

____________________________

The first portion of this post was excerpted from the chapter, “The Fall of Autumn’s Envoy,” in the book, Exposing the Big Game: Living Targets of a Dying Sport

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

Taking Trophies

“You’re the last one there…you feel the last bit of breath leaving their body. You’re looking into their eyes and basically, a person in that situation is God! You then possess them and they shall forever be a part of you. And the grounds where you killed them become sacred to you and you will always be drawn back to them.”

The words of a hunter triumphantly reliving his conquest?

Well, if by hunter you mean a person who stalks and kills an innocent, unarmed victim, then yes.

The quote is from serial killer Ted Bundy, as he sat on death row and mused over his murders to the authors of The Only Living Witness. It seems that, whether the perpetrator is engaged in a sport hunt or a serial kill, the mentality is roughly the same.

Try as I might, it’s a mindset I really can’t relate to. But this quote helped answer a question I’ve been pondering since I came across a freshly shed elk antler on a hike in the forest behind my place. It was thrilling to find a tangible sign of such a proud and noble soul, willingly discarded to make way for this year’s even larger adornment. I’ve experienced a similar feeling of exhilaration many times before when capturing images of wildlife with my camera. The key component for me is the knowledge that the animal is still roaming free.

Image

I hung the keepsake over my doorway. It serves as a reminder that the bull elk made it through another season alive. Conversely, when a hunter proudly displays a “rack” of antlers, they are the result of a killan animal’s life was taken so they could claim their trophy.

So why can’t hunters be satisfied with finding a naturally shed horn?

Clearly, they are after more than just a souvenir or symbol of a beautiful living creature. There’s something sinister about their motive—something akin to what drives a trophy-taking serial killer.

For the likes of Ted Bundy, a memento such as a pair of panties or a Polaroid photo helps them to recall the heightened state of arousal they felt while slaying their prey. As with the serial killer, the ultimate goal of a hunter is to play God over a helpless victim and to possess not just their image or their antler, but their very being.

Road Hazard?

Driving to work early the other morning, I came within inches of hitting a bull elk who decided, at the last minute, to run across the highway right in front of me. Fortunately no one else was on that lonely stretch of road at the time, for if I hadn’t stomped on the brakes and cranked the wheel to the left, we would probably both be dead. I saw up close and personal how hitting an animal as large as that could do lethal damage. But the experience did not change my attitude on whether migratory wildlife should be considered a road hazard.

There’s no doubting the fact that we humans—in our full metal jacketed projectiles, lumbering headlong 60 mph through the former wilderness—are the real hazards. We’re the ones breaking nature’s rules by inventing machines that can go so fast they can put an end to anyone they run into. But, we drive like we’re saying, “We have important places to go—everyone else beware or be damned! No lowly animal better get in our way!”

If this incident had proven fatal for us, I would have wanted my epitaph to read: “I’m sorry beautiful creature. There’s nowhere I had to be that was worth the risk of ending your precious life.”