Crowley Lake man receives penalties for deer poaching

Press release from CDF&W

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) officers concluded an extensive deer poaching investigation out of Mono County, resulting in a guilty plea.


Wildlife officers received several tips from legitimate hunters in Inyo and Mono Counties who reported suspected poaching activities from Gary John Watters, 56, of Crowley Lake.

Between the tips and the follow-up investigation, wildlife officers suspected Watters of poaching very large bucks illegally, including deer taken out of season. Multiple bucks were also allegedly taken by Watters within “no-shoot” residential areas in close proximity to homes in the June Lake and Crowley Lake areas.

In addition, the legitimate hunters monitored Watter’s social media posts where he boasted of killing the large deer during extreme backcountry archery hunts.

Wildlife officers’ investigation revealed evidence suggesting that Watters killed trophy bucks in a premium “X” deer zone, while claiming that the deer were taken legally in the more easily obtained “D” deer zones.

Evidence collected at several different poaching crime scenes in residential areas yielded an abundance of excellent quality fresh deer DNA samples. Analysis of the DNA proved he took the most recent large buck in the backyard of a home without permission of the homeowner, within ten yards of the house.

Analysis of hunting tag and reporting records indicated that two large bucks were reported taken during open seasons in Fresno and Tuolumne counties, but in fact, were illegally taken during the closed season in Mono County.

“Persistent tips and close scrutiny of social media posts by legitimate hunters were a big part of this case,” said Lt. Bill Dailey, who supervises wildlife officers in Mono and Inyo Counties.

On December 14, 2015, Mono County District Attorney’s Office filed nine misdemeanor poaching related associated with the case, including unlawful taking deer out of season, hunting deer without a valid license, hunter trespass, discharge weapon near a residence, unlawful discharge of a weapon, false information on deer tags, deposit dead animal near waterway, and two counts of unlawful possession of deer taken in violation.

In February 2016 Watters entered a plea deal with the Mono County District Attorney’s Office for to one misdemeanor count of unlawful take of a deer and one infraction count of unlawful discharge of a weapon in a county no shoot zone.

On February 22, 2016 Watters arrived at the Mammoth Police Department where he was booked and released as ordered by the court. Watters also received a $760 fine / penalty assessment, 400 hours of community service, and cannot hunt in any state for three years.

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32 Responses to Crowley Lake man receives penalties for deer poaching

  1. Sierra Lady March 16, 2016 at 9:55 am #

    Here’s an interesting share found on the California Hunting Facebook page on this subject:

    “California Hunting
    March 7 at 1:56 pm · Goleta, CA, United States ·

    Folks, just had some very sad news brought to my attention. One of our long time followers, since the 100 follower days, has pleaded no contest to poaching, and been found guilty of deer poaching. “Persistent tips and close scrutiny of social media posts by legitimate hunters were a big part of this case.” Nine misdemeanor poaching related charges with the case, including unlawful taking deer out of season, hunting deer without a valid license, hunter trespass, discharge weapon near a residence, unlawful discharge of a weapon, false information on deer tags, deposit dead animal near waterway, and two counts of unlawful possession of deer taken in violation of code. The violations, with the plea agreement, lead to a $760 fine / penalty assessment, 400 hours of community service, and the individual cannot hunt in any state for three years.
    California Hunting has always tried to post with discretion and celebrate successful hunts by hard working DYI hunters, and we feel somewhat betrayed by a person, who at times through our shared posts, we championed. Gary Watters out of Crowley Lake, Mono County, CA.
    We would like to take this opportunity to apologize for sharing pictures, and stories that were not legitimate. We try our best to share pictures and stories that are 100% fair chase, and legal. Please help us to do so! If you are aware of, or suspect illegal activity report it. That is how this case came to the surface. We support 100% fair chase and legitimate stories and pictures. Events such as this only serve to harm our community and traditions. Thank you for following our page! ~ Rob Locke”

  2. Local deer hunter March 16, 2016 at 7:23 am #

    They should have taken his truck gun bow binos and everything else he used to poach these nice bucks!! Just like Poaching Joe these guys get a slap on the wrist then in three years get to start over again. Hunting is a privilege not a right these guys walk around saying how great of a hunter they are when in reality they are scum bags. They should have to pay ten times as much and not be able to hunt for ten years. It takes 4 years to draw an X9A tag or one year to draw an D7 tag so these pieces of S can start poaching again. Make the consequences bad enough to STOP THIS SORT OF THING FROM HAPPENING.

  3. Twren March 15, 2016 at 10:11 am #

    A slap on the wrist for the criminal, a slap on the face to all law abiding hunters.
    Shame on the district attorney for this settlement and for future cases of poaching that may have been deterred by greater penalties.

    • Trouble March 16, 2016 at 6:50 pm #

      I don’t think four hundred hours of community service is a slap on the wrist. Putting people in a cage , does nothing to help protect society. In most cases it makes things worse.

      • Charles O. Jones March 17, 2016 at 7:51 am #

        I would agree that the equivalent of ten forty hour weeks is certainly a bigger penalty than that measly fine was. But community service is not “Putting people in a cage” It’s serving the community. No cage involved. And for many law breakers, serving the community makes much more sense than incarceration does.

        • Low-Inyo March 17, 2016 at 2:47 pm #

          Thing about “community service”,usually means show up at 8 A.M…..pitter around for a couple hours….sit and visit a while…..then comes lunch-time….then another hour or so of doing whatever….and by 2 P.M.,at the latest, on the way home with credit for a full 8 hour day….not to mention 400 hours usually means about 200…..ask anyone that’s done it or dealt with it…….

          • Trouble March 19, 2016 at 4:57 pm #

            Lower Inyo, the guy will surely pay a bigger price in years to come just by being convicted of these crimes. I actually believe this case is a good sign that our justice system actually does work in a fair manner once in a while. I’m surprised he’s going to be allowed to get a hunting license so soon.

        • Trouble March 18, 2016 at 7:18 am #

          Charles, maybe I should have left my opinion of our country’s cheer leader adatude toward our prison system out of this topic. But I’m sure his attorney fees will make up for any short comings people seem to think he should of been fined.

  4. Klondike Dick March 14, 2016 at 4:57 pm #

    Seems like it is cheaper to poach than to purchase a license and tags. BTW… Where is this upstanding citizen from? Crowley or June? If he is from Crowley the headline should be corrected!

    • Bob Todd March 14, 2016 at 6:29 pm #

      Mea culpa

      • Dan March 16, 2016 at 10:59 am #

        Thanks for correcting the headline Bob, but the damage is done and Google News has picked up that a “June Lake” man is responsible! You definitely are the best news agency for our area, and I appreciate what you do. I know it was an honest mistake. But my hometown of June Lake seems to be getting enough unfavorable publicity lately so please be careful in the future. Thanks again for all that you do…

  5. Tinner March 14, 2016 at 11:41 am #

    I am without a doubt pro 2nd Amendment but I guess we will have to wait until a HUMAN or a DOG of ours is killed before we take gun crimes seriously. What a pathetic penalty, a complete joke.

  6. BCGronk March 14, 2016 at 10:37 am #

    I can’t believe this “penalty”. If this had been in Nevada, it would cost him 4K to 5K, plus the loss of his hunting equipment, and a minimum of 10 year ban on hunting. It sure would be nice if the DA would issue a statement defending his actions. I would also like to see a response from DFW.

  7. sugar magnolia March 14, 2016 at 9:51 am #

    Wow, I am shocked at the low fine! Seriously Mono County DA, this is the best you could do? That fine seems more in line with ONE poaching offense, let alone numerous others PLUS the trespassing and illegal discharges of a weapon.

    Hunting tags cost almost as much as his fine….this does NOTHING to discourage someone from this illegal and immoral behavior. And why is it these idiots always leave the meat? What a waste.

    He should NEVER be allowed to hunt in California again. I’m so pissed at our DA, I could spit.
    No question the DA went soft on this longtime local. Not cool DA. May karma find you and, of course, find Watters even more.

    How about an investigation by the Grand Jury on this case….I want to know who all asked the DA to go easy on him. I’m sure they’ll be plenty of names we would recognize.

  8. earl duran March 14, 2016 at 6:43 am #

    He must have connections somewhere!

  9. p ite March 14, 2016 at 6:40 am #

    hang him

  10. Verne Disney March 14, 2016 at 6:23 am #

    I’m with Low-Inyo on this one. $760.00???????????? None the less, great work done by CFW. (Still have trouble with the name change from game to wildlife)

  11. Bob Smith March 13, 2016 at 10:14 pm #

    How can this be? I can’t believe the Mono County District Attorney’s office allowed this injustice to take place. Maybe hunters will remember this when the DA comes up for re election.

  12. Rick OB March 13, 2016 at 7:54 pm #

    NINE counts reduced to ONE ??? WTF …? 760.00 fine ??? I (unknowingly) was fishing LICENSED, on the wrong side of a sign on the upper Owens during last seasons opener, was cited by DFW and paid FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS for ONE infraction ! I didn’t get any counts reduced or dropped ! This clown didn’t even have his guns confiscated. The amount of the fine won’t even cover the cost of the DNA testing ! The Game Wardens must be FUMING at the prosecutor after all that hard work. What a freakin’ OUTRAGE !

    • Rick OB March 14, 2016 at 11:56 pm #

      FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS…and I didn’t even catch a single fish !

      • #justthefacts March 26, 2016 at 2:17 pm #

        Fact 1 – Guns were not involved – archery equipment
        Fact 2 – No DNA tests were done
        Fact 3 – The story fish and wildlife released is much less than 100% accurate
        Fact 4 – The suspect provided all the information to make F&W case
        Fact 5 – 400 hours community service @ a wage of $25/hour is $10,000
        Fact 6 – Could have paid the large fine, or accept the community service
        Fact 7 – What he did was wrong and he is being punished

        • Low-Inyo March 26, 2016 at 6:14 pm #

          justthefacts…So what your saying is..

          Fact 1…..poaching with a bow and arrow is O.K.

          Fact 2…DNA results would have “set him free”

          Fact 3…DFW lied about their case presented

          Fact 4….The suspect provided info,after he was hung out to dry,therefore,should be cut some kind of break for his actions…

          Fact 5…community service is a joke of a penalty

          Fact 6….What he did was wrong,but should have a much harsher punishment for being a sleazy poacher…do the crime….do the time….

          • #justthefacts March 28, 2016 at 8:25 am #

            Low-Inyo –

            What I was saying was in response to Rick OB – He was saying the fine didn’t even cover the DNA testing. Fact is, no DNA testing was performed. I also didn’t say that CFW lied about their case, what I said is that the article that was written was not 100% accurate. Rick OB had also said the poachers guns should have been taken away. I did not condone the act, but only clarified that archery equipment was used. The fact of the matter is that CFW had no case, only a suspicion, because of his guilty conscience and wanting to come clean, he gave them the case. He took them to the spot where the crime occurred. Gave them the evidence. When the DA looked at his forthrightness and considering how much a trial would cost the county, they chose to do a plea. They gave him the choice of community service or a huge fine. He chose community service.

            Now thinking he got off easy…..then you don’t know the man. No one can be harder on him than himself and his family. Attorney fees were significant, over $5,000. You may think the community service is a joke, but that is not how he is taking it. He is trying to hold his head up and do what is required.

            Of course people have turned against him in the community. People have threatened him and his livelihood. To that point some of those threats are clearly breaking the law.

            I am not condoning what happened at all. It was illegal. It was ethically wrong. It was extremely disappointing. But what I do know, for those who think the punishment was not harsh enough, you have no clue as to the actual financial, emotional and community punishment.

            I get everyone has emotions around this. When I first found out, I too had many of the same feelings. But in reality, no one has the right to throw stones. I have looked back at my life and thought about things I have done that might have broken the law, be it hunting or in “real life” and realize I need to be a better human being. I cannot throw stones because my house has too much glass! How much glass does your house hold?

          • Steve P. April 1, 2016 at 10:32 am #

            Just — we are not “throwing stones”, as you say, since NONE OF US were caught poaching multiple deer out of season, including in residential areas. This was, in essence, egregious criminal behavior that was not punished appropriately. The fact that many people in the community have expressed their extreme disappointment in the way this case was handled is entirely appropriate, and is the right way for citizens to let their government and elected officials know what we think of their work.

            Watters got a slap on the wrist which does three things: 1) it sends an encouraging message to would-be poachers that there is little punishment risk involved in poaching; 2) it makes law-abiding hunters feel that all the hassle and money involved in abiding by the rules is a joke, and 3) it makes those hunters or fisherman who have been punished more harshly, for far less, feel that they were treated unjustly.

  13. Andrew S. March 13, 2016 at 7:35 pm #

    Who the hell gave him this sweetheart plea deal?

  14. pecos March 13, 2016 at 6:33 pm #

    Nothing less than a life time ban will do.There are people who have been putting in for a chance for 12 years trying to get a opportunity to take a buck like these.And for that find. Out of state hunter spend way more then 760.00 dollars for a chance to just to draw a tag like that. Sure hope he learns something. THESE WERE GOOD BREED STOCK

  15. Low-Inyo March 13, 2016 at 5:17 pm #

    A slap-on-the-wrist penalty for a poacher with MULTIPLE poaching incidents….funny saying part of his “penalties” is not being allowed to hunt for 3 years….he’s been illegally hunting and poaching for years….think this is gonna stop him ? Should’ve gotten a felony,prison time,and with the felony on his rap-sheet,keeping him from even owning or using a firearm in the future……nothing worse than a sleazy poacher…..

    • Trouble March 13, 2016 at 8:06 pm #

      Maybe he was hungry?

    • Tourbillon March 14, 2016 at 7:05 am #

      Not disagreeing that the poacher should be punished. But it is emotional desires for punitive retribution unhinged from thoughtful deliberation that has resulted in America having criminal codes that have made us the incarceration capital of the world. We need criminal justice reform, not more layering on of additional ways to put more of us in jail and stigmatize people for life with police records. On this, there is wide agreement across the political spectrum, from Bernie to Ted.

      • sugarmagnolia March 14, 2016 at 6:50 pm #

        I agree with you, jail time for this would be over kill (for a first time offense), however, the punishment received is laughable. He seriously would have paid more if he’d gotten the tags (assuming he could, obviously those tags are hard to get).
        I think we should ask for reporting on his community service…ie. holding the chains at a home football game shouldn’t count!
        Snow shoveling for the elderly is the best I can come up with. Might take two – three years, but every weekend (when it snows) all winter would be a start.

      • Trouble March 15, 2016 at 1:54 am #

        Tour, I totally agree. Don’t let your “Hot Debate” score stand in your way of voicing your opinion. I’d bet half of those people never gave a minute of thought before they voted on anything.

      • Bob Loblaw March 15, 2016 at 11:13 am #

        Although overreacting is not a good thing, the penalty for his behavior should at least be more costly than doing things legally. For example, he poached deer in a premium zone, that generally takes 3-4 years to get a tag for. Beyond that, the fine is literally less than the cost of a mediocre deer rifle. Often, in California, the punishment for poaching offenses less egregious than this include seizure of your equipment (e.g. rifle, bow, truck, etc.), along with fines, suspension of hunting privileges, and sometimes jail time. I’d be interested to know how it compares to penalties for the Goodale buck poacher. Something it may be worthwhile for Bob Todd and company to look into!


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