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.

deer-poacher

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 Comments
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Sierra Lady
Sierra Lady
6 years ago

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… Read more »

Local deer hunter
Local deer hunter
6 years ago

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… Read more »

Twren
Twren
6 years ago

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
Trouble
6 years ago
Reply to  Twren

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
Charles O. Jones
6 years ago
Reply to  Trouble

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… Read more »

Low-Inyo
Low-Inyo
6 years ago

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… Read more »

Trouble
Trouble
6 years ago
Reply to  Low-Inyo

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… Read more »

Trouble
Trouble
6 years ago

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.

Klondike Dick
Klondike Dick
6 years ago

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
Bob Todd
6 years ago
Reply to  Klondike Dick

Mea culpa

Dan
Dan
6 years ago
Reply to  Bob Todd

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… Read more »

Tinner
Tinner
6 years ago

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.

BCGronk
BCGronk
6 years ago

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… Read more »

sugar magnolia
sugar magnolia
6 years ago

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… Read more »

earl duran
earl duran
6 years ago

He must have connections somewhere!

p ite
p ite
6 years ago

hang him

Verne Disney
Verne Disney
6 years ago

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)

Bob Smith
Bob Smith
6 years ago

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.

Rick OB
Rick OB
6 years ago

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… Read more »

Rick OB
Rick OB
6 years ago
Reply to  Rick OB

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

#justthefacts
#justthefacts
6 years ago
Reply to  Rick OB

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… Read more »

Low-Inyo
Low-Inyo
6 years ago
Reply to  #justthefacts

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… Read more »

#justthefacts
#justthefacts
6 years ago
Reply to  Low-Inyo

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… Read more »

Steve P.
Steve P.
6 years ago
Reply to  Low-Inyo

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… Read more »

Andrew S.
Andrew S.
6 years ago

Who the hell gave him this sweetheart plea deal?

pecos
pecos
6 years ago

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… Read more »

Low-Inyo
Low-Inyo
6 years ago

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… Read more »

Trouble
Trouble
6 years ago
Reply to  Low-Inyo

Maybe he was hungry?

Tourbillon
Tourbillon
6 years ago
Reply to  Low-Inyo

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… Read more »

sugarmagnolia
sugarmagnolia
6 years ago
Reply to  Tourbillon

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… Read more »

Trouble
Trouble
6 years ago
Reply to  Tourbillon

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
Bob Loblaw
6 years ago
Reply to  Tourbillon

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… Read more »