Poaching Tip in Washington Leads to Guilty Plea and Charges in Other Cases

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A Kennewick man has pleaded guilty to charges of illegal big-game hunting in the Blue Mountains of Columbia County following an investigation by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

Jason Locke, 37, pleaded guilty March 9 in Columbia County District Court to poaching a bull elk and using a hunting license illegally. Locke was fined a total of $11,345, including a $6,000 criminal wildlife assessment penalty for taking a trophy-size bull elk.

Two other men – David E. Myles, 50, of Richland, and Brian E. Badgwell, 40, of Pomeroy – earlier pleaded guilty to charges of unlawfully transporting wildlife in that case.

Locke is also facing poaching charges in Chelan County, and allegations that he guided Columbia River steelhead trips without a commercial license.

Along with additional fines, Locke could lose hunting and fishing privileges for two years and forfeiture of elk meat and hunting and fishing equipment seized as evidence in those cases.

WDFW's investigation of Locke's activities was sparked by an anonymous tip to WDFW last October that he had killed two bull elk in the Blue Mountains and claimed one of them using his wife's permit tag. Under Washington law, it is illegal to harvest game for another person.

The informant also told WDFW enforcement officers that Locke killed a buck deer near Chelan in 2009 using his wife's permit tag.

Based on WDFW’s investigation, Locke has been charged in Chelan County District Court with three counts of unlawful big game hunting and one charge of unlawful transportation of wildlife. He could face up to $6,000 in fines there, including a $4,000 criminal wildlife penalty assessment for taking a trophy-size buck deer.

In addition, Locke has been charged in Benton County District Court with unlawfully guiding fishing trips on the Columbia River without a license and making a false report regarding fish and wildlife. Both are gross misdemeanors, punishable by fines of more than $2,000.

That case, which WDFW investigated in conjunction with the Oregon State Police, has been forward to the U.S. Coast Guard, since Locke also did not have a required Coast Guard license to guide commercial fishing trips.

"All of these cases started with an anonymous tip by a concerned citizen,"” said Mike Cenci, WDFW deputy chief of enforcement. "We encourage people who witness fish and wildlife violations to contact the department and let us know about it."

The WDFW Enforcement Program encourages citizens who witness a fish and wildlife offense to report the violation. Reports can be filed by phone (1-877-933-9847), email ([email protected]) or text message (847411 TIP411).


groovy mike's picture

That is barely thought of as a crime any more

Congratulations to the state of Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife on the conviction in Columbia County.  The seventeen thousand dollars of fines won’t replace the elk, but it should definitely act as a deterrent to future poachers if the word gets out about this case.  What is it with these guys running illegal guiding operations?  Isn’t it enough for them to be guilty of poaching on their own but now they are leading others into crime?  The practice of using your wife’s tag is so common place in some areas that it is barely thought of as a crime any more.  My wife doesn’t hunt and has never had a license so I have never had the temptation of filling her tag, but I know that it happens – a lot.  In fact, it happens so often that in the last few years New York state has changed their regulations so that you can now LEGALLY assign your New York antlerless deer tag to another hunter if you choose to do so! 

You are right about the ‘anonymous’ callers, Sean,  Like those folks who turn in people to the Internal Revenue Service they often family or business associates like employees of the person being turned in.  Very often there is a divorce involved.  In states where the informer gets a piece of the fine as a reward for reporting sometimes fellow poachers rat each other out for the money!  I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that criminal behavior clusters.  If you have no respect for one law, why would you bother to keep any of them?  If you are a thief, you probably cheat on your taxes and timecard too!

Ca_Vermonster's picture

Good to see that they got

Good to see that they got him, and he's going to have to pay a pretty hefty fine.

Funny thing is with these "anonymous" callers, is that they often are family or close friends of the person, and alot of times, are involved in the criminal act themselves.

I wouldn't be surprised if the guy who reported them is also a poacher, and may be mad at what this guy was trying to get away with.

Either way, a poacher of elk has been caught, will pay a big fine, and hopefully lose his license for some time to come!

jaybe's picture

I always find it interesting

I always find it interesting - though it probably shouldn't come as a surprise - that very often, people who violate one law, violate others as well - at the same time!

I read a publication that posts the citations given by game wardens each week, and they often read something like this:

 "Conservation officer Joe Smith watched two men fishing in a boat for two hours and observed that they had caught a lot of fish. When they came to the boat ramp, officer Smith asked to see their licenses and fish. He discovered that one of the men was from out of state, but had a resident fishing license that had been issued in another man's name. The second fisherman did not have a license. The men had 23 fish over their limit, and the boat they were using was not registered."

  Or maybe this one during hunting season:

"Conservation Officers Sarah Walters and Fred Johnson were working together checking licenses of hunters coming out of the woods at a popular parking spot adjacent to the Allegan State Game Area. One group of three hunters gained special notice when two of them had blood on their hands and clothes, but they were not dragging a deer. An inpection of their licenses revealed that neither of them had valid deer hunting licences. The other man did, but he was carrying a centerfire rifle in the shotgun only zone. The officers escorted the men back into the woods, where a field-dressed doe was found that was tagged with the third man's license which was not valid for an anterless deer. The tag had also not been properly validated. A check of the men's drivers licenses showed that one of the men had an outstanding warrant for his arrest. The vehicle they were driving also had an expired license plate."

This may sound extreme, but it is pretty close to what goes on out there. If the officers go to the homes of the people, they find more violations there. Go figure!