story by Adam Einck, LDWF Public Information
Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries enforcement agents are used to being flexible both with their time and with where they patrol.
On any given day an agent may find himself or herself in a vessel patrolling the Gulf of Mexico or a local waterway, another day he or she may be on a four wheeler patrolling a WMA. The next assignment could be performing a search and rescue, another a training exercise, and then working at night trying to catch outlaws illegally night hunting.
Senior Agents Max Wilkinson and Mason Spillman found themselves on the lookout for the latter while patrolling at night in West and East Feliciana parishes.
The agents were acting on a public complaint received on Feb. 9, 2016, that Devin Wascome, 27, of Slaughter, and Joseph Buhler, 22, of Zachary, were illegally hunting deer at night in the Feliciana parishes.
“We got a complaint that Wascome and Buhler were bragging about killing deer on previous nights in the week and that they were going again that night,” said Wilkinson. “The complainant also gave us a detailed description of the vehicle, including license plate information and the area they were going to possibly hunt that night.”
Wilkinson and Spillman setup surveillance in the Slaughter and Ethel area on the night of Feb. 9. Around 1:20 a.m. on Feb. 10, the agents observed a vehicle matching the description given by the complainant. The agents followed the vehicle for a short while when they began to see a stream of red liquid streaming out of the bed of the truck.
The agents stopped the vehicle and during the initial stop found deer hair, blood and a bucket that contained blood and tissue in the bed of the truck. Agents also found a .17 caliber rifle and a handheld infrared device on the seat.
“The men initially told us they hit a deer with the truck and killed a hog and that is where the blood and hair was coming from,’’ Wilkinson said. “However, we could tell it was deer hair and that didn’t explain why there was blood leaking out of the back of the truck and in a bucket.
“During questioning we told the men that most of the time when we see blood in the back of the truck with a rifle and some kind of night vision device in the truck, then that usually means they were out trying to night hunt. After telling them that, they admitted to attempting to illegally kill deer at night.”
Buhler told agents that blood in the back of the vehicle was from deer they killed on previous nights. Wascome also collaborated with Buhler’s admission of killing deer at night earlier in the week.
Agents were able to determine that the men killed a doe at night on Feb. 1 off Highway 19 near Ethel in East Feliciana Parish. On Feb. 4, Wascome admitted to killing a doe in an open field at night near Slaughter in East Feliciana Parish.
They also killed a doe on Feb. 7 at night off Highway 421 in West Feliciana Parish. The men then killed a button buck the next night on Feb. 8 in East Feliciana Parish off Firetower Road near Clinton.
Buhler and Wascome said they would get in the truck at night and ride around rural roads looking for deer off of the roadway for what they called, “easy kills.” The men said if they killed a deer they would immediately load it up in the back of the truck and then take it to Wascome’s residence for butchering. Wascome also told agents that the deer meat from the illegally taken deer was in an ice chest at his house. The men disposed of the remains off of Thompson Road in East Feliciana Parish.
“After concluding our investigation, we determined that Buhler and Wascome were riding around at night hunting deer from their truck the entire week,’’ Wilkinson said. “ Some nights they saw deer and were able to harvest them, but even on nights they didn’t kill a deer they were trying.
“We informed the men that it was illegal to hunt deer at night during a closed season from a moving vehicle with a rifle smaller than a .22. The men also made no attempts to tag the deer they harvested.”
Agents cited the men for taking deer during a closed season and illegal hours, hunting from a moving vehicle, possession of illegally taken deer, taking deer from a public road, intentional concealment of illegally taken wildlife, failing to comply with deer tagging requirements and discharging a firearm from a public road among other violations.
The agents seized the .17 caliber rifle and handheld infrared device that was used to spot deer at night.
In July of 2016 the two men were sentenced in both West and East Feliciana parish courts.
Judge Elizabeth “Betsy” Jones of the 20th Judicial District Court in both East and West Feliciana parishes sentenced Wascome and Buhler to pay fines, fees and court costs, as well as revoke their hunting privileges for five years.
Wascome was ordered to pay $17,231 in East Feliciana Parish and $4,791 in West Feliciana Parish. He was also forced to forfeit his .17 caliber rifle. Buhler was ordered to pay $12,560 in East Feliciana Parish and $4,194 in West Feliciana Parish. The men must also pay a total of $6,498 in civil restitution for the replacement value of the illegally taken deer.
District Attorney Sam D’Aquilla prosecuted this case for the state in East and West Feliciana parishes.
The two men were also issued citations for illegal night hunting activities in Livingston and East Baton Rouge parishes since they also admitted to trying to kill deer at night in those parishes in the same manner they did in East and West Feliciana parishes. The two men have yet to appear in court for these citations.
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