Photo Finish

Pictures Of Harvested Deer In Louisiana Help Convict Mississippi Father-Son Duo Of Poaching
story by ADAM EINCK, LDWF Public Information

Hunting and family are two things that have always gone together in the Sportsman’s Paradise that is Louisiana. Families have passed down the tradition of hunting for generations, which have created lasting memories and stories for a lifetime.

Most families also pass down the tradition of hunting in Louisiana in an ethical and legal manner by following hunting regulations and laws.

However, the ethical and legal hunting tradition must have skipped a generation or two for a father and son duo from Mississippi who were caught poaching deer in Louisiana in November of the 2015-16 hunting season.

LDWF agents arrested Paul Verzwyvelt, Sr., now 59, and Paul Verzwyvelt, Jr., now 30, both of Long Beach, Miss., and booked them into the Claiborne Parish Jail on Nov. 28, 2015 for deer hunting infractions.

“Sgt. Wesley Duck and I arrived at a Claiborne Parish hunting club around 8 p.m. to conduct a game check,” said Senior Agent Jared McIver. “We found the Verzwyvelt’s in possession of two deer that were not properly tagged as they used erasable ink and duplicate tags. Paul Jr. claimed those two deer were the only ones he had harvested so far during the 2015-16 hunting season.”

After further investigation, agents learned that Paul Jr. was cited the year before for obtaining a Louisiana resident hunting license by fraud and that both men had taken more deer than they were letting on.

Agents learned from other people at the hunting camp that the Verzwyvelts were seen with harvested deer on previous trips.

“We asked if we could see Paul Jr.’s cellphone to see if there were any photos of him with deer,” said McIver. “They agreed to let us look and Paul Sr. went inside the camper to get the phone.”

When Paul Sr. came out of the camper he handed the agents a flip phone and not a smart phone.

“I thought it was odd that a younger man like Paul Jr. wouldn’t have a smart phone,” said McIver. “I looked at Paul Jr. and told him I didn’t believe that he had a flip phone. Paul Sr. then finally stated that the flip phone was his.”

Paul Sr. went back into the camper to get Paul Jr.’s phone. He initially said he couldn’t find it and then he tried to hide the phone in his pocket.

“Senior Agent Duck witnessed Paul Sr. put something in his pocket when searching for his son’s phone,” said McIver. “Agent Duck then patted down the father to make sure it wasn’t a weapon and found Paul Jr.’s smart phone.”

Once they looked at the photos, agents found Paul Jr. posing with seven different antlered deer during the 2015-16 season and found photos of him posing with two bucks taken on the same day.

Agents also found photos of Paul Jr. posing with four different antlered deer from the 2014-15 season that were taken in Louisiana and photos of Paul Sr. posing with two different antlered deer taken in Louisiana during the 2015-16 season.

The seasonal limit for this area in Louisiana is six deer per year not to exceed three antlered or four antlerless deer.

“We had enough evidence to arrest them in November of 2015 for a number of deer tagging and over limit of deer citations, but we didn’t know the total number of deer taken until we were able to get a search warrant for the seized phones and thoroughly go through every photo,” said McIver.

After completing the search of their phones, agents found that Paul Jr. had harvested 11 deer in 15-16 with eight being antlered and six deer in 14-15 with four being antlered. The majority of these deer were never tagged or validated.

Paul Jr. was cited for taking over the antlered limit of deer, taking over the daily bag limit of deer, taking over the seasonal limit of deer, failing to comply with deer tagging rules and failing to comply with deer harvest records.

Paul Sr. harvested three deer in 15-16 and six deer in 14-15 with four being antlered. Again, the majority of the deer were never tagged or validated.

Paul Sr. was cited for obstruction of justice, failing to possess a non-resident Louisiana basic season and big game license, failing to comply with deer tagging rules and failing to comply with deer harvest records.

“The father and son were using tags for deer they killed that day with erasable ink without any validation,’’ McIver said. “Then after they harvested the meat and discarded the carcass, they kept the tags and erased the information so that they could use the tag on their next deer harvest.”

Agents also cited Paul Jr. for obtaining a license by fraud on Dec. 20, 2014.

“I found Paul Jr. at his hunting camp in Claiborne Parish in 2014 in possession of a Mississippi driver’s license and Louisiana resident hunting licenses,” said Senior Agent Bryant Coburn. “After investigating the matter closer it turns out that Paul Jr. illegally obtained his Louisiana hunting license by fraud since he was a legal Mississippi resident.”

Paul Jr. plead guilty to obtaining a Louisiana resident hunting license by fraud on Aug. 7, 2015 and was sentenced to pay a $500 fine along with $227 in court costs and $3,229 in civil restitution for two illegally taken deer during the 2014-15 hunting season.

He also plead guilty Aug. 9, 2016 and was sentenced to pay a $500 fine, $187 in court costs and $10,156 in civil restitution. He was also ordered to serve four years of probation and 90 days in jail suspended. He will not be allowed to hunt or fish in Louisiana during his probationary time.

Paul Sr. plead guilty on Aug. 9, 2016 and was sentenced to pay a $900 fine, $187 in court costs and $9,747 in civil restitution. He was also ordered to serve six years of probation and 90 days in jail suspended. He will not be allowed to hunt or fish in Louisiana during his probationary time.

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