A 70-year-old man was recently convicted of poaching a trophy deer on his property outside of deer season with the aid of bait and a feeding device. His sentencing included a fine of $20,000.
According to The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), the investigation started when an El Dorado County wildlife officer observed what appeared to be a sizeable automatic deer feeder within his patrol district between 2017 and 2018.
With the aid of camera surveillance, the game wardens were able to obtain photos of William Vaden of Elverta regularly baiting the area on his property with bales of alfalfa through August and September 2018, according to the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office.
The District Attorney’s Office provides a timeline, on November 11, 2018, Varden spotted a large buck on his property, measuring 4×4, this measurement indicates that each side of the buck’s antlers split into four individual points.
Per California law, any buck with four or more points on each side is classified as a “trophy.” Despite Varden knowing the hunting season was over, he shot the buck. He then proceeded to report to the Department of Fish and Wildlife that he killed the deer on October 26, 2018.
Along with lying about when he harvested the buck, Varden forged the required counter-signature on the deer tag to cover his tracks. It didn’t work.
Wardens confronted Vaden with their surveillance evidence of his baiting and questioned the date he claimed to have harvested the buck. Vaden eventually admitted to the wardens he had taken the trophy buck out of season and with the aid of bait.
On February 4, 2020, Vaden pled no contest to the charge of taking a deer with the aid of bait and taking it out of season; he also admitted to the special allegation that this deer fell under California’s trophy statue.
Varden was then sentenced to 90 days in jail and ordered to pay a $20,000 fine according to Fish and Game Code section 12013.3(a)(1) and (a)(3), which imposes an enhanced fine for harvesting a trophy deer illegally.
Erin Tognetti, the prosecuting attorney, told the LA Times, “Vaden will serve time through a work project or by wearing an ankle monitor. He also surrendered his rifle and camera and is under a three-year probation in which he is not allowed to hunt.”
Editor’s note: This article was written by Michael Johnson Jr.