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O'Brien County, Iowa
Poacher Uses Crossbow, Rifle
and Knife to Poach Deer

Shortly after sunrise on 11-25-99, Thanksgiving morning, Officer John Sells received a call from the O'Brien county sheriff's dispatch reporting that they had received a tip about someone possibly poaching deer near Primghar. Officer Sells responded to the call, and while in route to the area was informed that an O'Brien county deputy had located the suspect vehicle and had it stopped. Officer Sells arrived at the scene shortly thereafter and found one male subject with an untagged; good sized ten-point buck in the bed of a truck. The person was well known to Officer Sells as a hunter on whom he had received dozens of complaints over the years. Upon questioning, the suspect said that he had legally shot the deer with a crossbow and in his excitement he had loaded it in the truck and forgot to tag it. The story did not sit well with Officer Sells so he dug deeper into it. He examined the deer and found an entrance wound at the base of the neck, but no exit wound. He skinned out the cape of the deer and found a small rifle hole entrance wound and no exit wound. Officer Sells searched the suspect's vehicle and found a .223 cal. H&K rifle. Upon further investigation he was able to get a confession from the suspect. The suspect admitted that he had been out road hunting at dawn that morning and spotted a buck next to the road servicing a doe. He said that he got out of his vehicle and took a shot at the deer with his crossbow. He missed with the crossbow so he decided to use his rifle. He took one shot from the road and hit the buck in the neck. He finished the deer off with his skinning knife. The suspect then quickly loaded the deer without even gutting it and headed for home. He made it to within a couple miles of his house when the deputy stopped him. The suspect also did not have a crossbow permit to allow him use of the crossbow. Officer Sells took the deer in for an X-Ray and retrieved one .223 cal bullet from the neck of the deer The suspect was charged with the following:

  • One count-Possess and unlawfully taken deer.
  • One count-Transport an untagged deer.
  • One count-Shoot a rifle from the roadway.

Items seized included the rifle, the crossbow, assorted ammunition, a skinning knife, and his bow deer license.

The suspect later pled guilty and paid $331 in fines, $2000 in civil damages for the deer, and was sentenced to 80 hours community service. In addition, the judge ordered a one-year suspension of his hunting privileges to be served in addition to any departmental license suspension. This case generated dozens of phone calls to Officer Sells, other officers, and the county attorney, thanking them for finally catching this poacher.

Officer Sells stated, "Without the information provided by the caller, we would have never made this case. The violator has a reputation in O'Brien County as being the biggest poacher in the county, and is often called by his deserved nickname "poacher." He also had a reputation for being too smart to get caught. Thanks to this caller we finally caught "poacher'" and put him out of business."

The reward committee approved a reward of $500.00.






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