SPRINGFIELD, IL – Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Conservation Police today announced that three individuals arrested in 2011 following an extensive investigation in an Illinois deer poaching case have entered guilty pleas. The last of the cases concluded recently when a Minooka, Illinois man pleaded guilty to charges related to illegally taking three antlered deer, including a 36-point non-typical buck valued at $35,000.
“Conservation Police officers take seriously incidents of poaching and violations of the Wildlife Code and related offenses in the state, and these convictions made clear that we will bring violators to justice,” said IDNR Conservation Police Chief Rafael Gutierrez. “Our officers are in the field every day protecting our natural resources and protecting the rights of those who legally enjoy hunting, fishing and other outdoor pursuits.”
46-year-old Christopher G. Kiernan of Minooka pleaded guilty on April 5 in Grundy County Circuit Court to charges including unlawful take of the 36-point deer, unlawful take of a 16-point deer, unlawful take of an 11-point deer, unlawful possession of an 11-point deer, and three counts of hunting without permission. Kiernan was ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution to the IDNR, pay fines totaling $840, and the court ordered that he cannot hunt for 24 months. Deer and hunting equipment were seized and forfeited to the IDNR. An additional suspension of hunting privileges through the IDNR is pending in Kiernan’s case now that the criminal case has concluded. Kiernan had previously pleaded guilty in Sangamon County Circuit Court to unlawfully falsifying hunter harvest records and was fined $1,200.
Two other hunters involved in the case entered guilty pleas to a variety of offenses previously.
50-year-old Larry S. Smith of Chesterfield, Ontario pleaded guilty in Sangamon County to falsifying hunter harvest records and was fined $800; pleaded guilty in Grundy County to hunting without permission and illegal possession of a 16-point deer, and was ordered
to pay $2,000 in restitution to IDNR and fined $300. Smith’s deer and equipment were seized and the court ordered that he cannot hunt in Illinois for 24 months. IDNR further suspended Smith’s hunting privileges for 25 months.
32-year-old Garrett L. Armstrong of Avon, New York pleaded guilty in Sangamon County to charges of falsifying hunter harvest records and was fined $800; pleaded guilty in Grundy County to two counts of illegal taking of deer for violations involving a 10-point and an 11-point deer, as well as three counts of hunting without permission. He was ordered to pay $5,000 in restitution to IDNR, fined $625, and forfeited the deer and equipment to IDNR. Armstrong also cannot hunt in Illinois for 24 months by court order, and IDNR imposed a 58-month suspension of his hunting privileges.
Additional charges were filed against an Illinois taxidermist as a result of the investigation in the case. 39-year-old Chad M. Johnson of Abingdon pleaded guilty in January in Knox County Circuit Court to three counts of failure to maintain complete taxidermy records, and failure to report harvest of a 10-point deer. Johnson was fined $1,000 and forfeited the 10-point buck to the IDNR. The IDNR Office of Law Enforcement has completed its review and determined that Johnson’s violations did not qualify for a suspension of his taxidermy license.
IDNR Conservation Police investigated the poaching incidents with the assistance of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Alberta Sustainable Resources Department, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Missouri Department of Conservation, and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.