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The Hunters' Photos Were Wild. So Was the Probe Into the Kills

The 'Sacramento Bee' describes the lengths California wildlife officials went to
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 11, 2021 11:00 AM CDT

(Newser) – Depending on whom you ask, the case California wildlife officials made against two hunters over five months in 2019 was either ridiculously complex or not taken seriously. Writing for the Sacramento Bee, Ryan Sabalow has the story, which involves two bow-and-arrow hunters who were "on their way to social media stardom in the elite world of trophy deer hunting." Joe Frater and Chris Stone regularly posed with extraordinary bucks that they bagged in the Sierra foothills of Northern California. They were surprising gets, as the area is mainly home to far less mature deer (Sabalow terms them "scrawny"). State wildlife officials suspected the men were breaking hunting rules and launched a wildly in-depth investigation involving a surveillance plane, motion-activated cameras, reviews of cell-phone logs, trackers on the men's trucks, sampling of the left-behind guts, and DNA tests on possible deer hair and blood.

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"After weeks of stakeouts both day and night, they raided the two men’s homes ... seizing deer-head trophies, archery equipment, cell phones, frozen venison, computers, trail camera memory cards and taxidermy and butcher receipts." If that sounds like a lot, Stone's attorney agrees, saying that the number of DNA tests performed were more than he, Frater's attorney, and the prosecutor in the case "had seen in our careers put together." Wildlife officials say the evidence showed the men had violated a number of rules: they were using bait as a lure, misrepresenting where the kills occurred and not reporting them properly, and trespassing. They could have been jailed for a year and fined as much as $40,000 each but signed plea bargains that involved only a vastly lower fine. But just as some say the whole thing was overkill, others argue that it's another example of the courts not taking wildlife crimes seriously enough. (Read the full piece for much more on the case.)

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