Tip leads to major poaching bust in Summers County

GREEN SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — The opening week of buck season is always a busy time for the Natural Resources Police.  Therefore, Officer Andrew Lyons knew well in advance he would have plenty to do when opening day arrived. He couldn’t have imagined how one anonymous tip would lead to one of the ugliest poaching rings in many years.

Lyons, who works Summers County, got the call about suspicious hunting activity around a hunting camp near the Duncan Branch-Green Sulphur Springs area of the county.  Officer Lyons followed up on the tip and conducted a surveillance of  the area and found the tip was credible.  He called in two more officers, Isiah Tuck and Josh Lambert.  The three conducted surveillance on the area on the second day of the season and started observing a lot of illegal hunting activity.  The three paid a visit to the hunting camp on Wednesday morning.

“There was no one at the camp, all of the subjects were back out hunting again,” said Captain Woodrow Brogan of the Natural Resources Police. “As they were looking around the camp for the individuals they stumbled on 18 deer laying in a pile.”

None of the deer were field tag and nobody was around since all of the group was still hunting.  Lyons called for more officers who showed up and the investigation began.

Soon the hunting party returned to camp and was greeted by a cadre of Natural Resources Police with a lot of questions.  None of the five hunters had adequate answers for 18 unchecked deer in a pile on the third day of the season.

“Most of the individuals were from out of state and out of the group only one had a hunting license and he had already killed four deer,” Brogan said. “One of the subjects from New Jersey had killed nine deer in two days and another subject from Pennsylvania had killed six deer in two days and neither one of them had a hunting license.”

The men claimed their dad, back in Pennsylvania, liked deer meat and they were trying to get some for him, but the shaky story quickly fell through and the violations started to pile up. Among the violations were hunting without a license, exceeding the bag limit, failing to field tag game, failing to check game and the list went on.  Loaded guns were discovered in the suspects’ vehicles according to Brogan and the group finally admitted they were road hunting and shooting anything they saw.

“They were just driving around and looking in the fields or through the woods during the day and if they would see a deer they would shoot it,” Brogan said. “Also, after it got dark they were driving up and down the back roads within about a three mile area of where they were camped and they were spotlighting deer.”

Out of the 18 deer, six were bucks and two of them fairly nice eight-pointers with a 15 to 16 inch spread. The rest were either young bucks or does.

“In more than 20 years, this is the worst case I’ve seen as far as that number of individuals in such a short period of time violate game laws to that degree,” said Brogan. “These subjects were actively hunting and planning on staying until the end of the week. Luckily Officer Lyons, Lambert, and Tuck put a stop to that.”

The Summers County Magistrate who presided over their cases wasn’t pleased either.  The five individuals were ordered to pay fines which totaled more than $10,000.

But the officers had another problem on their hands, 18 freshly killed deer.  Brogan said officer Lyons had a list of several elderly and needy families and managed to get a deer to about six families in the area.   Word spread and more folks showed up interested in taking home one of the animals to feed their family.

“Officer Lyons was able to make all the phone calls to those he had listed,” said Brogan. “He and officers Lambert and Tuck stayed down there in the State Police parking lot until about 10 o’clock that night. Word kept getting out and people kept stopping by.  We found a home for every one of those deer that was illegally killed.”

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