Thursday, June 15, 2006
By Shelly Whitehead Post staff reporter
Steve Herrmann told a federal agent that a good hunting trip out West
started with a little methamphetamine.
Then, he told investigators, he'd jump in his pickup truck, find some
big game, aim his rifle out the window and knock off whatever crossed
his path - often animals he was not licensed to shoot.
Then, investigators alleged, the Boone County, Ky., man lopped off
the heads off his prey, leaving the rest of their carcasses to rot.
The law finally caught up with Herrmann when Kentucky conservation
officers and Boone County Sheriff's Department deputies uncovered skulls
and antlers of a number of legally protected animals, along with other
evidence, in December at a cabin off Boat Dock Road in Boone County.
Now, the 42-year-old occasional construction worker sits in jail in
Colorado, where he and two other men were recently convicted of
felonious destruction of wildlife. Kentucky officials said a federal and
state investigation is continuing into Herrmann, who told a federal
agent that he has killed hundreds of animals illegally.
It was Herrmann's display of two suspect hunting trophies in the
cabin near Big Bone Lick State Park that landed him behind bars for the
next three years, according to Boone County Sheriff's Detective Bruce
Herrmann had moved back to Kentucky seven months earlier from
Colorado, where investigators said he was wanted for auto theft. When a
Boone County deputy went to the Boat Dock Road cabin to serve Herrmann
with the Colorado warrant and to arrest him for extradition to Colorado,
the officer noticed an unusual set of animal skulls.
The deputy - who was a hunter - noticed the ram's head there, and an
elk, hanging on the wall, McVay said.
"Now these rams, they are called big horn sheep, and they're
protected, like eagles. They do let you hunt them, but it could take up
to 50 years to get the chance (in a lottery)," he said.
"So these ram's heads are pretty much collector's items to hunters.
.. On the black market, they can bring $15,000 to $20,000."
After arresting Hermann, the sheriff's office notified the Kentucky
Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.
Wildlife Officer Charlie Phillips contacted officials in Colorado
about the animals. Colorado officials determined that Herrmann had
previous Colorado convictions for illegally hunting and possessing
If the ram's skull had been obtained illegally, it would be a federal
violation - potentially far more serious. And federal officials are
particularly diligent in upholding laws surrounding the nation's
protected or endangered species.
For instance, people who find a big horn sheep dead in the wild and
want to keep the head must report the animal to wildlife officials for
documentation and tagging. DNA samples are even taken from skulls and
slain animals for potential evidence if a suspect or improperly tagged
skull is ever discovered.
An improperly tagged or "plugged" skull is exactly what deputies
discovered in Herrmann's Boone County cabin, Phillips said.
Investigators were returning to the residence the day after Herrmann's
auto theft arrest in December with a search warrant to obtain DNA from
the animal heads when the case took yet another turn.
Someone had broken into the cabin and stolen the ram's skull,
"I called U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and I said that evidence is
starting to disappear, and I thought there was more to this case,"
Phillips said. "That's when U.S. Fish and Wildlife said, 'Don't do
anything else, we're coming to Kentucky.'"