MT: 2 men charged with poaching deer
October 26, 2010
2 men charged with poaching deer
HAMILTON - A Ravalli County man and his friend are facing charges on
suspicion of poaching a trophy mule deer and then sending mass e-mails and
text messages with photos of the buck.
Michael Don Gates of Corvallis and Justin Davis, reportedly of Portland,
Ore., were charged on Friday with two felony counts - unlawful possession of
a game animal and tampering with evidence - in Ravalli County Justice Court.
The two also face a misdemeanor charge of waste of a game animal. Gates
also faces misdemeanor charges of hunting without a license and failure to
get landowner permission to hunt.
According to charging documents, on Oct. 7 a photograph allegedly showing
Gates posing with an 8-by-8-point buck was sent to the phone of a Ravalli
County resident who had seen recent video and photographs of the same
"unusual"-looking buck in the Corvallis area.
Gates did not have a permit to hunt antlered mule deer in the hunting
district near Corvallis.
The concerned citizen contacted Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks game
warden Lou Royce.
Warden Joe Jaquith showed the pictures to an expert in scoring game and
received confirmation that they showed the same animal, the court affidavit
Gates' text allegedly claimed he had killed the deer in the Anaconda area
while there with Davis.
The affidavit claims such a scenario is unlikely: "As Hunting District
214 is near Anaconda, Montana, it would have been necessary for this
distinctive 8-by-8 mule deer buck to leave a group of does, and travel over
two mountain ranges, a distance of about 80 road miles, in a week's time in
order to be shot in that district by Gates."
The affidavit says that when Royce contacted Gates about the whereabouts
of the buck, Gates said Davis had brought the head and antlers to his
brother's house to have him score the trophy. Later the same day, Davis told
Royce that the head and antlers had disappeared.
The next day, when Royce asked Gates where the meat was, Gates claimed
the deer had spoiled. Gates said he dumped the carcass in the Willow Creek
area east of Corvallis.
Wardens located a carcass that appeared to be the distinctive buck along
the roadside about five miles from where it had been videotaped earlier this
To date, the affidavit continues, Davis has not brought the head and
antlers to FWP officials, despite repeatedly saying "he would find the
antlers and have them to the wardens 'within the hour' or shortly after
speaking with them."
On Friday, Justice of the Peace Jim Bailey issued arrest warrants and set
$20,000 bail on both Gates and Davis.
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