wash poaching

In a 2012-2013 killing spree that investigators dubbed the “Headless Deer Case,” Garret Victor James Elsburg, 25, was suspected of killing dozens of bucks, decapitating them and leaving their bodies to rot. Washington Fish and Wildlife officers were able to confiscate some of the heads, match them to the carcasses and eventually bust Elsburg.

Like many criminals Elsburg was a braggart, and that helped to get him caught. He apparently posted many pictures of himself holding the severed deer heads on Facebook and other sites.  In one photo he wore a T-shirt reading “Damn I’m Good” while smiling and hoisting the head of a trophy mule deer.

“These were the most flagrant acts of poaching in my 25 years as a game warden,” said Jim Brown, a wildlife police officer who worked the case.

I have been railing for years that the courts must get stricter on criminals that poach our deer, and so I am encouraged by Elsburg’s fate. He pleaded guilty April 11 to 8 counts of first-degree unlawful hunting of big game and was sentenced to 60 months in prison. Five years is one of the strictest sentences I have seen in a deer poaching case.

In a separate but I would argue connected case, Elsburg also pleaded guilty to a count of intent to manufacture or deliver methamphetamine, which confirms my belief that America’s most egregious deer poachers are also druggies and dealers.