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Thirteen Coulee Country Men Facing Numerous Charges Over Alleged Deer And Turkey Poaching

RICHLAND CENTER – Citations have been issued to 13 area men alleging their involvement in widespread deer and turkey poaching in Richland, Vernon, Sauk, Juneau and Taylor Counties, the Department of Natural Resources announced today.

Wardens issued 106 citations for illegal activities resulting from a 2 ½ year investigation after receiving several complaints of poaching throughout the area which connects Vernon, Sauk and Richland Counties.

The majority of citations involve shooting deer at night with the aid of a spotlight, hunting deer during the closed season, road hunting, and numerous safety violations including loaded and uncased guns in a vehicle and hunting within 50 feet of the road.

Turkey related charges include hunting turkeys without a valid permit, hunting turkeys with a rifle, road hunting, discharging a firearm from a vehicle, and loaded and uncased guns in a vehicle.

Together, the 106 citations carry a total of $36,416 in fines and a possible 41 years revocation of hunting privileges. Individual fines range from $437 to over $7000. The following were charged in either Richland, Vernon, Sauk, Juneau and Taylor County Circuit Courts, with many charged in several counties.

Seven men, Walter G. Gnirk, 23, Kenneth L. Johnson, Jr., 25, William L. Johnson, Jr., 25, Jeffery D. Fry, 29, Michael L. Johnson, 20, Andrew D. Erickson, 24, and Matthew M. Erickson, 26, are from Hillsboro. Five men, Daniel N. Phillips, 24, Justin R. Phillips, 22, Adam L. Griffa, 21, Kyle J. Phillips, 19, and Brogan H. Boldon, 19, are from Wonewoc while Nathan Phillips, 21, is from LaValle.

Wardens spent numerous hours gathering intelligence and conducting surveillance over the course of their 2 ½ year probe. The investigating wardens were Mike Nice, Richland Center, John Buss, Sauk City and Mike Green, Wisconsin Dells.

The trio began contacting suspects in January, 2005, and soon confirmed 37 incidents of illegally shooting deer and turkeys after meeting with several of the individuals and combining their information with intelligence gathered in the field.

In one instance, three of the men allegedly went to Taylor County where they owned a cabin. The three poached a deer at 3:00 a.m. with a rifle, tagged it as an archery kill and registered the deer as a bow kill in Taylor County. Later, the same deer was brought back to Richland County where the tags were cut off and it was subsequently registered by three individuals who each obtained buck tags under the area’s earn-a-buck requirement.

Nine large bucks were seized resulting from the investigation. Four were already head mounted and hanging on the wall. Three others were seized from a Juneau County taxidermist who had no knowledge that the deer were taken illegally.

Many of the larger bucks were shot in the Dutch Hollow Lake area west of LaValle in Sauk County, an approximately 3000 acre property closed to hunting.

“We wish to credit the citizens who stepped to the plate and reported suspicious activity and contacted the wardens. This case could not have come together the way it did without concerned sportsmen providing us with information,” said warden Nice.

“Once the tips started rolling in we began to piece together the puzzle and got a handle on the magnitude of all that was happening and who was involved,” he pointed out.

Almost all the deer were shot as a result of trespass and “with total disregard for safety while the suspects were hunting at night. Safety was our biggest concern and once we got the ball rolling we acted as quickly as possible to put an end to this dangerous activity. We’re thankful that no one was hurt as a result of these incidents,” noted warden Nice.

The warden also said that the targeting of large bucks by the suspects reinforces the “negative aspects” surrounding some people’s obsession with trophy deer.


The following counties are in the South Central Region: Columbia, Crawford, Dane, Dodge, Grant, Green, Iowa, Jefferson, Lafayette, Richland, Rock, Sauk.

The public affairs manager for the DNR South Central Region is: Greg Matthews: phone - (608) 275-3317.

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