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Duchesne County man convicted of illegally killing trophy deer

Duchesne County man convicted of illegally killing trophy deer

(Division of Wildlife Resources)

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SALT LAKE CITY — A man was convicted Wednesday of the 2011 illegal killing of a trophy mule deer nicknamed "The Rabbi."

Stephen Dick Rueckert, 49, of Altamont, was charged in January 2012 in connection with wanton destruction of protected wildlife, a third-degree felony. Wednesday, he was convicted of the charge in 3rd District Court following a two-day jury trial. Rueckert will face up to five years in prison after he is sentenced on Nov. 9, according to court documents.

The poaching occurred Oct. 24, 2011, in the Beef Hollow area located within Camp Williams, court documents said. Gunshots were heard, and a Camp Williams Range Control sergeant responded to the area to investigate. The sergeant discovered a headless mule deer carcass in the area, which is closed to hunting.

A Division of Wildlife Resources conservation officer responded to the scene and, after further investigation, discovered the backstraps and hind quarters of the deer had also been removed and the animal had been shot. The Camp Williams sergeant believed the carcass was that of a large mule deer that had been nicknamed "'The Rabbi' due to its very large and uniquely shaped antlers," according to court documents.

The antlers measured 37 inches wide, making it a trophy deer. The antlers were valued at $8,000, according to court documents. The sergeant said he'd seen deer in Beef Hollow at least 30 times from September to October.

In November 2011, DWR officials received an anonymous tip that a set of antlers resembling those of "The Rabbi" were at a Sandy taxidermy shop. Officers questioned the taxidermist, confirmed the antlers were from "The Rabbi," and determined Rueckert had brought in the deer head, the charges stated.

When Rueckert was questioned, he told investigators he knew he was not allowed to hunt at Camp Williams, the charges stated.

DWR Capt. Mitch Lane said he believes there are more poaching cases that go undetected in the state and he hopes the public will help conservation officers by reporting suspicious behavior.

"Our main objective is to protect the wildlife for all of the citizens of the state," Lane said. "We do the best we can at that with relatively few number of officers scattered throughout the state. Because of that, we couldn't do what we do without the help of the public. … All we do is ask that the public be vigilant and help us protect wildlife for the citizens of the state and help us apprehend and bring to justice those who are out there abusing and taking advantage of our precious wildlife resources."

Contributing: Dave Cawley


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