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UTAH COUNTY -- Four men are being charged for killed 18 deer out of season; it's one of the biggest poaching cases for the Division of Wildlife Resources in years.
The criminal charges are the result of a long investigation by the DWR. In this case, the deer were all killed for their trophy antlers; their carcasses were left behind and wasted.
DWR officers put on display antler racks of 18 buck deer, in what they call one of the biggest cases of poaching in recent memory.
Seven of the animals are considered to be trophies. Jay Topham, a conservation officer with the DWR, said, "You don't see something that is this unique and forget about it. There are a lot of sportsmen out there that have photographed a lot of these deer and have seen them alive."The investigation into the poaching began in 2007 after the DWR received tips that deer carcasses were left to rot in the Vernon limited entry area of Juab County.
A break in the case happened this spring and now felony charges have been filed against four suspects accused of poaching 18 deer between November and March.
Thirty-eight-year old Rex Powell of Lehi, 42-year-old Joseph Pantos of Highland, 21-year-old Chris Vance and 30-year-old Ryan Hoover all face charges of wanton destruction of protected wildlife.
Topham said, "A lot of these deer are trophies, and a lot of them were growing and would have been trophies, and so with that, it is taking away the opportunity for those sportsmen who draw those tags to actually have a deer in the future."
Hunters are angry these deer were killed out of season. John Bair, with Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife said, "With this many cases, they've robbed a lot of people of the opportunity to hunt. Sportsmen in this state put a lot of money and effort into growing big deer specifically, and for guys like to do this, it's very selfish act, very unfortunate, and we hope they get punished to the fullest extent of the law.
The defendants all face prison time if they are convicted, along with losing their hunting rights and paying restitution to the state of more than $60,000.