Washington Poacher Who Beheaded Trophy Bucks Gets 5 Years, $24K Fine

Washington Poacher Who Beheaded Trophy Bucks Gets 5 Years, $24K Fine


A 25-year-old Washington poacher was sentenced with a heavy penalty for killing and beheading several trophy mule deer bucks.

An Omak man felt the full weight of the law last week as he was sentenced to five years in jail and ordered to pay more than $24,000 in fines for illegally hunting and beheading several trophy mule deer bucks.

Garret Victor James Elsberg, 25, pled guilty on April 11 to eight counts of first-degree unlawful hunting of big game, seven counts of second-degree unlawful hunting, possession of a firearm, and one count of second-degree unlawful hunting of big game, reported the The Omak-Okanogan County Chronicle.

Elsberg began his trophy buck killing spree in Okanogan County back in September 2012. Without a license — and prohibited from using guns because of a prior domestic violence charge — Elsberg hunted the bucks at night using his truck’s headlights. After killing the deer, he beheaded them, kept their heads and left their bodies to rot.


In December of 2012, Elsberg posted a photo to Facebook of him hoisting the head of a trophy mule deer buck while wearing a shirt that read “DAMN I’M GOOD.” The buck was known by local hunters as the “Pitchfork Buck” for its unique three antler prongs on its left rack. Local hunters recognized the buck in Elsberg’s picture and alerted local wildlife officers.

Image via NWSportsmanmag.com
Soon after, officers began receiving reports of headless deer carcasses around Okanoga and Malott counties.

According to Northwest Sportman, the break in the case came when officers were alerted to trophy deer heads being transported on the nearby Colville Indian Reservation, where Elsberg operated a smoke shop. During a sting operation on the reservation, wildlife officers retrieved DNA samples from one of the heads, which later matched to one of the headless deer bodies found in Malott. Officers later recovered 10 trophy buck heads from Elsberg’s grandparents’ home on the reservation.

Jim Brown, who was the Okanogan game warden at the time, said Elsberg’s killing spree was the worst he’s ever seen.

“These were the most flagrant acts of poaching in my 25 years as a game warden,” he said. The penalty matches the severity of the crime.”

Do you think this Washington poacher received an adequate punishment? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Photo: NWSportsmanmag.com/Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife


  1. The poaching Jerk got a light sentence as far as I am concerned, I might feel different if the man and/or his family needed food due to not being able to eat and that the meat was eaten, and ONLY IF HE had taken 1 or two to eat and not leaving the meat to rot. I feel these criminal poachers should get worse, he got off lucky with what he got.

    • I agree it should have been much worse due to the wasteful nature of this he should have got atleast 5 years on each count of the poaching then 10 years for the illegal possession of a firearm and fined $24000 for each of the deer he poached not total make the poachers that do this for fun think 2 or 3 times before they do this. if it was he needed food for his family I would be for letting him off and letting him keep the meat for his family.

  2. Dan, I agree with you. I feel his financial penalties should have been much worse. He should be getting a 25k fine for just the buck in the photo above and individual fines for each additional animal. Poaching is wrong on its own but when he doesn’t even take the meat, it makes it much worse! People need to learn from this and not take advantage of our nature. He is the type of person who is making it worse for law abiding hunters and giving us a bad name.

  3. Absolutely not enough time. You take the night hunting, violation of the weapons law because of the domestic violence charge, and hist stupidity, there are starving people all over the world and no doubt in the area where he did this and all that meat just went to waste. 25 years should have been the sentence!

  4. Obviously there is something wrong with this person otherwise he would not be such a braggart about it.
    I think they should do a very good psych evaluation on him and possibly lock him up forever before he decides to do this same thing to other humans.
    Think about it.

  5. As a hunter I think this person got off to lightly. Look at what he did killed at least 10 large buck and ones I’ve never seen so to me his punishment did not fit there crime…he should have gotten a harsher punishment…period.

  6. their is no excuse for his actions he did not get wht he deserves thts for sure however u have to look at it this way he was caught much thank you to the game wardens tht persued and made it happen!!!!

  7. Its Just nice to see they got him. Far too many guys poach deer. I see it every year near me. Some of the worst offenders are the same guys who complain about it all the time. There are many forms of poaching. Hunting on property that you don’t belong on, using your friends deer tags, killing more than your allowed to by law. I know many guys that will openly brag about killing more deer than anyone else. When I ask, they simply think having a tag from someone else is all they need to do..its a shame that NY does not crack down on this practice, but really they want the deer gone due to all the insurance claims for vehicles hitting deer.

  8. I wish they would stop using the term “hunting” in these poaching cases. They are NOT hunting. They are poaching plain and simple.

  9. My young son would have loved to have SEEN bucks like this, let alone bagged one. This poacher got off lightly, and he should NEVER be allowed to hunt in ANY regard, or possess any lethal weapon for as long as he lives, and yes, he’ll be a fine trophy in prison. I hope his zipper is in the rear of his jeans.

  10. this man should be beheaded! God will surely have a punishment befitted such a foul human being! This man is despicable and a waste of oxygen! Pathetic excuse of a person! I hope he drops the soap and is never able to walk right again!

  11. I’m against poaching 100% , but it’s sad when a poacher gets a harder sentence than a child molester and people are more upset about it. What a screwed up world.

  12. This poacher is just that, “a poacher”. He should have gotten 5 years & $25,000.00 for each deer. Vehicle & guns taken & to never hunter again in his life time. But he’s a poacher so he will probably do it again as soon as he get’s out of prison, hopefully he’ll get his while in the pen. At what point didn’t his parent realize he was doing something wrong?
    Total waste of good deer meat, but then most poachers dont’t care about that, the law or much of anything besides himself.
    Got off easy!

  13. Absolutely NOT even Close to enough time !!! Also should loose hunting and fishing privileges FOR LIFE !!! This is the most cowardly despicable act of THEFT there is ! Killing just for Killing is the making of a SERIAL KILLER !!! He didn’t even use the Meat Wasteful coward bottom of the pond scum piece of TRASH !!! Ohhhh there is sooooo MUCH MORE I wish I could say !!! I will say I pitty this jackwods family for they will PAY for this forever as people don’t forget acts like this and it is a reflection weather he likes it or not his entire family will be frowned at for his entire bloodline !!!

  14. Well i think it its wrong when a person get more time in jail for killing a aminal that kill a other person it not about him kill the deeer its is all about the thing that he kill a deer that the state could got money from a hunter that would pay fot to get a chanch to kill its all about money that all it is my god its a deer not a person now this young go to jail for 5 years to that is dum as hell then they want him to pay $25.ooo doller right ther the only thing ther weare about the o mited doller

  15. I think this guy should go to prison for life I hunt And I at why poach just take the time and effort to find a nice big buck instead of drive out in some field with a spotlight and kill one anyone can do that I don’t know why people think that there hot stuff cause they can go blind a deer with a bright light and shot it I think he should be in prison for life

  16. Living in that county and knowing this individual and the Native mentality, I promise you they will not learn from this. This is a constant in Okanogan County, but the Game Officers do the best they can. Kids like this need some serious punishment so that the next person might think twice about it. Late at night you can see the vehicles in the hills spotlighting the whole hillside. It just makes me sick!!!

  17. You are all retarded there people who get less sentences for far worse things let’s start worrying about more important crimes in the world

  18. Manuel, I suppose you think he should be able to roam around and continue doing this????
    YOU ARE SICK !!!

    • Don’t put words in his mouth. He never said that. H merely was stating the truth – that rapists have received lesser sentences for committing a more serious crime. Lets consider that people who have committed:

      Assault, home invasions, armed robbery, rape, assault and battery have all received lesser sentences.

      So yea – I can see his point. He never argued that what this guy did was okay – merely made the point that by our Justice System’s own standards of punishment, this punishment didn’t fit the crime.

      • The punishment did fit the crime. It’s just in the other cases where the crime may have been rape or what ever. The punishment didn’t. Yes. The system is messed up.

  19. Yeah if he needed to feed a family or his children then i am sure the judge and dnr would have taken that into consideration. thats obviously not what the arrogant prick was doing though by shooting them with his headlights at night- what a chump. Thats like being in a boxing match with a blind person wtf? chumps like that do well in prison lol. still i think that a min of 5 for gun charge and then 2 for every deer adding up to 25 years. Even if its considered federal and he goes to a fed prison he will do 80+ % of the time still too light though.

  20. Jail is just a financial burden on the rest of the law abiding citizens. Fine him, cut off both trigger fingers, put him on house arrest and probation for a few years. Time cost $, fingers are unique to him and free to the public.

  21. He gets 5yrs in prison for poaching when convicted murderers and child molesters often serve lesser or equivalent sentences? Who cares about some stupid deer? Plenty more where they came from. Now taxpayers get to pay for his incarceration for the next 5 years. SWEEEEEET!

  22. So he’s an indigenous person to the Americas, not native American no such thing just a term used for minority status. In which such the tribal leaders should be held responsible, $100 dollars an inch and the tribe leaders can pick boon & crocket or Pope & young either way they should pay, they pride themselves on their culture and their status take responsibility for their own and pony up the bucks, 5 years will ruin that kid, heck even if he doesn’t serve the full sentence he’s going to come out with more than one orifice stretched, good enough for me. The tribal leaders will feel the pain and put a stop to the poaching that happens or is committed by their own after the bill totals a few million in his case and then bar him from receiving any federal benefits through the reservation.

  23. Does the punishment fit the crime? Fortunately, I don’t have to decide. I have hunted for the last 55 years and it always sickens me when I read articles like this one. It also upsets me when peopIe I know harvest 10 does and 2 bucks because GA hunting regulations allow it when they have no intention of using the meat. He just enjoys killing deer. I am a retired deputy sheriff after 25 years of service. I did not make the laws, I had to enforce them; whether or not I agreed with them. Yes, the judicial system is cock-eyed with a revolving door policy. It can be changed, vote for judges and representatives who have the backbone to put teeth in the laws which are already on the books.

  24. I think this guys charges and fines are very very weak. As others have stated leaving the meat there to rot is wasteful and shouldn’t be a slap on the wrist!!!

    I tend to side with poachers ONLY and I MEAN ONLY when they are taking the animal to feed their family, some people truly cannot afford to buy food and if they go take a few animals to survive I am ok with that.. However if you are taking game out of season solely for the head and leaving the body or you’re taking well more than your family will eat in a year then you’re just a jackass.

  25. II think he should have gotten a lot more than that like everybody else and saying food is one thing murder is another

  26. I agree that he should be find for each deer individually,and be sentenced one year for each one he pouched;day for day,with out being afforded good time or any time off.That hopefully should deter any other low lives from following his path. But I think once your that sick,and strive on public appeal there is no hope for that kind. It disturbs me so deeply that people just don’t get it! It goes beyond the harvesting of trophy class deer,and the young ones miss so much working there way to that status in small strides.Im 51 and started on my own at 14, the legal age in my state to hunt without a grown-up.i did though start with my friends father two years prior.But I was hooked years before,and my older brother got his bow license that same year.through the years I set my goals realisticly,and cherished,and more importantly learned with each year.Some of my most memorable hunts where just steps above the last one,and I relished the slow growing strides. They in fact taught me volumes,and one day came the day I moved to trophy deer hunter stature.I irmly believe that’s the way it should be don by all. I feel so sorry for new hunters who immediately claim their trophy hunters from the start. That is what I feel is the bottom line, and drives such behaviors in far too many hunters. We first need to become woodsman,stewards,enjoy the unsuccessful days as much as the gifted ones,thats how I did it,and I feel I did it right. We have to instill that into our young.

  27. there is always a few mentally sick individuals,saddly it happens to manifest itself in a young apparently disturbed boy.I by know means am trying to hold him unaccountable.He is dead wrong! I just think we as a community of fellow hunters who by the majority love the lifestyle,along with the critters that entertain us beyond words. We ,I included tend to put too much emphasis on trophy caliber game animals. And unfortunately way too many of our young,barly old enough to truly understand what hunting is,and what it fulfills our spirits with,gain a false positive, and immediately want to become trophy from day one. that’s the fault of most of us;especially TV shows,marketing,and the so called professional personalities. We need to grow as hunters in order to become the best hunters were capable of being. magazine deer are not the norm,and we should judge each tropy accourding to his or her intellect,and ability bto survive under extreme pressured areas.

  28. When the laws at set in place it’s for a reason and when there broke the affender should be willing to take the time for his crime. The sad thing in this case is there are people who behead humans and get less jail time now in America. Perhaps 5 years will give this man time to think about what he has done. I hope he don’t get to hunt anymore! I enjoy hunting, but I only kill what I’m willing to eat. Killing any animal is a useless killing if it’s not used to support live.

  29. These penalties are overly severe. Deer are overpopulated and with so many folks in the cities there are very few hunters.
    Sure, I think hunters should follow the laws and be sportsmanlike, but city folks typically don’t know what sportsmanship is anymore and their opinions about hunting are often of little value. Anyof them that don’t like hunting should be chased by a bear.
    5 years in jail is pretty severe. So it is fair to call this guy a poacher and punish him, hes genuinely a douchebag, but 5 years for that when drug traffickers and 1st degree assailants and car thieve are doing less time is insane. I think we should lock the judge in jail for 30 days to see if he adjusts his sentencing.

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