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.
“THESE WERE THE MOST FLAGRANT ACTS OF POACHING IN MY 25 YEARS AS A GAME WARDEN. THE PENALTY MATCHES THE SEVERITY OF THE CRIME.” — JIM BROWN, FORMER OKANAGON GAME WARDEN.
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.
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.”
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Photo: NWSportsmanmag.com/Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife