April 13, 2009 by  
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Poached buck

Greg Milner with Poached buck

We got the skinny on the poaching of this awesome mule deer.  It was poached on October 27, 2004, by Gary Lihnherr of Wisconsin.  He was accompanied by Ron Gardner of Wendell, Idaho and two other individuals.  Ron and Gary’s story was that they chased the buck from a muzzleloader hunt into a rifle hunt where they lost it.  Three days later they found the buck, still in the rifle unit, where they proceeded to hunt and kill this great animal.  Unfortunately for Gary and Ron, there were a couple of other hunters that had muzzle loader tags and had been hunting this same buck when it just disappeared.

These hunters had run into Mr. Lihnherr and crew in the muzzleloader hunting area using high powered rifles.  Concerned that the buck was illegally taken, these individuals contacted the Fish and Game Department.  Officer Rich Holman was assigned to investigate.  With picture of the kill site and buck, Officers Holman and Milner met again with the concerned parties.  The individuals told the officer that the deer pictured was the buck they had been chasing.  They also described the area the buck called home.  Holman and Milner then served a warrant on Ron Gardners house to get more field photos.  They wanted to see if they could try and locate the kill scene from these new photos.

Lehnherr pictured center w/ Gardner on right

Lehnherr pictured center w/ Gardner on right

While at the residence of Gardner, Ron went into great detail on how they killed the deer with a rifle because Lihnherr couldn’t hit it with his muzzleloader. He also went into great detail that they had chased it into the rifle area where he actual shot the animal a few days later.  Gardner even offered to take them to the kill scene, but he couldn’t do until a week later, due to other miscellaneous reasons.  New search warrants were obtained that night for the Gardner residence and for the taxidermy shop that held the hide.

While the warrants where being served here in Idaho, State and Federal officers in Wisconsin were seizing the antlers from Mr. Lehnherr.  Now armed with field photos, antlers, and hide the Fish and Game Department just needed to prove where it was shot.  On Thanksgiving Day, officers Holman and Olson combed the desert floor trying to place the kill scene photos to the actual location.  Five hours later they hit pay dirt.  Much to their surprise there was plenty of evidence to gather.  You see, the perpetrators moved the deer up on a rock outcropping to clean and quarter it.  There was no dirt to absorb the blood so evidence was left all over the rock flat. Over 100 individual hair samples and blood where gathered from the scene located approximately four miles inside the muzzleloader hunt boundary.

On January 24, 2005, the DNA samples were concluded to be from the same individual deer.  For the next two years the case would grind slowly through the Idaho State court system and eventually wind up in Federal court because the antlers where transferred across state lines violating the Lacey act.

What a beast of a buck!

What a beast of a buck!

Lehnherr and Gardner with both charged with violating the lacey act (the transferring of illegally taken game across state lines).  In addition, Lehnherr was charged with providing a false writing statement to Federal authorities.  The two other individuals turned states witness and were granted immunity for their testimony in the grand jury hearings.

On October 22, 2007, the two men plead guilty and were sentenced in Federal Court.  Lehnherr  lost his hunting privileges nationwide for a period of three years.  He was ordered to pay a $2,300 fine and $1,700 in restitution to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.  Gardner was given the same three year license revocation and was ordered to pay $2,500 in fines and $1,000 in restitution.  This sentence was a mere slap on the hand for what they had done.  The Fish and Game had  a total of over 413 hours in this investigation at twenty dollars an hour.  That ends up being over $8,000 in restitution that should have been paid, not to mention the fines.  You can’t even find a guided hunt for that cheap let alone one that would produce one of the largest bucks ever taken in the state with a muzzleloader.

This buck officially makes the Boone and Crocket book both ways. As a typical it netted 195 6/8 and as a non-typical it netted 231 6/8  This buck is know on display at the Magic Valley Fish and Game headquarters in Jerome.   I would like to send out my thanks to Officer Holman, Milner and others, for all their hard work on this case and for not giving up on the battle!  I just wish there would have been a little more justice in their fines at the end of it all.

Steve Alderman


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