Two hunters have pled guilty to illegally hunting deer after it was discovered they had posed as nature photographers online to find the location of mature bucks.
Jayson Zorda and Kevin Butler both admitted the misdemeanor charges relating to the killing of two bucks in upstate New York, close to Buffalo.
The investigation led by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Police on Patrol began on November 14, 2022, when authorities received reports of two suspicious men walking in the woods close to the town of Tonawanda.
The witness observed one of the men crouching in the woods behind his residence and heard what he believed to be the snap of a bow discharge and an arrow strike. Shortly after, a large 16-point buck ran into his yard after being shot.
The men fled before the police arrived, but they were identified by photos taken on trail cameras. The men denied any wrongdoing but after warrants were executed on their phone records, it was found that the hunters conspired with a larger group of poachers who scoured social media posts made by wildlife photographers to target bucks in areas where hunting is banned.
Not only were they looking at photographers’ social pages, but Zorda went so far as to create a fictitious Facebook profile posing as a female nature photographer. Zorda used the fake account to reach out to other photographers in a bid to learn the locations of mature urban bucks so he could poach them.
Zorda and Butler would go out with compact bows hidden in backpacks and put arrows in hollow walking sticks in a bid to disguise their actions.
The pair have had their hunting licenses revoked for five years and ordered to pay $1,075 in fines and surcharges after they pled guilty to illegally taking whitetail deer. Police added that other individuals were implicated in the warrants and charges are pending.
Image credits: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation