FWC busts Baker County poaching ring
Nassau County man also cited by state wildlife officers
Six Baker County residents were recently cited for more than 30 wildlife law violations by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers.
Trenton Lee, Forester Stokes, Joseph Bruce Johnson, Dustin Rhoden, Brian Harris and a 17-year-old juvenile, all from Baxter, and David Henry Jones, of Callahan, were charged with a multitude of violations for the illegal take of deer and alligators as well as several hunting license violations.
FWC officers in Baker County had received several complaints of illegal hunting activity in a remote part of the county.
"After following leads and gathering information, we were able to ascertain where the illegal hunting was happening and who was involved," said FWC K-9 Officer Bret Gill, who put together the case.
On Nov. 2, six FWC officers, along with the Baker County Sheriff's Office, headed out to execute the search warrant they had obtained for a particular residence.
"On the way to serve the warrant, Officer Hoyle saw four of our subjects being dropped off on a dirt road. The four men walked into John M. Bethea State Forest, which is part of the Osceola Wildlife Management Area," Gill said. "However, the area wasn't open for hunting on Nov. 2."
The woman driving the truck drove away. Hoyle stopped the vehicle once it was out of sight of the four men and escorted it to the residence, where the other officers were executing the warrant.
The Department of Corrections K-9 team was contacted to help locate the four men, but before they could arrive, Hoyle heard someone say, "Come get us" from a radio under the truck's seat. Hoyle then had the driver take him back to pick up the subjects.
"When the men saw the truck, they came running out of the woods, dragging two bucks," said Gill. "They were very surprised to see Officer Hoyle step out of the truck."
In total, six people have been charged with approximately 30 different wildlife law violations; nine illegally taken deer were seized, including a large buck in velvet that was confined to a small island during the Tropical Storm Debbie flood; and four guns were seized.
The violations for each person were:
- Trenton Stokes: two counts of taking deer out of season, one count of taking deer at night, one count of illegal method, two counts possession of illegally taken deer.
- Joseph Bruce Johnson: one count of taking deer out of season, two of hunting license violations.
- David Henry Jones: two counts deer out of season, two counts illegal method, two hunting license violations.
- Dustin Rhoden: two counts illegal possession
- Brian Harris: one count illegal possession of alligator, one count possession of less than 20 grams of cannabis.
- 17-year-old juvenile: five counts taking/attempting to take deer out of season, three counts taking/attempting to take deer by illegal method, two counts illegal possession, one count baiting in WMA, two hunting license infractions, three warnings for illegal WMA access.
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