Elk Herd

PRESTON — Six men recently reached plea agreements in Franklin County court for the alleged poaching of big game animals in the Preston area during the fall of 2018. 

As part of their plea agreements, Jay Reeder and Brandon Porter, of Preston, each pleaded guilty to four felonies and received lifetime revocations of their hunting privileges, according to an Idaho Department of Fish and Game press release. Both men received suspended two-year prison sentences held at the discretion of the court to impose if they're found in violation of the conditions of their 20-year felony supervised probation. They have both spent 30 days in jail.

While serving search warrants on the Reeder Ranch for the wildlife violations, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office arrested Reeder and Porter for felony possession of a controlled substance after locating drugs on the property. Officers also found Reeder in possession of an unlawfully taken bear from California.

Rick Earl, of Preston, pleaded guilty to one felony and one misdemeanor for killing two unlawful elk and illegally possessing three other poached elk and deer. He received a two-year suspended prison sentence and five years of felony supervised probation. He served 10 days in jail and received a five-year hunting license revocation.

The court ordered Reeder, Porter and Rick Earl to each provide 50 hours of community service, pay a combined $72,050 in fines and civil reimbursement for the unlawfully taken animals, forfeit their guns and animals and prohibited them from possessing any firearms.

The other three men involved — Jesse Earl and Dustin Hollingsworth, of Preston, and Brian Miller, of Pennsylvania — pleaded guilty to misdemeanors for their role in attempting to legitimize the poached elk by possessing the animals and using or facilitating the elk tags of others to cover the unlawfully taken elk. They each received one year hunting license revocations and combined fines, civil reimbursement and court costs of $3,767.

Through a 2018 investigation, Idaho Department of Fish and Game conservation officers learned of several poaching incidents spanning several months at the Reeder Ranch and on surrounding private property northwest of Preston. The incidents allegedly violated requirements pertaining to tagging, hunting seasons and weapon restrictions and left several elk carcasses to waste, taking only the choice cuts of meat and antlers. 

Reeder and Porter combined to illegally take three mule deer bugs and 13 elk, while also wounding other elk without making an attempt to recover the animals. The men also reportedly sold some of the elk meat to finance a new rifle.

Members of the group also unlawfully killed pheasants, magpies and wild turkeys baited onto the property.