Group of Vermonters accused in poaching operation, 78 charges filed

A group of five Windsor County hunters face dozens of charges after allegedly poaching deer in the state last year, detention officers announced Wednesday. Fish and Wildlife said the men, between ages 22 and 27, killed 14 deer illegally last fall. They are also accused of killing multiple deer illegally in New Hampshire officials and are expected to face additional charges from state there. The men face a combined 78 criminal charges in connection with the alleged hunting, ranging from taking deer out of season to obstruction of justice, according to Fish and Wildlife. That does not include charges from other states. Legal action follows a months-long poaching investigation by the state, one they deemed critical given the perceived impact the hunting had on local deer populations. “It will take three to four years for the deer population in Windsor County to recruit additional mature bucks and replace those that were illegally taken this fall,” Fish and Wildlife Director Mark Scott said. “Poaching at this scale is a blow to both the local deer herd and to Vermont’s culture of fair and equal access to public trust of wildlife.”State officials said 26-year-old Zackery Baxter, of Sharon, and 26-year-old Jeffrey Degrasse, of Hartford, plead not guilty to all charges. The three other men plad guilty to at least some of the charges filed against them. The state said 27-year-old Casey Thayer, of Hartford, pleaded guilty to hunting in a closed season and possession of illegal deer, among other charges. He will face a $1,821 fine and be required to forfeit a crossbow in addition to serving at least nine days of work crew service. Another man, 24-year-old Patrick Whitcomb, of Hartford, pleaded guilty to similar charges and will be fined $1,214 in addition to the forfeiture of a crossbow. Kobe Labonte, a 22-year-old from White River Junction, faces a $607 fine after admitting to hunting during a closed season. In a release, state officials expressed their gratitude to hunters who notified wardens of the alleged poaching in the region, reminding hunters and residents alike that anonymous tips can be left through an online portal called “Operation Game Thief.” “This investigation was only possible thanks to tips from conservation-minded hunters who alerted game wardens to poaching in their communities,” Game Warden Robert Currier wrote. “Their actions and ethics highlight the contrast between true hunters and poachers.”

A group of five Windsor County hunters face dozens of charges after allegedly poaching deer in the state last year, detention officers announced Wednesday.

Fish and Wildlife said the men, between ages 22 and 27, killed 14 deer illegally last fall. They are also accused of killing multiple deer illegally in New Hampshire officials and are expected to face additional charges from state there.

The men face a combined 78 criminal charges in connection with the alleged hunting, ranging from taking deer out of season to obstruction of justice, according to Fish and Wildlife. That does not include charges from other states.

Legal action follows a months-long poaching investigation by the state, one they deemed critical given the perceived impact the hunting had on local deer populations.

“It will take three to four years for the deer population in Windsor County to recruit additional mature bucks and replace those that were illegally taken this fall,” Fish and Wildlife Director Mark Scott said. “Poaching at this scale is a blow to both the local deer herd and to Vermont’s culture of fair and equal access to public trust of wildlife.”

State officials said 26-year-old Zackery Baxter, of Sharon, and 26-year-old Jeffrey Degrasse, of Hartford, pled not guilty of all charges. The three other men plad guilty to at least some of the charges filed against them.

The state said 27-year-old Casey Thayer, of Hartford, pleaded guilty to hunting in a closed season and possession of illegal deer, among other charges. He will face a $1,821 fine and be required to forfeit a crossbow in addition to serving at least nine days of work crew service.

Another man, 24-year-old Patrick Whitcomb, of Hartford, pleaded guilty to similar charges and will be fined $1,214 in addition to the forfeiture of a crossbow.

Kobe Labonte, a 22-year-old from White River Junction, faces a $607 fine after admitting to hunting during a closed season.

In a release, state officials expressed their gratitude to hunters who notified wardens of the alleged poaching in the region, reminding hunters and residents alike that anonymous tips can be left through an online portal called “Operation Game Thief.”

“This investigation was only possible thanks to tips from conservation-minded hunters who alerted game wardens to poaching in their communities,” Game Warden Robert Currier wrote. “Their actions and ethics highlight the contrast between true hunters and poachers.”

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