A months-long investigation into the poaching of about 10, and possibly more, whitetail bucks in Barnes County beginning in 2019 has ended with the conviction of four men.
“We charged them with only the ones that we could prove, which was right around 10 bucks,” said Greg Hastings, North Dakota Game and Fish Department warden in Jamestown and lead investigator in the case. “We suspected there were more deer taken, but we honestly don’t know.”
The four men convicted of poaching were Jakob Ashline and Payne Drake, both of Valley City, and Calvin Bjornson and Ryan Rudolph, both of Spiritwood.
The convictions included numerous misdemeanors, fines and fees:
- Ashline – 15 Class A misdemeanors; nine Class B misdemeanors; $7,900 in fines, fees and restitution; 53 days in jail; and loss of hunting/fishing/trapping privileges for 10 years.
- Drake – One Class A misdemeanor; eight Class B misdemeanors; $850 in fines and fees; and loss of hunting/fishing/trapping privileges for two years.
- Bjornson – Two Class A misdemeanors; one Class B misdemeanor; and $4,750 in fines and fees.
- Rudolph – Four Class A misdemeanors; two Class B misdemeanors; $2,635 in fines, fees and restitution; and loss of hunting/fishing/trapping privileges for two years.
In addition, several rifles and a spotlight were forfeited to authorities.
The investigation began in October 2019 with a buck that was shot near Valley City that had its antlers removed. Within a week, another buck, also missing its antlers, was discovered in nearly the same location. No meat was removed from either carcass and left to rot.
More suspicious dead deer were reported to wardens later that fall, most near the Sheyenne River Valley from Lake Ashtabula to Kathryn. In two cases, antlers had been removed from the deer in the same manner and the carcasses left to waste.