EVANSTON — Evanston residents Gerald Lewis, 19, and Austin Jarrell, 20, are now paying for their decision to poach a doe mule deer and leave it to waste on the Bear River Divide Hunter Management Area in July. Prosecution in this case was made possible by a concerned citizen taking notice of suspicious activity and reporting the activity to Evanston Game Warden Nick Roberts.
“In July, Lewis and Jarrell drove around the Bear River Divide HMA north of Evanston while consuming alcohol and carrying rifles,” Roberts said. “The men spotted a doe mule deer and decided that they would shoot her. Lewis fired his .22 magnum rifle at the doe but missed. Jarrell fired his .30-06 rifle and hit the doe in the vitals. Jarrell fired a second round into the deer’s skull and they [dragged] the carcass to the edge of a nearby pond and left the carcass to rot.”
The deer was shot near property owned by the Belle Butte Grazing Association, which owns the private ground enrolled in the HMA. Game warden Roberts talked to an employee for the Association and he said he observed a vehicle with 19 county license plates that day. The employee described the vehicle in detail and also said he heard two or three shots from the area where the deer carcass was located.
The next day Warden Roberts, along with Cokeville Game Warden Neil Hymas and Kemmerer Game Warden Chris Baird, combed the scene for any evidence. They were able to locate several items, including an empty box of .30-06 rifle rounds and an ATM receipt. The evidence led officers to Austin Jarrell. Warden Baird went to Jarrell’s address and observed a pickup matching the witness’s description and sitting on the passenger seat were two spent, large caliber rifle casings.
While applying for search warrants Warden Roberts determined Jarrell was arrested for DUI on July 6. Evanston Police Department records showed that Jarrell was pulled over in Evanston just before 11 p.m. for having a broken taillight and faulty exhaust in the same truck described by the witness leaving the area of the deer carcass a few hours earlier.
On July 21, Jarrell and Lewis were charged with five counts through a court record filed by the Uinta County Attorney’s Office for wanton destruction of big game animal, taking a big game animal without a license, waste of edible portions of a big game animal, taking a big game animal during a closed season, and hunting while intoxicated.
On July 24, Jarrell and Lewis appeared in Uinta County Circuit Court. Jarrell pleaded guilty to all charges. In total, Jarrell was ordered to pay $775 in fines, court costs and restitution and had another $2,000 in fines that were suspended. He was ordered to serve 720 days in jail with 700 days suspended. Jarrell’s hunting and fishing privileges will be suspended for nine years.
Lewis pleaded not guilty to all charges. But on Dec. 20, Lewis reached a plea agreement with the Uinta County Attorney’s Office. Lewis pleaded no contest to three charges: taking big game without a license, waste of a big game animal and hunting while intoxicated. He had two charges dismissed: wanton destruction of a big game animal and taking big game during a closed season. Lewis was ordered to pay $165 in fines and an additional $1,000 in fines that was suspended. He was sentenced to 360 days of jail, with 254 days suspended and 106 days of credit for time served. His fishing privileges were suspended for four years and his hunting privileges were suspended for six years.
Anyone with information on any wildlife violation may call the Stop Poaching Hotline at 1-877-WGFD-TIP (1-877-943-3847). Tips may be reported online at wgfd.wyo.gov, directly to local game wardens, or by calling the Green River Game and Fish Office at-1-307-875-3223. Poaching information may also be texted; text keyword WGFD a message to TIP411 (847-411). Callers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a cash reward if the information leads to a conviction.