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Elk Poachers Receive Heavy Sentences

A deer hunter's quick action and memory for detail recently helped Fish and Game conservation officers nab a pair of elk poachers. Jason Burton, of Boise and Daniel Hileman, of Nampa now must pay more than $3,000 in fines and choose between jail time or community service for poaching a spike elk during a closed season. Near Idaho City on October 30 - a full week after the elk season closed in the area - Burton and Hileman (who was apparently just along for the walk) spotted fresh elk tracks headed into a thicket. Hileman flushed a spike elk, and Burton shot and killed the young bull. After field dressing the animal, the two men dragged it to a trail, then decided to return the next day to retrieve the carcass. Before they arrived the next morning, a deer hunter hiking the trail found the poached animal. "Even though it was the last day of deer season, this sportsman took the time to contact Fish and Game and report this crime," Fish and Game Conservation Officer Bill London noted. "He provided us with many fine details, including the elk's exact location, a description of the tire tracks at the trail head, even the brand of cigarettes apparently smoked by the poachers." London and fellow Conservation Officer Brain Marek arrived at the trail head to find Burton and Hileman at their vehicle preparing to load the illegal elk. "Everything fit the hunter's description, down to the tire tracks of the vehicle and the brand of cigarettes Burton was smoking," London explained. Initially, the two men claimed to have found the elk and that they were intent on transporting it to Fish & Game. As the conversation continued, both confessed to the crime. Officer Marek also discovered that Burton had purchased an elk tag for another area that morning, with the intent of covering up the poaching by claiming to have killed the elk in an area still open to hunting. Burton was cited for taking an elk during a closed season, while Hileman was cited for aiding and abetting the take of an elk during a closed season. The officers seized the elk. On November 14, both men pleaded guilty in Boise County Magistrate Court before Judge Patricia Young. Prosecutor Theresa Gardunia recommended the maximum sentence for Burton and Judge Young agreed, sentencing Burton to $1,521 in fines and costs, a three-year hunting license revocation, and 30 days jail time with the option of 60 days of community service work. After Prosecutor Gardunia explained that Hileman had been actively involved in every stage of the poaching incident, Judge Young handed Hileman an identical sentence. "This case illustrates the importance of teamwork to apprehend poachers," London said. "Everyone involved - the honest hunter, the investigating officers, the prosecutor, the judge - all did their part to see that the poachers were caught and justice served." The case also illustrates another important point: you don't have to be the "trigger man" to be handed a heavy sentence in a poaching case. Accomplices have the same responsibilities under the law as the shooter.