Conservation Law Enforcement Corner – February 2020

The Conservation LE Corner is designed to highlight the efforts of Georgia DNR Law Enforcement Division (LED) officers who, among their many duties, protect Georgia’s wildlife, sportsmen and natural resources from game-law violators.

GON Staff | January 30, 2020

Marion County: On Oct. 31, 2019, DNR Law Enforcement Division Game Warden Calvin Gibson and Cpl. Mitch Oliver were patrolling during a quota deer hunt at the Chattahoochee Fall Line-Hilliard Tract WMA. The area is under quality-buck regulations—only bucks with at least 4 points (1 inch or longer) on either side or a 15-inch outside spread are legal. But killing an illegal deer wasn’t the first issue the officers encountered.

“We observed (a hunter) shoot at an elk-shaped statue from the middle of a road near one of the cabins on the WMA,” Gibson wrote in the official incident report.

The hunter who shot at the statue was identified as Vernon Lowery, of Dalton. The officers had earlier in the day encountered Lowery and another hunter in a red Dodge pickup truck near a handicapped access trail.

“I questioned Lowery about why he shot at the statue, and he said he thought it was a deer. Lowery also said he shot at two other deer during the day and missed them. Lowery said he used the handicapped access trail to get to the spot where I observed him shoot at the statue. I asked him what caliber rifle he shot, and he said it was .270 Win Mag, and Cpl. Oliver located the expended metal casing.”

The significance of the red pickup truck, the handicapped trail and the .270 round would come into play the next day.

“I patrolled the Hilliard Tract again on Nov. 1, and around 2000 hours a complainant informed me of a 6-point whitetail deer that was shot,” officer Gibson said. “The deer was laying in the woods near the handicapped access trail.”

The hunter told the officer he had seen an older man and heard a shot in that area earlier that morning.

“He saw the same older man rapidly leaving in a red truck not long after the shot,” the incident report stated.

“Around 2030 hours, I drove through the WMA campsite and located Lowery sitting in his red Dodge truck. I asked if he had seen or shot any deer today, and he said no,” Gibson said.

The next morning at around 9:45, the officer encountered Lowery and his hunting companion leaving from the handicapped access trail.

“I stopped to talk with them and asked if they had seen anything like a dead deer laying in the woods, and they said no,” Gibson said. “I met with the complainant around 1000 hours as he was coming out of the woods from hunting, and he showed me the dead deer located on a trail near the handicapped access trail. I located cigarette butts on the ground next to the dead deer. I located cigarette butts, bubble gum wrappers, a spent .270 Win Mag casing and a 5-gallon bucket with a pillow on top of it next to a tree approximately 50 to 100 yards in the opposite direction along the trail from where the dead deer was located. The cleared out spot appeared to be a place where someone hunted from the ground.

“I met with Lowery (and his companion) at the WMA campground and questioned them as they were packing up their camper to leave. I observed the same type of bubble gum wrappers and cigarette butts on the ground around their campsite.

“I asked repeatedly which one of them shot the deer and told them I found the spent casing, bubble gum wrappers and cigarette butts. They both denied seeing or shooting the dead deer.”

Officers charged a hunter on a WMA quality-buck quota hunt with shooting this illegal 6-pointer and leaving it in the woods.

Eventually, Vernon Lowery admitted to shooting the deer and leaving it in the woods, “because he realized it didn’t meet the antler restrictions for the hunt and he didn’t want to get in trouble,” Gibson said in his report. “I told him to recover the deer and meet me at the check station. I also told them to pick up all their trash and the bucket.”

The deer and rack were seized. Lowery was cited for killing an illegal deer on a quality-buck hunt, and he paid a $300 fine on Dec. 5 to the Marion County Probate Court.     

Even on a quota hunt at a Wildlife Management Area, where Law Enforcement and WRD personnel have a regular presence, it’s often a tip by a sportsman that leads to a violator being caught. If you know of illegal hunting activity, call the Poacher’s Hotline at 800.366.2661.

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