Conservation Law Enforcement Corner January 2018

GON Staff | January 1, 2018

If you’re talking to a young person about staying out of trouble, and that youngster has a passion for the outdoors, you might want to mention that certain crimes could keep them from hunting.

If you are convicted of a felony, you are stripped of your right to have a gun, even for hunting or home protection. Just living in a house with someone who possesses a gun and keeps it on the premises is illegal for a convicted felon.

Even squirrel hunting with a .22 could land a convicted felon in serious trouble.

Wilcox County: On Jan. 9, 2016, Ranger First Class (RFC) Rodney Horne was patrolling down Halfmoon Road headed to the Ocmulgee River Landing in Abbeville. As he approached the landing, he saw a man dressed in full camouflage clothing, carrying a rifle and a squirrel, walk out of the woods and cross the road. The man walked into a house on Halfmoon Road.

“I pulled up and motioned for the hunter to come to me,” RFC Horne wrote in his official incident report. “The hunter laid the rifle and squirrel down and walked to me. I asked for his hunting license and identification. The hunter said he did not have one. I ran the hunter by name and date of birth, and he came back on probation and parole. I had GSP Helena Dispatch run a criminal history for me on the hunter, whose name was Jack Jamie McLeory. The criminal history stated he had a previous adjudicated felony charge as late as 2008. I placed Jack Jamie McLeory under arrest for hunting without a license and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

“Cpl. Dan Stiles arrived on scene, and I had him watch McLeory while I retrieved the rifle and took a picture of the squirrel. When I went to get the rifle off the ground, his spouse named Charlene Willabee had picked the rifle up and stuck it in the shed. I called Willabee to the location of where the rifle was and told her I needed the rifle. Willabee said that it was her rifle. I told her I would have to have the rifle because it was evidence to a case, and she could not keep it. Willabee went to the shed to retrieve the gun. I followed her and told her not to grab the gun, that I would get it. I unloaded the rifle and seized it as evidence.

“The rifle was a .22 caliber semiautomatic rifle and was loaded with 12 cartridges. Abbeville Police Department transported McLeory to the Wilcox County Jail. I went to the jail and issued a citation to McLeory for hunting with a license and explained I would be back with the warrant for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon as soon as I could get a judge to issue the arrest warrant.”

Parole authorities were also notified of McLeory’s arrest.

“On Jan. 11, 2016, I went to Wilcox County to the Magistrate Court to have an arrest warrant sworn out on McLeory for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.”

The Sears .22 caliber rifle and 12 cartridges were sent to the Georgia DNR Law Enforcement Office Evidence Storage in Metter.

A game-law violation charge against McLeory for hunting without a license was dropped. On Feb. 1, 2016, Mr. McLeory pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. He was sentenced to five years probation and fined $780.


Cpl. Jeff Billips Earns Annual NWTF Honor

Cpl. Jeffrey Billips, who is assigned to Burke County, is the 2017 recipient of the Wild Turkey Federation Officer of the Year Award, presented annually by the Georgia Chapter of NWTF.

Cpl. Jeff Billips has been with DNR Law Enforcement since 1997.

Cpl. Billips’ dedication to the protection of turkeys and his commitment to talk with hunters about hunting safety and best practices in managing the turkey population made him a clear choice for the award.

Cpl. Billips conducted 145 hours of turkey hunting patrols across his five-county work area and concentrated enforcement efforts on state owned lands by performing 23 different patrols on Wildlife Management Areas.

He arranged his schedule to patrol during peak hunting times in an effort to interact with as many hunters as possible. His time and efforts weren’t wasted, as he documented numerous violations including hunting turkey over bait, hunting without permission, license violations, failure to record a harvest, taking over the limit, hunting without hunter safety certification and making false statements to obtain a license.

Cpl. Billips is an outstanding investigator, as well. One investigation he worked stemmed from a landowner complaint that four turkeys had been killed on his property without permission. Following solid investigative work at the scene and through following tips and leads, Cpl. Billips identified two violators. When they heard the complete and well-organized evidence against them, they confessed and were charged with a number of violations.

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