Woods and Waters An outdoor blog by John McCoy

‘Trophy poaching law’ serves up hefty fines

West Virginia’s “trophy poaching law” has nailed four alleged perps in the last two weeks.

The law, which slaps enhanced fines on poachers who kill white-tailed bucks with trophy-sized antlers, was used in charges filed against two Preston County men and two Wetzel County men.

Ernest Nice, 39, and Bryan Sypolt, 37, both of Terra Alta in Preston County, were arrested Oct. 22 at a hunting camp near Terra Alta. Natural Resources Police say the two men had illegally killed a 10-point buck. Because the buck’s antlers had a spread of 15 1/4 inches, it qualified for what the Division of Natural Resources calls “enhanced penalties” under the 2010 trophy poaching law.

The law calls for poachers to pay replacement fees of at least $1,000 on any buck with an antler spread of 14 to 16 inches, $1,500 for a spread of 16 to 18 inches, $2,000 for a spread of 18 to 20 inches, and $2,500 for a spread greater than 20 inches.

Charges against Nice and Sypolt are pending in Preston County Circuit Court. If convicted, the men could end up paying a total of $2,805 in fines and court costs.

The Wetzel County arrests occurred Oct. 28, when officers were called to a remote location along the Tyler County line to examine two deer carcasses with the heads cut off them. An investigation led the officers to a subsequent location, where they found the heads of two trophy eight-point bucks.

Tylor Hostuttler, 18, of Jacksonburg and Codie Leek, 18, of Pine Grove were issued what officers described as “various citations.” The bucks the two men allegedly poached both qualified for enhanced fines.

DNR officials are reporting higher-than-normal numbers of big-antlered bucks in the woods this fall, so the trophy poaching law will likely be used several more times before the state’s hunting seasons end. DNR officials pushed for the enhanced fines to deter would-be poachers from taking such a heavy toll on trophy whitetails.

Now that people are getting busted, maybe the word will get out.