William J. Haynes, part of a loose-knit Southwest Washington poaching ring, pleaded guilty to 15 counts of illegal hunting activities, including five felonies, in Skamania County yesterday.
The 25-year-old could be sentenced to a year in jail, according to The Daily News of Longview, which broke the news.
Haynes also stands to lose his rights to own guns and dogs, and could be ordered to not contact two other members of the group that unlawfully ran hounds after bears, killing and leaving the carcasses to waste, as well as lose his hunting privileges, depending on a judge’s decision, according to the paper.
The other 10 charges he pleaded guilty to were gross misdemeanors.
“That’s the most I’ve ever heard someone plead guilty to,” WDFW Region 5 Captain Jeff Wickersham told reporter Alex Bruell.
Haynes had been originally charged with 64 counts in Skamania County.
The Daily News also reported two other major players had been convicted there:
- Eddy A. Dills pleaded guilty to illegal big game hunting in the first degree, unlawfully hunting with hounds and wastage last November and was sentenced to three-plus weeks of home detention;
- And his son Joseph A. Dills pleaded guilty to four similar charges last October and faces sentencing next month.
The fourth primary member of the group, Erik C. Martin, had also been expected to plead guilty and is currently serving a jail sentenced in Oregon, the paper reported.
It wasn’t immediately clear if the time Martin is doing south of the Columbia was related to the 42 charges he was hit with last May by Wasco County.
That’s where the case began in late December 2016 after Oregon State Police wildlife troopers investigating a string of headless bucks shot and left on winter range near Mt. Hood matched a trail cam photo of a truck with one spotted in The Dalles and pulled it over.
Inside were Haynes and Martin, and a mountain of evidence was ultimately found on their phones and homes.
The case became public in spring 2017 after search warrants were served at suspects’ houses and antlers along with videos showing multiple bears and bobcats being pursued by hounds surfaced. Hound hunting has been outlawed for 20 years.
“They just want to see stuff die. It’s a sick and twisted mentality; you and I will not get it,” then WDFW Deputy Chief Mike Cenci told Northwest Sportsman. “It’s so shocking. Most human beings wouldn’t do this.”
Charges have also been filed in other counties in Oregon and Washington.
Huge hat tip to all of the county prosecutors who are dedicating resources to working these poachers and other suspects through the court system — thank you, it is very much appreciated by law-abiding sportsmen.