Southern Ill. man pleads guilty to poaching white-tailed deer

According to IDNR, 58-year-old Jerry Stafford, of Vienna, pleaded guilty to poaching white-tailed deer.
Published: Mar. 13, 2023 at 1:11 PM CDT
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JOHNSON COUNTY, Ill. (KFVS) - A southern Illinois man pleaded guilty to poaching white-tailed deer.

According to a release from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, 58-year-old Jerry Stafford, of Vienna, entered a negotiated plea on January 5 to one count of unlawful take in connection with the illegal harvest of 8-point and 12-point wild, white-tailed deer.

He also pleaded guilty to one count of open dumping for improper disposal of animal carcasses.

Stafford received 24 months court supervision. Court costs and fees were $300. He was ordered to pay $20,200 in restitution to the IDNR.

According to IDNR, Stafford runs a “high-fence” shooting facility, called Samson’s Whitetail Mountain, where customers pay to shoot raised or imported game mammals in a fenced area.

Illinois conservation police began investigating after learning he was advertising “low-fence hunts” in conjunction with Illinois’ official deer hunting dates.

According to investigators, Staffords’ guides took clients outside the high-fence area to hunt deer in the wild. Investigators documented violations that included outfitting or guiding without a permit, uncased firearms in vehicles, hunting with the aid of a motor vehicle and the use of lights, hunting before legal shooting hours, hunting without permission and violating tagging requirements.

During their investigation, officers documented evidence of animals escaping from the high-fence facility, including fallow deer, javelinas and aoudad.

According to IDNR, a javelina is a wild animal similar to a pig, and an aoudad is a type of wild sheep.

They said an animal feeder was found just outside one of the high-fence gates with white-tailed deer and elk tracks around it.

The case was filed in Johnson County following a joint investigation between IDNR and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, the Illinois Department of Revenue and Illinois State Police air operations assisted in the investigation.

The Illinois Attorney General’s Office prosecuted the case.

“We appreciate the assistance of our partner agencies in bringing this case to justice, and I would encourage anyone who is aware of poaching crimes in Illinois to come forward with tips,” Jed Whitchurch, director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Office of Law Enforcement, said in the release. “Conservation laws are in place to ensure wildlife resources are around for future generations to enjoy. People have a responsibility to understand these laws and to follow them.”

To report poaching and other illegal activity, complete the Target Illinois Poachers incident reporting form at or call 877-2DNRLAW.