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DNR Officers Arrest Deer Hunters

January 11, 2012

01/12/12 Indiana Conservation Officer Dustin Whitehead recently culminated a week long investigation on reports of a pair of teens who had shot numerous illegal deer this season.    An aware Oxbow Park Ranger on Christmas night first noticed the suspicious activity and then an Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department deputy gathered more information on the two suspects which he then forwarded to Whitehead.

Whiteheads’ investigation led him to Dylan Nissley, 18 years of age of Goshen, Indiana along with a 17 year old accomplice.  Whitehead set up and conducted interviews of the two at the Sheriffs’ Department regarding the allegations.  Nissley admitted to shooting three antlered deer in Kosciusko County as well as assisting with the unlawful taking of the doe deer in Oxbow Park in Elkhart County.  Nissley took over his limit of antlered deer by two.

Nissley’s accomplice admitted to shooting two antlered deer in Kosciusko County which also put him over his legal limit for antlered deer for the season by one.  He also admitted to shooting a doe illegally in Kosciusko County as well as shooting the doe deer illegally in Oxbow Park in Elkhart County on Christmas night with his crossbow. 

The two suspects in the commission of these crimes were also charged with numerous counts of taking deer with the aid of an artificial light, taking deer with the aid of a motor driven conveyance, hunting before or after legal hours, taking over their limit of antlered deer for the season, failing to check in their deer at an official check in station within 48 hours as required by law just to name a few.  All in all 16 misdemeanor charges will be filed by Officer Whitehead both in Elkhart and Kosciusko Counties.  Whitehead also seized two firearms and the crossbow all of which are subject to confiscation by the court upon conviction.

Indiana Conservation Officers recently arrested Tracy Coates (age 38) of Syracuse for multiple deer hunting violations in Kosciusko County.  Indiana Conservation Officer Nathan Hooley received information on January 2, 2012 at approximately 9:45pm that Coates had just shot at a large buck deer from the roadway in the area of Bowser Road and County Road 375 East.  Coates did not have permission to hunt the land where the buck was located.  Hooley was confident that Coates would be returning later in the evening to retrieve the deer.

Hooley began patrolling the area and observed Coates’ vehicle near the scene around 11:00pm.  Hooley was assisted at the scene by Indiana Conservation Officer Dustin Whitehead and officers from Syracuse Police Department.  Hooley and Whitehead observed two men walking in the cornfield a short time later and acting as if they were looking for the deer.  Hooley confronted Coates in the cornfield and Coates initially told Hooley he was looking for a deer his girlfriend had struck with a car.  Upon further questioning Coates admitted to shooting the buck deer from the roadway.  Coates stated he and his girlfriend had observed the deer while driving home from a nearby friends’ house.  Coates then dropped off his girlfriend and returned to the area with his muzzleloader rifle.  He found the deer again and rolled down his window and shined his spotlight on the deer with one hand while he rested his gun on his window and shot at the deer with the other. 

Coates then returned home and called a friend to help him retrieve the deer.  The friend was not charged in this case.  Coates admitted to having already harvested an antlered deer this season therefore his attempt to take another antlered deer put him in violation of the one buck rule per season.  Coates’ fish and wildlife criminal record indicates he has prior convictions for similar offenses in 2001 and 2004.  Hooley charged Coates with six misdemeanor violations and  seized his muzzleloader and spotlight for evidence. 

Hooley and Whitehead could not locate the deer that evening however they did observe blood and evidence indicating Coates had hit the deer.  Officers returned the next morning and located the buck.  The buck was still alive and able to run away from the officers enough that it was not necessary to put the deer down.   It is hoped the deer will recover from its’ wounds.  Hooley would like to make it clear that violations such as this are both dangerous to the public and more often than not result in wounded deer not being recovered.  Please do your part to help Indiana Conservation Officers protect our resources.  If you observe a violation call your local law enforcement department or the Turn In a Poacher line at 1-800-TIP-IDNR.