Illegal wildlife poaching ring busted by Indiana conservation officers

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(October 19, 2015) – Indiana conservation officers executed three arrest warrants and a search warrant on Saturday night, putting an end to an illegal deer guiding service.

FOX59's cameras were along for the ride for the culmination of an investigation that spanned more than two years.

"From our perspective this is a pretty significant player just from sheer volume of violations we've encountered," said Mark Baker, an Indiana conservation officer.

There were four suspects involved, including an Iowa resident, and the investigation spanned Jefferson, Henry, and Madison counties.

After receiving a tip of road hunting in Jefferson County, conservation officers began an investigation that ultimately resulted in the arrest of Jeremy Zachary, 31, of Anderson.

"We've been looking into him and we have a grand total of well over 100 criminal violations that he has committed," said Baker.

The investigation revealed that Zachary had been directly responsible for the illegal harvest of multiple deer over the past several years.

According to court records, Zachary ran an illegal guide business. Customers would pay Zachary to lead them to good hunting locations. However, Zachary "jacklighted" deer from his car. He would allegedly take customers hunting in his car and use an artificial spotlight to find the deer and then hunt them.

"When you've got people like this doing these types of activities, it casts a very negative light on hunters who try to do things the right way," said Baker.

There was direct evidence that he illegally killed 16 deer and turkey over the past two years.

"Most days we chip away at the problem, but days like today we are really able to take a good chunk out of it," said Baker.

It is unknown how many he actually harvested during that time, or how many were taken by the poachers he would “guide.”

The alleged violations included multiple occurrences of:

  • Shooting from a vehicle
  • Shooting from or across a roadway
  • Shooting deer after legal hours
  • Jacklighting (use of artificial light to take game)
  • Hunting without consent of landowner
  • Illegal taking of deer
  • Overbag on antlered deer
  • Failure to check in deer
  • Hunting turkey out of season.

Officers arrested Zachary and a second suspect, Michael Kendall, and executed a search warrant at Zachary’s Anderson residence on Saturday night.

"This is what you can expect to happen when you perform these activities," said Baker.

Items seized included a vehicle, a firearm, wild animal parts, a computer, a cell phone, a digital camera, a trail camera, a spotlight, photographs, hunting documents, and financial documents.

Zachary has had three prior arrests for illegally harvesting deer. He also had his hunting privileges in Indiana revoked in 2008 for a year.

Pending judgment, he could lose his vehicle and firearm, and his restitution to the state could be as high as $16,000. He could also serve time in jail for these offenses.

The original information for the case came from DNR's tip line (1-800-TIP-IDNR). Conservation officers encourage the public to report any illegal hunting activities and remind them that a tip that results in a case being made can earn you a reward of up to $200. Tips can be made anonymously.

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