KANSAS, ILLINOIS AUTHORITIES COOPERATE IN TURKEY STING
Effingham County, Illinois, men plead guilty in Kansas turkey poaching case
SPRINGFIELD, IL — A two-year, cooperative investigation among the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP), the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has resulted in the prosecution of 11 Effingham County, Illinois, men for violating multiple Kansas game laws. The case had been referred to Kansas by Illinois Conservation Police and the USFWS in 2009 after investigation of a case in Illinois revealed that the same people being investigated there were also illegally taking wild turkeys in Kansas. KDWP Law Enforcement Division investigator Doug Whiteaker assisted in the effort.
The investigation revealed that two groups of Illinois hunters had been traveling to Kansas to turkey hunt for several years. Among other game law violations, the group had been taking over the limit of turkeys. Illinois Conservation Police and the USFWS interviewed the group of men in May 2009 and seized eight whole turkeys, more than 20 sets of spurs, 24 beards, 19 packages of turkey meat, and five unused turkey permits at that time.
“This case involved the worst over-take of a wildlife resource that I have seen in 29 years as an enforcement officer for KDWP,” Whiteaker said. “With regard to the length of time over which the crimes were committed and the amount of wildlife illegally killed, this is the worst I’ve seen. This investigation clearly documented that the offenders in this case intentionally and knowingly violated the wildlife laws of the State of Kansas.
“My thanks goes out to Illinois DNR Conservation Police officers, USFWS special agents, KDWP natural resource officers, as well as the county attorneys and their staffs for Clay, Geary, and Osage counties,” Whiteaker explains. “They all played important roles. I would not have been able to bring this case to a successful conclusion without their help. This investigation is a good example of teamwork and cooperation among agencies and the benefits that come with it.”
The following is a list of the defendants, their charges, and their penalties (Kansas county of prosecution in parentheses). Individuals charged in Osage County entered diversion agreements and paid fines of $493.50.
- Ronald Esker (Geary) — misrepresentation to purchase a resident turkey permit, hunting turkeys without a valid license, and taking turkeys without a valid permit, fined $586 and lost hunting privileges in Kansas and Illinois for two years;
- Shawn Lewis (Clay) — taking of turkeys without a valid permit, fined $636 and lost hunting privileges in Kansas and Illinois for one year;
- Scott Huelsing (Osage) — unlawful possession of wild turkeys, failure to tag wild turkeys, and hunting from a motor vehicle;
- Vincent Huelsing (Osage) — two counts of failure to tag wild turkeys;
- Paul Althoff (Osage) — failure to tag wild turkeys and hunting turkeys without a valid permit;
- James Dust (Osage) — two counts of taking wild turkeys without a valid permit;
- Tom Edwards (Osage) — failure to tag wild turkeys and taking of wild turkey without a valid permit;
- Jason Dust (Osage) — two counts of taking wild turkeys without a valid permit;
- Justin Dust (Osage) — taking wild turkeys without a valid permit;
- Frank Lee (Osage) — taking a hen turkey and hunting wild turkeys without a valid permit; and
- Dennis Heuerman (Osage) — failure to tag wild turkeys and taking of wild turkeys without a valid permit.
Anyone with information regarding illegal hunting activity is urged to contact their local natural resource officer — listed in the 2010 Kansas Hunting and Furharvesting Regulations Summary, the 2011 Kansas Fishing Regulations Summary — or phone Operation Game Thief at 877-426-3843. A list of Kansas natural resource officer phone numbers by county may found on the KDWP website, www.kdwp.state.ks.us. Callers may choose to remain anonymous.