Bellevue OH man must pay $27,851 in restitution for hunting deer without permission
May 27, 2011
By D'Arcy Egan, The Plain Dealer
Arlie Risner of Bellevue says he had no clue he'd be handed a bill
from the Ohio Division of Wildlife for $27,851, a record amount of
restitution sought for illegally killing a trophy Ohio deer. He just
wanted to be done with a charge in Norwalk Municipal Court of hunting
deer without permission.
"I couldn't afford the $6,000 my attorney, Neil McKown (of Shelby),
said it would cost to go to trial, so he told me to plead no contest,"
On Feb. 23, Risner was fined $200 by Judge John S. Ridge and had his
Ohio hunting privileges suspended for a year.
In early April, said Risner, he received a registered letter from Ken
Fitz of the Ohio Division of Wildlife, who handles restitution cases.
The wildlife agency wanted $27,851 in restitution for the trophy
non-typical buck. Wildlife officers had already confiscated the antlers,
228 6/8 inches, according to the Boone & Crockett scoring system that
sets the restitution amount.
"It was pay up, or I can't buy a hunting or fishing license," said
Risner, who has a small tree service.
It's far worse than that. Risner, 58, a lifelong angler and hunter,
must write a check to the wildlife agency in the next few months, said
Fitz, or the Attorney General's office will be called in to collect the
At the heart of the controversy is Risner's claim he wasn't illegally
hunting on CSX railroad property near Willard on Nov. 10, 2010. He says
he was in a tree stand on his cousin's small property nearby when he saw
the deer for the first time, and shot it at 8:30 a.m. with an arrow from
his crossbow. Risner said the wounded deer ran to the CSX property and
Risner had a hunting license and deer permit. He dutifully took the
deer to a local check station.
Getting a tip about Risner's deer, Huron County Wildlife Officer Josh
Zientek and Wildlife Investigator Jeff Collingwood investigated. They
are sure Risner was hunting railroad land, where Homeland Security rules
don't allow hunting or trespassing of any kind. Both railroad security
officials and wildlife officers say they will arrest anyone caught on
the restricted lands.
"When I followed the blood trail from my cousin's property, where I
was hunting, I did go on the railroad property to retrieve the deer,"
said Risner. "My friend Randy Oney helped me load the deer on a
four-wheeler. I'm still recovering from colon cancer four years ago, and
couldn't do it by myself. Oney also ended up getting cited for hunting
without permission for helping me."
Risner had never before been cited for a fishing or hunting
violation. His only tickets had been for speeding and a seat belt
"We found the tree with the appropriate scrapes where Risner had
placed his tree stand, as well as fresh bait piles containing corn,"
"We found all of the deer blood on CSX property, and none on his
cousin's property. We took DNA samples to make sure we had the right
deer. None of the information we got from Risner was accurate, according
to the evidence."
"I'm 100 percent positive Risner was hunting on railroad property,"
"Risner admitted being dishonest with the wildlife officer in a phone
call about the restitution," said Fitz. "He apologized for that."
"I never told (Fitz) that," said Risner. "It's their word versus my
word. I would have gone all the way (in court) if I'd known about the
restitution. I would have borrowed the money to fight it."
Now it's too late.
Penalties around Ohio now much stiffer for trespassing, poaching
The penalties for killing a trophy white-tailed deer in Ohio were
seldom a deterrent, but that has changed in recent years as stricter
trespassing rules and restitution laws were put in place.
To encourage landowners and farmers around Ohio to support an Ohio
Division of Wildlife push in 1998 for widespread Sunday hunting laws,
the agency agreed to stiffen penalties for hunting without permission.
Written permission from a landowner is now required. The maximum penalty
for a first offense is $500 and 60 days in jail.
As Ohio's deer herd blossomed, the Buckeye State began to lure
hunters from around the country who were eager to spend a lot of money
in Ohio for the chance to bag a trophy buck. The big bucks are valuable
because they buoy non-resident hunting license and deer permit sales.
Deer and turkey hunting, as well as walleye and bass fishing are now
popular Ohio tourist attractions.
Wildlife officials couldn't count on judges around the state to
financially punish deer poachers, especially in southern counties where
many feed plentiful venison to their families over the long winter.
Trophy bucks, though, now have added protection from a restitution law
enacted in March, 2008.
The value of a deer's antlers were established using the Boone &
Crockett Club scoring system. An illegally-killed trophy buck might
elicit a $200 or $300 fine from a judge. Massive-antlered bucks have
prompted wildlife officials to seek restitution of more than $20,000.
"The restitution values are high because a trophy buck is worth that
said wildlife law enforcement head Jim Lehman. "We've seen hunters sell
the antlers, or make thousands of dollars in endorsements. We had one
hunter who took a lot of photos of himself with an illegal buck,
changing ball caps and gear for every photo to go after endorsements."
A good example of the disparity between court fines and restitution
is Van Wert hunter Dale Linton, who was convicted early this year of
killing five antlered deer in 2009, four over the season limit. He was
fined $1,630, which included court costs. The restitution sought by the
Division of Wildlife added $5,618 to the bill.
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