Poaching nine trophy bucks landed this Decatur, MI man in serious trouble.

Back in October of 2021, Michigan State Police troopers arrived at the home of 33-year-old Justin Ernst in Decatur, Michigan. While investigating a domestic violence complaint, the troopers came across several deer in a barn on the property. Upon this discovery, the Michigan State Police contacted conservation officers from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. 

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The conservation officers investigated the deer in the barn and ended up seizing the illegal trophy bucks. That day five 10-point deer and three 8-point deer were removed from the barn. Only two days later, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources received a tip on the Report All Poaching hotline. The tip indicated that Ernst had illegally taken another trophy buck.

On Monday, February 14th, 2022, Justin Ernst pleaded guilty to the charges against him in Van Buren County's 36th Circuit Court. The charges he pleaded guilty to were one count felon in possession of a firearm, one count of obtaining a hunting license when ineligible, and three counts of illegal taking/possessing whitetail deer.

As a result of the plea deal, Ernst will face the following punishments:

  • Lifetime hunting revocation
  • Pay $25,000 in reimbursement
  • Forfeiture of all seized items
  • 18 months to five years in a Michigan Department of Corrections facility.

Poaching in Michigan is a serious offense. To anonymously report poaching, you can call the DNR's Report All Poaching hotline at 800-282-7800. The hotline is available for tips 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Source: Michigan Department of Natural Resources

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