Poacher Kills Deer At Vinita Hunting Facility
VINITA, Oklahoma -
Hunting season is well underway in Oklahoma, but not everyone is playing by the rules. A commercial hunting facility near Vinita is the latest victim of poachers.
"We've worked hard to do what we've done here," said Rusty Cornwell, Trails End Sanctuary owner.
Trails End Sanctuary is an Oklahoma hunting outfitter that Rusty Cornwell founded 13 years ago.
"We're pretty proud of it," Cornwell said. "It's a pretty special place."
It's a place that puts veterans as a priority - giving different groups free hunts each season.
"It's a very therapeutic, a lot of times, weekend for them," the owner said.
The 1,200 natural acres of high-fenced property are also a prime place for hunters looking to bag a big buck - who are willing to pay big bucks to do it.
"It depends on the animal itself," Cornwell said. "They'll run anywhere from a $1,000 to $10,000."
So deer. behind the high fence are part of Rusty's livelihood, sort of like cattle.
While Rusty, of course, wants to protect the animals on his property, he says he's more concerned with the safety of the responsible hunters who are also on the other side of that high fence.
We've worked so hard to try to make a safe, enjoyable environment for our hunters," said Rusty Cornwell, owner of Trails End Sanctuary.
A poacher took that sense of security away last Saturday morning.
From the only county road that touches the sanctuary, someone fired a rifle from the road onto Rusty's property killing a nine-point buck - full of potential - and leaving him to waste.
"I would have hated for them to cut the fence and drag the thing out of there, but it actually probably makes me more mad that they shot it and just left it lay," he said.
More troubling than that, though, the bullet was headed straight toward some hunters who were hidden in a deer blind no more than 300 yards away. A shot that Rusty says could have very easily taken a human life instead.
"When people go by and they're shooting into somebody else's property, they don't know what's going on on that property," Cornwell said.
The poacher faces up to a $10,000 fine, jail time and restitution of about $5,000 to the animal's owner. Anyone with information can all the Operation Game Thief hotline anonymously at 1-800-522-8039. A cash reward for information is being offered.