copyright the Chronicle November 26, 2014
by Tena Starr
An Irasburg couple will be brought to court next month for allegedly running an elaborate deer poaching operation that included baiting and spotlights in their well concealed backyard and a gun portal in a wall of their house.
Wayne Dion, 66, and Jennie Dion, 63, are facing multiple charges related to deer baiting and illegal hunting, Major Dennis Reinhardt, who is in charge of law enforcement for the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, said Monday.
The Dions have been actively investigated for four or five years, he said. There have long been rumors, he said, but the department did not have enough evidence to get a search warrant until recently.
The Dions’ property was searched on the opening day of rifle season.
Wardens say they found 91 deer antler plaques and 15 shoulder mounts, seven chest freezers, and several plastic totes containing corn and apples, that wardens believe were used to illegally bait deer, a Fish and Wildlife press release says.
It says that wardens also found five spotlights pointed toward the backyard, which is enclosed by a 400-foot cedar hedge, and that there was a big pile of corn and apples in the yard with well worn game trails leading into it.
“Wardens discovered a sliding port cut into the back of the house with a rest similar to a gun rest found at a shooting range,” the press release says.
Also, wardens allegedly found a big nine-point buck that they believe was killed the night before rifle season opened, and it wasn’t tagged, as is required by law. Wardens say they seized the deer as well as the ATV they allege was used to drag it to the Dions’ basement.
Mr. Dion faces multiple charges, including taking big game in closed season, taking, transporting and possession of big game by illegal means, spotlighting wild animals, feeding deer, and failure to tag big game. Ms. Dion faces charges of aiding in a big game violation and possession of big game taken by illegal means.
Each charge carries a possible 60-day jail sentence and a fine of $250-$500 per offense. The couple also faces a three-year loss of hunting privileges, which can be reinstated only after successful completion of a remedial hunter ethics course.
The Dions are scheduled to be arraigned in Orleans Superior Court on December 29.
Officials said the arrests were a result of numerous anonymous tips from community members.
There have been rumors for years, Major Reinhardt said, and the Fish and Wildlife Department has had the Dions on their radar, but the evidence was insufficient until this fall to meet the standard needed for a search warrant.
It appears that over 100 deer were involved, Major Reinhardt said, but he does not know how many might have been taken illegally.
“That’s a lot of deer, but we don’t know how many years it’s spread over,” Major Reinhardt said.
“I do know they’re nicely developed racks,” he said. Some hunters are looking for meat and some place a lot of value on trophy racks, he noted.
He said he has not seen a poaching operation on that scale before. “It’s our first exposure to something like this.”
And he said he has no idea what anyone might do with that much venison.
“That’s a lot of meat. That’s one of the questions on the top of our list, too,” he said.
The Dions live at the end of a narrow dirt road in Irasburg. Their home borders the woods, and the back yard is completely hidden by dense cedars.
“No trespassing” and hand written “no hunting” signs are posted on utility poles approaching the property. A fake deer is set up by the cedars.
“Most Vermont hunters pursue game lawfully and respect hunting regulations,” said Major Reinhardt in a press release. “Those few who choose to poach animals face serious consequences and can seriously damage the hunting opportunities for those who follow the law.”
Anyone with information about fish or wildlife violations can report them anonymously by contacting Operation Game Thief at (800) 752-5378, or online at www.vtfishandwildlife.com.
Rewards are paid for information leading to an arrest. Game wardens can also be contacted through the local State Police barracks.
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