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Police investigate mule deer poaching

State police are investigating whether a Fort Rock rancher allowed a group of Roseburg area men to poach at least 15 mule deer in the past two years during shoot-anything-you-can expeditions to reduce damage to the ranch's alfalfa crop, authorities said.

Two Glide men were found Sunday with six dead mule deer bucks while camped on a 1,600-acre ranch owned by Phill Wagner, according to the Oregon State Police.

The men confessed to being part of a group of six friends who admitted killing nine additional mule deer bucks on the ranch last year, and they claimed that Wagner welcomed them, OSP Sgt. Jack Slezak said.

They were big, beautiful deer, Slezak said. It makes you sick.

Wagner said he allowed the men to shoot rabbits, coyotes, badgers and sage rats on the ranch, but he denied allowing or encouraging the shooting of deer.

I feel really bad about it, Wagner said Wednesday. I had no idea what was going on there. I should have been paying more attention.

Troopers on Sunday cited Thomas Rondeau III, 22, and Jason Spradley, 20, on six counts of taking a deer in closed season, which is a Class A misdemeanor. They were ordered to appear in a Lake County court Jan. 6.

Troopers seized a .30-.30-caliber rifle and the six antler racks, and donated the meat to the needy through the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, OSP reports state.

The case began when OSP troopers received an anonymous tip that two men were headed to Wagner's ranch to shoot anything they could find, Slezak said.

Trooper Darin Bean and Senior Trooper Greg Cazemier set up surveillance on the ranch Saturday and Sunday, but a series of hills concealed most of the ranch from view, Bean said.

On Sunday, Bean and Cazemier approached Wagner, who led them to a camp where the troopers found Rondeau and Spradley skinning a mule deer buck, Bean said.

The men confessed to killing the bucks and knew they were hunting without legal tags and out of season, Bean said.

It's kind of the out-of-sight, I-don't-think-we'll-get-caught mentality, Bean said.

There was no evidence of the men shooting anything but the bucks, Bean said.

The men then led police to four others in the Glide area who were part of a similar expedition last year that netted nine bucks, Slezak said.

OSP troopers late Sunday and early Monday issued citations for various misdemeanor wildlife violations to these men, all from the Roseburg-Glide area: Ryan Schneider, 20; Jacob Spradley, 19; WyittSchneider, 22; and Michael Spencer, 21. The Schneiders and Spradleys are cousins.

Police recovered eight of the nine antler racks from the deer killed last year on Wagner's property. Police also cited three of the men on several misdemeanors alleging the illegal killing of at least three blacktail deer this year in Douglas County, police said.

Wagner said he met Rondeau in the late 1990s when Rondeau asked to shoot sage rats on his property. Wagner said he did not know any deer had been shot illegally.

If somebody was starving, I wouldn't mind if they took a deer, but I won't tell them to break the law, Wagner said. We're good farmers. We don't break the law.

Slezak said Wagner likely will be cited on a misdemeanor alleging he aided in the illegal taking of wildlife.

We have four guys who will go to court and testify that he said 'shoot anything you want,' Slezak said.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail