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Luck, police work lead to poaching charges

A combination of old-fashioned police work, some CSI-style investigation and a large dose of luck led to the weekend jailing of two alleged poachers, authorities say.

Brad Anders of Medford and Brad Gutches of Medford, both 25, were arrested last weekend on seven wildlife crimes involving the illegal killing of four black-tailed deer in the upper Elk Creek drainage during the last weekend of the general rifle season.

Both men bailed out of the Jackson County Jail on Saturday as Oregon State Police Trooper Jim Collom put the finishing touches on what he considers to be one of the stranger investigations of his career.

It started as a near-hopeless deer-wasting case, but a complex web of interviews, search warrants, crime-lab investigations and some powers of observation allowed Collom to wrap up his case almost as quickly as it started.

"In a lot of cases, you just don't have a lot to go on," Collom says. "To have something like this all of a sudden fall into place is a stroke of luck. It was incredible."

The case began at 10 p.m. Oct. 27 when a landowner near the 11 mile-marker of Elk Creek Road reported that someone had shot and killed three deer that night in a pasture, leaving two of the deer to waste, according to court documents filed in the case.

Collom responded the following morning to the ranch, where he found two dead deer and evidence that a third deer was killed in the field then dragged through a fence to the adjacent road, a court affidavit states.

The landowner had found a .25-06 bullet casing and noticed what he believed to be a Jeep-like sports utility vehicle with a green body, a white top and a partial license number, records show.

As Collom talked to the landowner, a Jeep Wrangler similar to one used in the crime drove down the roadway, so Collom followed. He later stopped the vehicle, and discovered Anders driving and Gutches as a passenger, records show.

The pair had a three-point deer in the back of the Jeep, and the men said they shot it earlier that day, records show. The men denied being in the upper Elk Creek basin the night before, but the truck's partial license plate matched the one the witness saw the night before, records show.

Collom seized a .25-06-caliber rifle from Anders, the dead deer and a .30-06 bullet casing from inside the truck. Collom then returned to the scene, where he discovered a .25-06 bullet inside a dead forked horn buck that was left behind.

The next day, the landowner called to say evidence suggested a fourth deer was shot and removed from the property, where the landowner also found a .30-06 casing.

The OSP crime lab in Springfield later matched the .25-06 bullet and casing to Anders' gun, records show.

Collom obtained warrants Friday to search Gutches' Lark Lane residence in Central Point and Anders' residence on Willowdale Avenue in Medford.

Seized from Gutches' residence was a .30-06-caliber rifle, Collom says.

Anders was arrested at his residence during the Friday search, while Gutches, who was not home when his residence was searched, turned himself in Saturday morning at the OSP's office in Central Point, Collom says.

Each man was lodged in jail on two counts of unlawful taking of a deer and unlawful wasting of a deer, as well as one count each for illegally exceeding a bag limit, hunting on closed land of another, and unlawful possession of untagged game meat, records show. They were all misdemeanors.

The last charge stemmed from untagged meat found in each man's freezer, Collom says.

Both were released from jail after each posted $2,800 cash on Saturday, jail records show.

Both men were ordered to make their initial appearance on the charges Nov. 27 in Jackson County Circuit Court.

Gutches and Anders could not be reached for comment.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail mfreeman@mailtribune.com.