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News / Nation & World

‘The definition of poaching’: Conspiracy alleged after group hunted dozens of deer in California

By Ari Plachta, The Sacramento Bee
Published: April 27, 2024, 6:00am

SACRAMENTO — A group of Nevada County residents are facing charges in what hunting experts are calling one California’s largest deer poaching cases in years. Brought by District Attorney Jesse Wilson, six individuals allegedly conspired to commit several hunting crimes.

Led by one man, the complaint alleges that the group drove around at night through populated neighborhoods to poach deer with bows or rifles, using bright flashlights or car headlights to help target the animals.

Using these methods, the six are alleged to have killed possibly dozens of mules and bucks within and outside the lawful season. The district attorney said the six defendents also engaged in a conspiracy to transfer and forge hunting tags and permits.

The complaint also alleges that the defendants wasted game meat by removing and selling valuable parts of the deer — such as head, hide, antlers and horns — and leaving behind the rest of deer carcasses.

Bradley Chilton was named as the group’s ring leader, who allegedly sought to evade police pursuit and was in illegal possession of a firearm. A seventh individual is charged with helping Chilton escape arrest.

Others charged with felony conspiracy to commit poaching crimes include Travis Bort, Trevor Martini, James Brasier, Jon Pasadava and Mikayla Pasadava. The complaint charged Danielle Champeau with helping Chilton escape arrest.

The case is currently moving through the Nevada County court system.

To hunt deer legally in Nevada County or anywhere in California, hunters must possess a valid California hunting license and any required tags or permits for the specific type of deer they intend to hunt.

“These charges relate to anything but hunting. This is the type of activity that’s well within the definition of poaching,” said Patrick Foy, captain of the California Fish and Wildlife Department’s legal division.

Deer may not be a threatened species in California, but their populations could dwindle if recreational hunters don’t follow rules and regulations.

“Left unchecked,” Foy said, “egregious deer poaching from a geographical limited area will begin to affect the local deer population.”

Representatives of the district attorney’s office and the regional game warden did not respond to requests for comment.

Chilton is scheduled to enter a plea in court on April 26 in Nevada City.