TWRA officers Jereme Odom and Dale Grandstaff stand in front of the confiscated trophies. Also pictured are (from center to right) Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Resources Officers Ken Richards and U.S. Fish and Wildlife officers Jason Godwin and Jeremy Curtis.
CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. --- Four Tennessee men are facing a litany of federal and state charges for killing trophy sized white-tailed deer primarily off Fort Campbell Military Installation. Trespassing in the area where the crimes were committed is prohibited, but wooded habitat and a lack of hunting pressure creates an ideal home for mature and impressive bucks.
Tennessee and Kentucky agencies and Fort Campbell military police worked together to investigate what has apparently been years of poaching activity as the suspects actually risked their own lives by sneaking onto the impact area of Fort Campbell where the military has munitions training. Despite the dangers of entering an area where unexploded ordinance is common, the lure of bucks with massive antlers apparently created an overwhelming temptation.
“They were taking their chances and they were having success,” noted Dale Grandtstaff, who along with fellow Montgomery County officer Jereme Odom, helped apprehend two of the suspects on Nov. 26. A press conference was held Dec. 17 near Fort Campbell with the TWRA officers, two U.S. Fish and Wildlife officers, and a Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources officer available for the media.
“Deer are not endangered in Tennessee, but these guys were going onto an area where others aren’t allowed to hunt and basically deciding that Fort Campbell’s no trespassing signs didn’t apply to them, nor did any wildlife laws,” said Grandstaff. “There are a lot of real sportsmen who would like a chance to hunt big bucks, but they follow the rules.”
Odom said many of the bucks were taken to a taxidermist and mounted as trophies, which only helped to “perpetuate” the illegal acts as the suspects’ collection of big mounts grew.
“They were poaching, but they were showing these animals off as trophies to be proud of,” said Odom. “Honest hunters would never take pride in killing a deer illegally, but we will probably always have a small percentage (of those) who cheat.”
Odom said it was officers with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stationed on Fort Campbell that notified him and Grandstaff (along with other agencies and military police) that they had spotted two men entering the impact area on the 26th.
A foot search eventually culminated with Grandstaff and Odom confronting 43-year-old Jim Edward Page of Clarksville. After a brief discussion with Page, the officers also got 45-year-old Curtis Wallace of Dover—who was pursuing deer in the same general location—to admit he was trespassing.
“This began several weeks of investigations that has led us to two more suspects,” said Odom. “We have collected 41 deer mounts or antlers from the current suspect’s homes and we are still investigating the case.”
The investigation also turned up 43-year-old Wendell Taylor of the Big Rock community in Stewart County, and 41-year-old Gregory Crokarell of Dover.
“Taylor has similar charges as those that Page and Wallace are facing, while Crokarell has a couple of similar charges, but will also face aiding and abetting violations because we believe he took the deer to taxidermists for mounting,” said Odom.
Wallace has already agreed to a settlement in Stewart County General Sessions Court on multiple charges. Wallace lost his hunting privileges for seven years, was ordered to pay court costs and fines of $2,500, was placed on one year of probation, and ordered to surrender his treasured deer mounts, worth thousands of dollars. Wallace also faces a long list of charges by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and possible charges by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.
Page and Taylor have general session court dates in January and face multiple charges of and have pending federal charges against them and possible prosecution coming from Kentucky officials. Crokarell has a general sessions court date set for January in Tennessee.
Fort Campbell Military Installation straddles the Tennessee and Kentucky state lines, a reason why so many agencies became involved in the investigation.
“This is one of the largest deer poaching busts ever made in Tennessee,” noted Odom. “It certainly has to stand out as perhaps the largest big deer busts ever made. We appreciate all the agencies and personnel who have spent time on this case working to collect information.”