A Marion County farmer says it was a mercy killing, and the Iowa authorities say he is lying about the whole affair.
Longtime Marion County farmer Marvin James Clark says the whitetail buck he found three years ago was stuck in a creek bottom and suffering from a broken leg when he chose to shoot the animal.
Here’s where the story does a complete 180.
The Iowa DNR and other authorities say that he is lying and that the trophy buck was actually killed by an Oklahoma man hunting illegally in the state of Iowa.
Can you say “controversy”?
Iowa has gained an amazing reputation as a trophy-deer destination, and with it comes the inevitable poaching cases.
Conservation agents in Iowa who are tasked with enforcing the laws that govern the state’s wildlife are up against a scourge of out-of-state poaching and it is becoming increasingly worse.
Maybe the biggest issue at hand for all involved: money.
This particular set of antlers from this trophy deer, which includes a distinctive black-tipped drop tine, is valued anywhere from $5,000 to upwards of $20,000.
On the morning of Nov. 11, 2012, Clark said he was plowing in a field near the banks of English Creek when he saw a big buck struggling with a broken leg at the bottom of the steep banks.
“The bone was sticking through the leg between the knee and the hip,” said Clark “You could actually see the bone.”
Clark then returned to his home, fetched his bow, and then dispatched the deer saying that he had an unused landowner/tenant tag. Now faced with getting a deer estimated to be between 250 and 300 pounds up the sheer bank, he cut off the head and moved it first.
He returned later with his brother to haul up the body which they said was “full of infection.” The meat was not kept.
Almost exactly one year later on Nov. 13, 2013, agents from the conservation department descended upon a rural garage in Marion County investigating a tip that four Oklahoma men were there illegally hunting.
After talking with all involved, Leonard Monks, the 56-year-old father of two of the men, admitted that they had been hunting and in fact had hunted Iowa the previous year as well without the non-resident tags needed to do so.
On a microwave in the corner of the garage was a huge set of deer horns with one large black-tipped drop tine. The same set of antlers that Clark said he harvested and is fighting to keep.
The conservation officers then seized the rack as evidence in the poaching case against the Oklahoma men, including Rodney Alexander, their host in Iowa and a close friend to one Marvin James Clark.
Clark said that he took the antlers to the garage so he could show them off to the men who he already knew. When the DNR agents found the antlers, they were clearly marked with Clark’s landowner/tenant tag and had a harvest date that coincided with his original story: Nov. 11, 2012.
Benjamin Hayek, Assistant Marion County Attorney said that Clark’s story was “self-serving” and “incredible.” Iowa game laws dictate that a harvested deer must be tagged within 15 minutes of being found and may not be transported without its head and antlers attached, which by Clark’s own admission he did not do.
Hayek said, “No evidence of lawful possession of the antlers has ever been provided to conservation agents. Instead, conservation officers have been presented with a series of self-serving, incredible, after-the-fact excuses regarding why, in Marvin Clark’s view, he should be excused from following the law.”
Not only that, but conservation officers believe they have evidence that one of the Oklahoma men, Todd Monks, is the one who shot the deer in November of 2012 and tagged the trophy using Clark’s tag.
In October 2015, a district court judge threw out the misdemeanor charge leveled by the DNR against Mr. Clark concerning the kill, but the county prosecutor is fighting for the state to keep the expensive antlers using an Iowa law that says law enforcement can permanently seize evidence gathered in criminal investigations if the property was never legal to possess in the first place.
Innocent until proven guilty, but the questions remain: why didn’t Clark just use the machine he was plowing with to pull the deer out? He went back for his bow, but not back for a rope? Maybe the biggest question is if it was a legal kill, of such a trophy with a possible payday like that, why wasn’t he jumping for joy and showing it off to the world like the rest of us would have?
The Oklahoma “hunters” have all been convicted on various unlawful hunting charges relating to the killing of the big buck. Clark faces trial in March, 2016 for aiding and abetting charges stemming from the use of his pickup truck loaned to the men from Oklahoma while they hunted.
Clark’s misdemeanor charge of possessing the trophy buck was thrown out by District Judge Gregory Hulse citing the fact that the statute of limitations for the offence had run out.
Pictures via Des Moines Register