6 Poachers Slaughtered 100+ Deer "Just for Fun," Now Face 486 Charges

Pennsylvania Game Commission say a "thrill kill" at this level is unheard of.

We hate to hear about someone poaching one animal—but poaching over 100 deer is downright disgusting.

Six people in Pennsylvania were charged this week after going on a six-week killing spree of 100-200 deer. All the deer were left to rot where they were shot. What's more, not that this would be okay at any time of the year, but the slaughter took place largely out of hunting season from August 2022 to January 2023.

The poachers were comprised of three juveniles, as well as three 20-year-olds from Greencastle, PA—Hunter Atherton, Abigale Hoover, and Caillou Patterson. The adults face misdemeanor counts of taking game outside of hunting season, unlawfully using spotlights to track their prey at night and various other violations.

In addition, Atherton faces one count of reckless endangerment, stemming from an incident in which he allegedly shot across a fellow rear seat passenger and through an open sliding side door to try to bag one of the deer. The passenger stated he had to lean back to avoid getting hit, PennLive reported.

The three also face state charges for the corruption of minors. Three unnamed juveniles were also charged with poaching violations. Altogether the group racked up 486 charges, according to ABC27 News.

How The Poachers Were Caught


In September game commission officials started to receive reports of dead deer in front yards and fields in the Southern Franklin County area. The deer had been left to rot wherever they were shot.

A witness also reported an incident in which a vehicle stopped on the roadway and occupants shined a spotlight onto a group of deer in an adjacent field as shots were fired, killing at least one deer. The witness was unable to get a license plate number but did provide a description of the vehicle. In January, Game Warden Philip Bietsch noticed a vehicle at a local gas station that matched the eyewitness's description from September. He then waited along a stretch of roadway that had become a hotspot for poaching and caught the violators in the act.

In the car were one adult and two juveniles and a loaded .22 Magnum caliber rifle. Follow-up interviews implicated three other individuals, two adults and one juvenile, in the poaching spree on previous nights, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

The Charges

photography wildlife de/Getty

Some of these charges carry potentially lofty penalties, including a $15,000 fine and up to three years in jail. Wildlife restitution charges are still possible as well, which could rack up another $20,000 in fines.

Lt. Richard Danley, law enforcement supervisor for the Game Commission's South Central Region told Penn Live these poachers were, for one, very unsafe considering they shot in the dark: "You don't know what's behind that target when you shoot in the dark...a lot of these deer were shot in people's front yards, well within safety zones. So, if that bullet had been a miss, it could have shot somebody's house."

Beyond safety issues, poaching is simply unethical.

"When somebody goes out and does something like this, they are essentially stealing from everyone else out there who enjoys wildlife whether you are a hunter who goes out and harvests game for the table, or whether you are a wildlife enthusiast who just enjoys seeing them," Danley said. "This particular group of people were just taking from everyone."

What's Next for the Poachers

A preliminary hearing for Atherton, Hoover and Patterson is tentatively scheduled for July 18.

According to Pennsylvania Game Commission the poachers expressed a complete disregard for wildlife resources during the time from fall 2022 into winter 2023 when they poached several dozen deer.

"It's not unusual to have this 'thrill-kill'," Danley told PennLive. "It is unusual to have this many. They were a pretty prolific group, so there was an awful lot of killing going on."