dead heads
Credit: South Dakota TIPs/Facebook

'55 Dead Heads in Various Stages of Decomposition' Recovered from Deer Poacher's House

We’re not talking about the fans of the krunchy jam band known as the Grateful Dead but rather, the dead heads of animals.

Dead heads are illegal to possess for any reason in South Dakota without approval. We're not talking about the dedicated fans of the krunchy jam band known as the Grateful Dead but rather the severed heads of animals. And South Dakota's wildlife agency wants you to know that. Through the agency's Facebook page "Turn In Poachers," or TIPs, it recently shared images of a major score last December when officers found so many dead heads that they filled an entire truck bed.

How the dead heads were found

According to the post, wildlife officers responded to reports of multiple dead deer in western Pottery County, South Dakota, in the late summer of 2020. An investigation identified at least 12 deer taken without a proper license.

However, they found one defendant who operated with complete disregard for wildlife laws. They said they removed "55 dead heads in various stages of decomposition" from his property in Gettysburg, South Dakota. And how he came to take the deer was more shocking.

dead heads

The 55 dead heads are in various stages of decomposition. Credit: TIPs/Facebook

By interviewing other suspects and reviewing video from their investigation, authorities discovered that the defendant had roped two live whitetail bucks. Then, he tied them to the hitch of his pickup and attempted to ear tag them. They also found other videos and images showing him posing with dead trophy whitetails at night and out of season.

Following the investigation, the case made its way through the court system over three years. While initially, he faced 15 Class 1 misdemeanors, he ended up signing a plea agreement in which he pleaded guilty to 12 Class 1 misdemeanors. He admitted to hunting or taking big game at night and during a closed season.

Then, in December 2023, the court sentenced him to 30 days in jail, a $24,000 civil fine, a $6,000 criminal fine, $1,158 of court costs, a loss of hunting privileges for eight years, and he had to forfeit all firearms used in the crimes.