elk poach
The bull elk that was poached in the incident. Credit: Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency

Tennessee Elk Poacher Left Animals to Rot

The poacher was banned from hunting for five years and given a $10,000 fine.

This week, a Tennessee county court convicted a local hunter of poaching after a 2023 incident in which he killed two elk and left them to rot in a wilderness area. According to Tuesday's announcement by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Preston William Douglas, a 34-year-old from Jacksboro, Tennessee, pleaded guilty on April 4 to two counts of illegally taking big game. 

According to the agency, an informant reported that he heard multiple shots during a deer hunt in the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area on the morning of Nov. 19, 2023, so he went over to the site to see what had happened. There, he ran into Douglas, who said he shot two deer — a doe and a six-point buck. 

However, the limit at the time was one deer per person, so wildlife officers tracked down Douglas using his license plate information. They visited Douglas at his home, where he told them that he shot his firearm but didn't kill anything. So officers returned to the hunting grounds, where they discovered the decomposing carcasses of a bull and cow elk. Authorities say the animals had gunshot wounds to their heads and bodies. 

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elk poach

Evidence collected by authorities in the elk poaching case. Credit: Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency

In response, authorities had the carcasses removed and taken to a nearby veterinary school for necropsy. They also recovered shell casings from a .40-caliber handgun and a 6.5 Creedmoor rifle as well as bullets from inside a gut pile. Then, they once again met with Douglas, who confessed to hunting and killing the animals and then leaving the carcasses behind. Officers charged him with a host of crimes related to the incident and seized his 6.5 Creedmoor rifle and .40-caliber handgun. 

As a result of his conviction, the state revoked Douglas's hunting license for five years, banned him from NCWMA for three years, and put him on supervised probation for three years. He also had to forfeit his rifle and handgun and was ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution, plus fines and court costs.

The TWRA said that since elk were introduced into Tennessee in 2000 there have been 14 reported cases of elk poaching. The agency added that elk tags in the state are only granted through a quota system.