KENT COUNTY, Mich. (FOX 2) - A man is accused of shooting at least 13 deer from his truck in west Michigan.
According to the Department of Natural Resources, eight tips led conservation officers to 29-year Edward Trout, of Cedar Springs.
Tipsters had reported nighttime gunfire and finding deer carcasses in Kent County's Nelson and Spencer townships.
In January, Conservation Officers Casey Varriale and Justin Ulberg began investigating the tips, and would find deer that appeared to have been shot from the road. By Feb. 13, officers investigated 13 deer that had been shot and abandoned in the two townships.
After hearing several news stories about the poaching, a tipster anonymously contacted the Report All Poaching hotline on Feb. 14. The tipster reported local rumors of Trout driving around shooting deer from his vehicle.
Varriale interviewed Trout, who admitted to three instances of going out and shooting at deer. He said it "relieved frustration by driving around at night, listening to music and occasionally shooting his pistol into vacant fields from his pickup truck," often while under the influence of alcohol and/or marijuana.
He admitted that he shot at least five deer, the DNR said, and provided a map of locations.
During the investigation, officers discovered that, since 2020, Trout has a history of driving around at night and shooting deer from his vehicle. He initially denied these allegations until he was shown text messages where he openly told people about it.
Trout is also accused of taking snapping turtles at Pine Lake in Cedar Springs. This happened after he failed to appear for a June 3 court date, the DNR said.
In Michigan, snapping turtles can be harvested from July 15-Sept. 15 using a trap or a hook and line. Varriale began investigating a tip on June 7.
The caller reported that Trout has been seen fishing late at night and leaving multiple lines unattended. Additionally, Trout had been seen spearing and leaving snapping turtles on the shore. Varriale found multiple speared turtles, including one with a spear still in it, among other evidence.
The DNR said Trout blamed family members for the unattended fishing lines, and told investigators he speared the snapping turtles because he feared for his children’s safety while they were fishing.
"We’re grateful for the concerned community members who reported the many dead, gunshot deer that were discovered throughout these communities, which helped officers identify a suspect," said Chief Dave Shaw, DNR Law Enforcement Division. "The suspect has continued to display repetitive, unethical behavior while stealing public trust resources and allowing them to go to waste."
Trout is charged with two counts of hunting and fishing without a license; taking game from a vehicle; taking, possessing deer out of season, and using illegal fishing devices.
Trout’s hunting and fishing privileges have been suspended until he is scheduled to reappear in court on July 19. He faces jail time, reimbursement to the state for illegally taken wildlife, court costs and losing his hunting and fishing privileges. Officers seized Trout’s firearm, crossbow, homemade spear, and other evidence.
Anyone with information about wildlife crimes can anonymously contact the DNR's Report All Poaching hotline by calling 1-800-292-7800 or using the online reporting form available at Michigan.gov/RAP.