Sunday, December 4, 2011
It was the largest typical whitetail harvested in North America in 2009, a 197 2/8-inch behemoth that lorded over Adams County. It ranked as the fourth-largest all-time typical ever record by the Buckeye Big Buck Club. Or at least it did until authorities figured out it was poached. Last week Johnny B. Clay of Minford, Ohio, pleaded guilty in Adams County Court to four wildlife violations -- taking a deer in a closed season, hunting without permission, hunting without a license and hunting without a deer permit. Clay was ordered to pay $25,206.05 in fines, restitution and court costs, and to forfeit the deer and the bow he used to kill it. Investigators said Clay shot the deer in Adams County, then took it to Kentucky and claimed to have killed it on public land in that state.
Concerned citizens contacted Ohio Wildlife officers Chris Rice and Chris Gilkey about the questionable taking of the trophy deer in March 2010. Upon closer investigation, the officers discovered that the deer was unlawfully taken in Adams County, Ohio in 2009. Conservation officers confiscated the deer March 21 from a booth at the Ohio Deer & Turkey Expo in Columbus, where Clay was displaying it as the Kentucky state record. The booth belonged to Outdoor Insights television, whose producers were unaware that the deer was taken illegally. Outdoor Insights had produced an interview video of Clay describing how he killed the deer, with images of his trophy room where he displays his kills. Clay has lost his hunting privileges for life in Ohio and will be entered into the Wildlife Violator's Compact, which will likely cost him his hunting privileges in 33 other states as well.
Clay has 10 prior wildlife convictions and has served jail time for some of them. More than $23,000 of Clay's costs is restitution imposed by the Division of Wildlife in accordance with Ohio's revised restitution law for illegal taking of white-tailed deer. The law went into effect March 2008 and allows the Division of Wildlife to seek an increased recovery value on all illegally harvested wildlife.