A 70-year-old-man was fined $20,000 this week after he illegally baited and shot a trophy deer on his property outside the hunting season in 2018, the El Dorado district attorney’s office said Thursday.
William Valden of Elverta pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges Tuesday for violating California Fish and Wildlife’s trophy animal rules, said prosecuting attorney Erin Tognetti. Valden will serve time through a work project or by wearing an ankle monitor. He also surrendered his rifle and camera and is under a three-year probation in which he is not allowed to hunt, Tognetti said.
The fine comes after California Fish and Wildlife game warden Dave Moskat noticed what appeared to be a camouflaged feeder shooting out grain while he was on his way to Somerset for a poaching call after the close of hunting season in 2017, said Lt. Stacey LaFave.
Feeders are typically perched on stilts and can be set on timers to spray food and attract animals. But in California, a “fair chase” is required instead of killing an animal over a pile of food, LaFave said.
Hunters are also required to carry a California permit called “deer tags” and submit detailed information showing where and when the animal was killed. A department official will sign off on the information, indicating it was a fair kill.
Moskat kept an eye on the property with surveillance cameras throughout the following deer season and learned Valden had purchased a deer tag.
Online records showed Valden declared he shot an animal a few days before the end of deer season and Moskat knew there was still bait on the property, LaFave said. That’s when Moskat noticed a strange signature and address listed on Valden’s tag.
When officials confronted Valden, he admitted he shot the deer in November after hunting season, lied about where he killed the buck and forged the signature of an official who previously signed off on his tags, LeFave said.
Valden and his attorney did not return requests for comment Thursday.
It’s unclear if Valden has previously shot trophy animals despite the close of hunting season, but LaFave said that “for a lot of those people that commit poaching crimes, it’s kind of a way of life for them.”