Western South Dakota's Only Ranch Station

Poachers convicted after seven-year investigation

SIOUX FALLS, S.D.  – Authorities in Wyoming announced convictions of three men, including one man from South Dakota, involved in a large poaching case.

Last week, officials with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department announced David Underwood, of Edgemont, SD, Robert Underwood, of Oklahoma, and Russel Vick, of Alabama, will pay $171,230 in fines and $131,550 in restitution for convictions in crimes committed more than a decade ago.

Both David and Robert Underwood are former residents of Gillette, Wyoming and authorities said the investigation started by sending a deer head to Alabama for taxidermy work with Vick. A Gillette game warden discovered Vick had a Wyoming address and Wyoming resident hunting licenses and found conflicting information when sending the deer head to his taxidermy with an Alabama address.

Robert Underwood

That spurred a seven-year investigation spanning four states and thousands of investigation hours. Charges were brought in four Wyoming counties.

In May 2017, David Underwood had his South Dakota home searched by federal agents, while Vick’s Alabama home was being searched at the same time. Officials collected numerous elk, deer, pronghorn mounts, a bighorn sheep ram mount and digital evidence.

David Underwood pled guilty to accessory to the killing of the bighorn sheep ram in 2006 and was ordered to pay $5,035 in fines and $5,000 in restitution by a judge in Weston County, Wyoming.

In Campbell County, Wyoming, David Underwood faced 16 wildlife charges from 2005 to 2015 which included illegally killing a buck antelope and pheasants without a license. He pleaded no contest to eight charges and the plea deal included $7,010 in fines and $3,000 in restitution.

Russell Vick

He lost his Wyoming hunting, fishing and trapping privileges for a combined 20 years and forfeited a bighorn sheep ram shoulder mount, three buck antelope, eagle parts, elk antlers, elk meat and two buck mule deer.

“We particularly want to thank special agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state wildlife law enforcement officers in Oklahoma, Alabama and South Dakota, as well as several Wyoming game wardens who investigated violations that took place within their districts,” Rick King, Game and Fish chief game warden, said in a news release. “Dozens of people worked hard to make sure that even though some of these violations occurred a decade or more ago, they would not go unpunished.”

Vick received prison time and other penalties in four Wyoming counties, while Robert Underwood pleaded no contest to crimes in two Wyoming counties and was sentenced to jail for 50 days

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Stu Whitney / South Dakota News Watch

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