Milesburg Man Sentenced in Illegal Elk Killing Case

Left, to right, WCOs Dan Murray, Dave Stewart and Mark Gritzer, and Northcentral Region Law Enforcement Supervisor Rick Macklem pose with the antlers seized in the poaching investigation that has led to charges against three Centre County men. The 10- by 9-point rack at right initially was measured at 432 7/8 inches, based on standards set forth by the Boone & Crockett big-game scoring program. Only two bulls legally harvested in Pennsylvania have scored higher. The rack from the 5-by-7 bull is at left, and the sawed-off antlers from the 4-by-5 can be seen in front of it. (Provided photo)

Left, to right, WCOs Dan Murray, Dave Stewart and Mark Gritzer, and Northcentral Region Law Enforcement Supervisor Rick Macklem pose with the antlers seized in the poaching investigation that has led to charges against three Centre County men. The 10- by 9-point rack at right initially was measured at 432 7/8 inches, based on standards set forth by the Boone & Crockett big-game scoring program. Only two bulls legally harvested in Pennsylvania have scored higher. The rack from the 5-by-7 bull is at left, and the sawed-off antlers from the 4-by-5 can be seen in front of it. (Provided photo)

CLEARFIELD – A Milesburg man was sentenced in Clearfield County Court for his part in the illegal killing of three elk.

Cody Allen Lyons, 20, 304 High St., Milesburg, pleaded guilty to unlawful killing or taking of big game and several summary charges. He was sentenced to 30 days to six months in jail and one year consecutive probation. He was fined $10,450 plus costs and he must pay more than $3,800 in restitution.

Prior to sentencing, Lyons stated that he had learned his lesson and he would never do this again.

District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr. referred to the case as a “senseless crime.” The fines were mandatory and the restitution is to replace the animals, he said.

In October, Frank Gordon Buchanan, 25, 224 Moose Run Rd., Bellefonte, who was identified as the shooter, pleaded guilty to three counts of unlawful killing or taking of big game and summaries.  He was sentenced by District Judge Jerome Nevling to 90 days to 18 months in jail and he was fined $11,050. He was also ordered to pay restitution.

Buchanan shot the animals while sitting with his co-defendants in a vehicle at night in Karthaus. If the largest of these elk had been killed legally, he would have ranked as the third largest bull elk ever killed in Pennsylvania, according to a previous article.

Also charged in this case is Jeffrey Scott Bickle, 49, 117 Dublinwood Dr., Bellefonte.

Shaw credited Mark Gritzer, a Wildlife Conservation Officer with the Pennsylvania Game Commission for solving the case.

According to the affidavit of probable cause, on Sept. 9 a concerned person contacted the Pennsylvania Game Commission to report a dead bull elk near Karthaus. A Wildlife Conservation Officer investigating the case found the elk had been illegally killed at a proposed site for a generation plant on the River Hill Power property. The antlers were missing. It was determined the elk was just over two years old and was killed on Sept. 8.

On Sept. 15, an officer returned at night to the site to patrol the area where elks could be heard bugling. As he parked and watched, another vehicle approached. It was participating in recreational spotlighting but kept stopping. Each time it stopped the headlights of the vehicle were turned off.

After about half an hour, the vehicle was parked about 400 yards away from the officer when the spotlight was turned on and the officer heard a gunshot. The officer activated his emergency lights and instructed the occupants of the vehicle to get out of the vehicle and get on the ground. Lyons, who was in the backseat of the vehicle, stated that it was Buchanan, who shot at the elk. Bickle was the driver.

Another officer appeared on the scene and found a rifle, a spotlight and a silver canister lying behind the patrol vehicle. The caliber of the rifle matched the evidence in the previously killed elk case.  A search of the vehicle uncovered a hand saw that was contaminated with elk hair.

When he spoke with the officer, Buchanan admitted to firing at the elk. Because of foggy conditions, they did not search for the animal. In an interview at the police station, Buchanan also admitted to killing the elk on Sept. 8. Later he provided the antlers of that animal to the officers.

The game commission officers returned to the area on Sept. 16 where they found a large bull elk lying dead in a field. It was revealed the bull was shot in the neck with a high caliber rifle. This bull’s rack exceeded the 400 inch class of the Boone and Crockett scoring measurement system.

While gathering evidence at the scene, officers found another elk bull about 350 yards away.

When Lyons was interviewed by police, he admitted to driving Buchanan to the scene on Sept. 8. In his interview, Bickle said he operated the vehicle on Sept. 15 and that Buchanan had shot the smaller of the elks that night. They left the area to return to Snow Shoe to get a chainsaw. When they returned, Buchanan shot the larger elk by firing out of the driver’s window.

Buchanan confessed to killing all three elks and said his intention was to sell the antlers on E-Bay. He also admitted he had thrown the rifle from the vehicle window before the officer approached the vehicle. He stated Lyons held the spotlight both times during the killings on Sept. 15.

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