High-Fence Outfitter Pleads Guilty to Poaching

By Brodie SwisherMarch 16, 202311 Comments

A high-fence outfitter in southern Illinois recently found himself on the wrong side of the law when his actions outside the fence, landed him a number of hunting violations with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR).

The IDNR released a report stating that 58-year-old Jerry Stafford, of Vienna, entered a negotiated plea on January 5th to one count of unlawful take in connection with the illegal harvest of an 8-point and 12-point wild, whitetail deer.

But it doesn’t stop there. Stafford also pleaded guilty to one count of open dumping for improper disposal of animal carcasses.

For his actions, Stafford was given 24 months court supervision and ordered to pay $20,200 in restitution to the IDNR.

High Fence Outfitter Pleads Guilty To Poaching
Jerry Stafford of Samson's Mountain offers high-fenced hunts for whitetail deer and elk, but it was his actions outside the fence that landed him in trouble with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Photo: SamsonsMountain.com

Stafford runs a “high-fence” shooting facility, called Samson’s Mountain. It’s become a popular hunting destination for hunters that prefer to pay a fee for the opportunity to shoot a deer within the confines of a high-fenced property.  

However, Illinois conservation officers took notice and began an investigation when the Samson’s Mountain began offering “low-fence” hunts throughout the Illinois deer hunting season. 

Check out the video below for a look at the buck that helped Stafford and Samson’s Mountain gain popularity in the high-fenced hunting world. 

Investigators found that Stafford’s guides took clients outside the high-fence area to hunt deer in the wild. Seems fair enough, right? However investigators found a number of issues in play and the violations quickly began to add up. 

Violations included: outfitting or guiding without a permit, uncased firearms in vehicles, hunting with the aid of a motor vehicle and the use of lights, hunting before legal shooting hours, hunting without permission and violating tagging requirements.

Investigators also documented evidence of fallow deer, javelinas, and aoudad escaping the high-fence facility.

“We appreciate the assistance of our partner agencies in bringing this case to justice, and I would encourage anyone who is aware of poaching crimes in Illinois to come forward with tips,” said Jed Whitchurch, Director of the IDNR Office of Law Enforcement. “Conservation laws are in place to ensure wildlife resources are around for future generations to enjoy. People have a responsibility to understand these laws and to follow them.”

This case was filed in Johnson County following a joint investigation between IDNR and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Other agencies involved in the investigation included the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, the Illinois Department of Revenue and Illinois State Police air operations.

Brodie Swisher
Brodie Swisher is a world champion game caller, outdoor writer, seminar speaker and Editor for Bowhunting.com. Brodie and his family live in the Kentucky Lake area of west Tennessee.
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