DNR: Michigan man charged in poaching of 9 trophy bucks

Ernst facing 15 DNR charges

Eight of the nine sets of deer antlers suspected of being poached by Justin Ernst, 33, of Decatur. Ernst faces over $59,000 in reimbursement to the state, if convicted, for the suspected poaching of nine bucks. He is scheduled to reappear in court on Dec. 20. (Michigan DNR)

A Michigan man who is already a convicted felon is facing 15 DNR charges after officers discovered nine poached trophy bucks in a barn.

Police investigating an October domestic violence complaint discovered the bucks in a barn located in Decatur. Michigan DNR officers determined the illegal, trophy deer belonged to a previously convicted felon who is suspected of driving his truck through fields, shining and shooting deer.

Justin Ernst, 33, Decatur, faces up to $59,500 in reimbursement to the state if convicted of the more than one dozen violations he was charged with. He was arraigned Nov. 9 in 7th District Court in Paw Paw and is scheduled to reappear in court on Dec. 20.

Ernst has a prior DNR conviction from 2018 for illegally taking or possessing whitetail deer. Previous felony charges on record for Ernst include possession of methamphetamine or ecstacy, third-degree fleeing a police officer and third offense (felony) operating a vehicle under the influence of liquor.

Related: Camping, lodging fees go up at Michigan state parks, 1st increase in 4 years

“It’s a shame that this criminal ruined the chance for ethical, legal hunters to have their opportunity to take one of these trophy deer,” said Lt. Gerald Thayer, of the Michigan DNR Law Enforcement Division. “Not only did this felon steal from the natural resource, he also damaged agriculture crops, and has been doing so for some time. The financial penalty is the minimum he should serve.”

The 15 DNR charges pending against Ernst include:

  • Two counts of firearm possession by a felon.
  • Two felony firearms violations.
  • One count of hunting with a revoked hunting license.
  • One count of applying for, or obtaining, a hunting license when ineligible.
  • Nine counts of taking game illegally.

(Read more on the case here from the Michigan DNR)

Conservation Officers Tyler Cole, left, and Matt Page with eight deer heads that were suspected to have been poached by Justin Ernst, 33, of Decatur. (Michigan DNR)

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Ken Haddad is the digital content and audience manager for WDIV / ClickOnDetroit.com. He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters. He's been with WDIV since 2013. He enjoys suffering through Lions games on Sundays in the fall.