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.
“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.