An energy drink and a chewing tobacco can left at the scene ultimately sealed their fate.
Wyoming Game and Fish Department wardens charged Matthew Mulcare and Joel Newberry in late December as suspects in the poaching of two buck deer on the winter range near Big Sandy.
When Pinedale warden Jordan Kraft arrived on the scene Nov. 12 he found a headless deer missing one hind quarter and one front quarter. Near the body, he found a can of Copenhagen Long Cut chewing tobacco.
Two days later, biologists and a warden in the area found another deer along with a can of Monster Energy Rehab drink.
Kraft figured the two deer, and the accompanying litter, were connected.
Hoping for luck, Kraft went to convenience stores in the area to first see if any sold the two products and, second, if both items had been sold early in the morning.
A store in Boulder fit the bill. The surveillance photos from the store showed two men, Mulcare and Newberry, buying the drink and chewing tobacco and leaving in a four-door tan Dodge pickup. The truck, and the men, matched descriptions given by witnesses to the poaching, Kraft said.
Kraft used a credit card receipt from the store to find their names. Mulcare’s truck tires matched those from the scene, Kraft said.
Investigators believe the two men shot the first deer but couldn’t find it and then shot another, Kraft said.
Wardens found the missing quarters and head in a ditch behind Mulcare’s house in Moorcroft, along with shell casings and a bloody knife in his house. They also found a bag with blood on it in Newberry’s house that matched one in a photo taken of the deer in the back of Mulcare’s truck, Kraft said.
Both deer were large, non-typical bucks, he said.
“I kind of thought it was a long shot looking at the items, but that was the physical evidence we had at the scene,” Kraft said.
It’s not the first time investigators in Wyoming have used surveillance video to catch poachers, said Brian Nesvik, chief game warden for the Game and Fish Department.
Several years ago, wardens tracked down a poacher using a receipt they found in a 12-pack of beer left behind at a scene, he said.
Poaching crimes on the winter range in southwest Wyoming are treated as a high priority in part because deer are in the middle of their rut, often near roads and vulnerable to poaching, he said.
Game and Fish officials solve more than half of Wyoming’s known serious poaching cases that involve killing an animal out of season, without a license, Nesvik said.
“By and large, 99.9 percent of our folks in the state abide by and respect wildlife laws,” Nesvik said. “But for those who don’t, we are going to pursue those cases vehemently.”
Mulcare and Newberry are scheduled to make their initial court appearances later this month.