The Pennsylvania Game Commission has charged six individuals after a shocking poaching spree. The accused poachers illegally shot hundreds of deer in the southcentral part of the state from August 2022 through January 2023. Three of the people facing poaching charges are juveniles, and three are adults — Hunter Atherton, Abigale Hoover, and Caillou Patterson.

Some of those killings, which were left to rot, happened in front yards and after legal spotlighting hours. Reports of dead animals and late-night gunfire started hitting dispatch in September 2022. By January, a description of the vehicle led officers to identify it at a gas station then later as the source of gunfire and a spotlight in the dark. The driver and two juveniles admitted to shooting at three deer that night. Wardens later found evidence of 26 illegal kills, plus seven additional attempts. The group told authorities they poached “100 to 200” deer in total. The shooting was done at night from the road. 

“It’s not unusual to have this ‘thrill-kill’,” Lt. Richard Danley, Pennsylvania Game Commission South Central Region law enforcement supervisor told The Bradford Era. “It is unusual to have this many. They were a pretty prolific group so there was an awful lot of killing going on.”

“It’s unsafe.  You don’t know what’s behind that target when you shoot in the dark,” Danley added. “A lot of these deer were shot in people’s front yards well within safety zones so if that bullet had been a miss, it could have shot somebody’s house.”

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In total, the group was charged with 113 counts of illegal wildlife killing and 207 counts of unlawful use of lights while hunting. There are also charges related to the car used during the crimes including 42 counts for a loaded firearm in a vehicle and 62 counts of using a vehicle to locate game. The adults were also charged with the corruption of minors. WHTM reports the charges range from felonies to misdemeanors with the potential for 36 months in prison and fines of up to $15,000.

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