A search of the Flagstaff home of a hunting guide on Thursday brought about the discovery of five mule-deer trophies that law enforcement officers suspect were poached, according to the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
The deer were found in the home of Loren McReynolds after several federal and state agencies served him a search warrant.
The warrant was the culmination of a multiyear investigation into the hunting activities of McReynolds.
Investigators recovered the mule deer trophies, including the antlers of a nontypical mule deer that law enforcement officers suspect was poached in Grand Canyon National Park, where hunting is not allowed.
A nontypical deer is one with unique antlers. Arizona Game and Fish suspect that the deer found in McReynolds' home was a popular animal that was easily recognizable to people at the Grand Canyon.
“People got used to seeing this deer so we were a little suspicious when it stopped showing up,” said Scott Fischer, who manages Arizona Game and Fish’s Operation Game Thief Program.
McReynolds has a previous history of alleged wildlife violations, and was arrested in January 2017 on charges of weapons violations and killing federally protected burros north of Williams, according to Game and Fish.
Fischer said McReynolds was also a licensed guide, meaning he would know that hunting was illegal in Grand Canyon National Park.
“He is a licensed guide so he is considered one of the professionals of the hunting world,” Fischer said. “He would be aware of our laws and has been the subject of other investigations in the past.”
Gene Elms, Law Enforcement Branch chief for the Arizona Game and Fish Department, expressed the same sentiment.
“The department has received many complaints about McReynolds’ hunting activities over the years. Thanks to those individuals who came forward and the diligence of our investigators, we have the evidence to pursue criminal charges for McReynolds’ actions.”
However, the department has not filed charges.
Fischer said Arizona Game and Fish wanted to notify the public about an ongoing investigation regarding McReynolds despite having no charges because of the high number of complaints the department receives about him.
“We wanted to let the public know we are conducting an ongoing investigation,” Fischer said. “We have received numerous complaints about illegal activity and we want people to know we are not ignoring their concerns.”
If eventually charged and convicted, McReynolds could face jail time and the suspension of his hunting privileges.
The Arizona Game and Fish Commission also has authority to seek civil restitution for the loss of wildlife to the state.
McReynolds could not be reached for comment.