By JOSH NEWTON
Prosecutors filed charges Friday against a Park Hill man accused of illegally harvesting a rare piebald buck that was somewhat famous in the Keys area.
District 27 Assistant District Attorney Wes Combs said James D. Delaney, 57, is accused of failing to produce a license upon demand by a game warden; illegal taking of deer without a resident hunting license; and possession of deer not legally taken.
Wildlife officials received a tip through social media last week that led them to conduct an investigation into the death of “Patches,” a buck given its name by Keys residents, who have reported sightings of the deer for about the past five years, according to Combs.
“The buck was famous,” said Combs. “Some people fed him, and everybody would take pictures of him.”
Research shows Patches’ genetic variation could be as rare as 1 in 20,000. While Oklahoma law no longer places restrictions on the harvest of piebald deer, hunters must follow state hunting regulations - and game wardens allege Patches’ death was not carried out legally.
According to a report by Game Warden Brady May, the investigation into the buck’s death lasted several days.
The piebald buck was discovered injured and unable to get up on private property near Horseshoe Bend Road Tuesday morning, game wardens learned. Wildlife officers do not know how the buck was initially injured.
According to May’s report, a property owner notified Delaney about the buck’s injuries at about 9 a.m. Tuesday morning.
Delaney allegedly tried to contact a game warden Tuesday, but when the officer returned the call, Delaney failed to relay any information about why he had contacted the wildlife officers. Game wardens said Delaney had decided, by that time, that he would become a licensed hunter so that he could harvest the injured buck and acquire it for himself.
Delaney then called a third party and asked that person to help him acquire a license online so he could harvest the buck, according to a report.
Delaney allegedly used a cross bow to kill the buck at point-blank range just before dark Tuesday evening, around eight hours after he first learned of the injured deer’s location on private property.
Game wardens later learned through records from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife that Delaney, with assistance from another person, had purchased only a resident archery tag. Delaney allegedly failed to produce a hunting license, which is also required by law, while game wardens conducted their investigation for several days last week.
Wildlife officials seized the buck and will seek its forfeiture.
Failure to produce a license is punishable by a maximum fine of $296; illegally taking a deer without a resident hunting license is punishable by a fine of up to $221; and possession of a deer that was not legally taken is punishable by a fine of up to $946.
If convicted, Delaney would also be required by state law to pay mandatory restitution that, for a buck, could range from $1,500 to $2,000.
Court records show Delaney - who owns a deer-processing business in Keys, according to prosecutors - has been accused of other wildlife infractions in previous years. He was charged with unlawful disposal of deer carcasses in 2008, and eventually pleaded no contest.