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Pa. man fined for illegal hunting

July 10, 2003|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A Fulton County, Pa., man who chronicled his illegal hunting in a notebook for 22 years was convicted last month on 90 counts of violating game laws and ordered to pay approximately $30,000 in fines and fees, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

District Justice Brenda Knepper in Fort Littleton, Pa., ordered Michael Allen Lake, 38, of Grist Mill Road, Burnt Cabins, Pa., to pay $27,750 in fines on 86 counts of unlawfully taking or possessing wildlife and one count each of failure to tag and report big game kills and unlawful acts concerning licenses, according to the game commission. Knepper also ordered him to pay $420 in laboratory fees following his June 23 hearing.

Lake also was found guilty of unlawful use of lights while hunting and having a loaded firearm in a vehicle. Those offenses took place in Huntingdon County, Pa., and Lake was found guilty in a June 26 hearing before District Justice Mary Jamison in Orbisonia, Pa.

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Jamison fined Lake $700 and ordered him to pay another $1,715 in laboratory fees.

The notebook "was a big part of our case," Tim Marks, the commission's South Central Region law enforcement supervisor, said. "It was not even what we were going there to look for in the first place."

The investigation began last year when "concerned citizens" informed the commission that Lake had illegally killed a 10-point buck at night on Nov. 24, more than a week before deer season.

Game commission officers got a search warrant and found 42 sets of deer antlers and a spiral notebook detailing his out-of-season hunting of deer and turkey from Sept. 13, 1979, though March 5, 2001. Lake was 16 when he began the journal, according to a commission news release.

In a subsequent search of his home, officers seized computer records and a box containing 53 turkey beards, according to the commission.

Over 22 years, the notebook listed the illegal killing of 131 antlerless deer, 122 antlered deer and 82 turkeys.

"If a date corresponded with a legal hunting season in Pennsylvania, he was not charged with that," Marks said.

"In a span of 22 years, Lake documented his illegal killing of more animals that he could have legally taken in several lifetimes," Wildlife Conservation Officer Travis Pugh said in a game commission news release. Pugh and fellow officer Bert Einodshofer were lead investigators in the case, according to the commission.

Game Commission spokesman Jerry Feaser said state game laws allow a hunter to legally take one antlered deer in the fall, one turkey in the fall and one male turkey in the spring. There is also an antlerless deer season.

A person has to be 12 years old to get a hunting license in Pennsylvania, Marks said.

"Even if he was the luckiest hunter since he turned 12 and made his limit each year," Marks said the notebook and physical evidence indicated Lake could never have taken that amount of wildlife legally.

Marks said Lake attended the hearing on the charges in Fulton County, but was convicted in absentia on the Huntingdon County charges.

Feaser said the charges are summary violations.

In addition to the fines, Lake could have his hunting and fur-taking privileges revoked for a total of 91 years.

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