Sgt. Mike Perry of the New Mexico Game and Fish Department stands behind one whitetail deer (far right) and four mule deer in Pleasant Hill the day they were found Jan. 11. The deer torsos were found Dec. 31. (Courtesy photo: Wes Robertson)
By Ryan Lengerich: CNJ staff writer
A Clovis man has confessed to shooting, beheading and scattering the remains of five deer in Curry County, according to police and wildlife officials.
Darin M. Hunt, 22, was arrested Thursday and charged in magistrate court with five counts each of unlawful killing of a deer, unlawful possession of a deer and waste of game, and one count of hunting with a revoked license, court records show.
Hunt faces a maximum $6,100 in fines and up to 7 1/2 years in jail, District Attorney Matt Chandler said. Two other suspects are being investigated in connection with the poaching.
Hunt was released Thursday from the Curry County Adult Detention Center on a $5,000 bond, according to jail officials. Hunt, who was cited in 2002 for fishing without a license, could be arraigned as early as today, Chandler said.
Deer hunting season in New Mexico ended Nov. 21.
The headless bodies of four mule and one whitetail deer were discovered Dec. 31 on a ranch on County Road 22 in Ranchvale.
Hunt led police to the missing heads 11 days later. They were in a field with 3-foot high grass about eight miles northeast of Clovis in Pleasant Hill.
According to a voluntary statement, Hunt said he went hunting Dec. 29 on the northern edge of Curry County in Bellview where he shot the deer with a rifle.
He loaded the male deer in his truck but said he “got scared” and beheaded the bucks before dumping the torsos in a field, the statement read.
On the day prior to the carcasses being found, a Clovis police detective stopped and questioned Hunt and two others on Prince Street when he noticed blood on the truck’s tailgate, police reports show.
Hunt told the detective he had been hunting three weeks earlier.
Wes Robertson, a New Mexico Game and Fish warden based in Clovis, said the detective’s stop combined with citizen tips led authorities to Hunt.
Blood and hair samples from Hunt’s vehicle matched those of the slaughtered deer, Robertson said.
Hunt originally led Game and Fish officials to a Pleasant Hill pond about a mile south of where the deer heads were eventually found, Robertson said. The pond was drained and dragged.
Robertson said Game and Fish may send the deer heads to Santa Fe for auction.
Chandler said Curry County has seen instances of poaching, but the high number killed in this case is uncommon.
“What is unusual about this case is they were beheaded and their bodies were in one location and heads in another,” he said.