SHERIDAN — A man was convicted of extensive poaching in the Bighorn Mountains Tuesday, making it his third county in Wyoming to be convicted of similar crimes.
Sheridan County Circuit Court Judge Shelley Cundiff sentenced Russell Vick, 56, to one year of imprisonment at the Sheridan County Detention Center and a total of $70,000 in fines and restitution for unlawfully taking three antlered moose and one big game animal, a cow moose, between the years of 2007 and 2011 in the Bighorn National Forest in Sheridan County.
According to court documents and testimony shared Tuesday by lead Wyoming Game and Fish Department Investigator Dustin Kirsch, Vick illegally poached four moose in the Bighorn Mountains without a license.
Vick was and is a resident of Buhl, Alabama, and frequently hunted in Wyoming. WGFD public information officer Christina Schmidt said because of pending charges and an open case in another county, she was unable to provide details as to how the investigation initially began, but in 2017, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service investigation led to financial records related to the several poaching charges.
The financial documents confirmed Vick was in Sheridan County on the dates in the metadata of photographs taken in the Bighorns with the poached animals, which were seized from Vick’s home in Alabama.
The Sheridan County charges come after Vick received a suspended sentence in 2006 in a Weston County case where he allegedly poached bighorn sheep, and pleaded no contest to eight counts of illegally taking a game animal without a license or during a closed season in Campbell County Circuit Court in June 2020.
Vick was charged with 42 big-game violations, including 20 counts of illegally taking a game animal without a license or during a closed season involving buck antelope, buck mule deer, bull and cow elk from 2003-12, according to charging documents reported by Jonathan Gallardo in the Gillette News Record June 27, 2020.
Vick served 80 days in Campbell County jail and is currently serving his yearlong sentence for the four Sheridan County counts. The four counts in Sheridan County totaled a potential four years in jail and up to $40,000 in fines, not counting restitution. Following a passionate speech to the perpetrator, Cundiff approved a plea agreement, which requires Vick to pay the full $40,000 in fines and $30,000 in restitution to the WGFD and runs the jail time concurrently with one another, totaling one year instead of four.
Cundiff told Vick his actions were “offensive” and completely disregard the work put in by people to protect wildlife, in addition to sportspeople following the rules to apply for the once-in-a-lifetime tag for moose he disregarded through his actions.
Vick and his defense attorney reiterated he’s a changed man and the lawless acts were years ago — similar conjecture was stated by the defendant in Campbell County courts, according to the Gillette News Record.
“I was in a different place,” the News Record reported Vick saying in 2020 to the presiding judge. “I was young and stupid, and I apologize for what I’ve done.”
An open case remains in Park County that includes felony charges. The case was bound over to 5th Judicial District Court in Park County March 19, and Vick pleaded not guilty to three counts during his arraignment: taking a big game animal without a license within 10 years of being convicted of the same offense, a felony; accessory before or after the fact to the offense of coupons and accessory before or after the fact of the offense of violation of commission order, both misdemeanors.
Vick’s pretrial is scheduled for Nov. 4 and his trial is scheduled to begin Dec. 6 in Park County.