By Nick Simonson
Criminal charges are expected to be filed against six Barnes County men for their involvement in the illegal taking of big game and other wildlife-related violations in recent months throughout the county, which allegedly includes the poaching of a number of whitetail deer. Combined, the complaints against the individuals are anticipated to allege 41 criminal charges in North Dakota’s Southeast Judicial District Court.
At the center of the group of six alleged poachers and abettors is Jakob Ashline, 23, of rural Valley City, who is facing 21 total counts including: violation of protection of big game animals, using artificial light in the taking of big game, violation of resident licensing requirements, tampering with evidence, providing false information to law enforcement, hunting big game without an appropriate big game license and violation of North Dakota’s big game proclamation.
“The total number [of deer at issue] I don’t have, a lot of people are looking for that,” said Tonya Duffy, Barnes County State’s Attorney, “the problem is there is a lot of deer and you can only prove so much, so I’m charging him with everything I can prove, which is six deer,” she concluded in relation to the charges expected against Ashline.
Ashline currently is serving a sentence of 200 days in the Burleigh County Jail for an incident in September 2019 in which he allegedly told arresting Bismarck police officers “if I ever find you, I promise I’ll kill you.” Ashline was charged in the September incident with misdemeanor terrorizing, refusal to halt and simple assault, and ultimately pleaded guilty on February 26, 2020 to misdemeanor charges of menacing, refusal to halt, disorderly conduct and preventing arrest.
Connecting Ashline to a number of other individuals involved in the alleged poaching ring is Ryan Rudolph, 19, of western Barnes County, who will likely face five criminal counts including violating protection of big game animals, tampering with evidence and providing false information to law enforcement.
Payne Drake, 21, of Valley City is expected to be charged with nine counts including aiding in concealment of big game unlawfully taken or possessed and tampering with evidence. Calvin Bjornson, 20, of rural Valley City is expected to be charged with three counts including failure to properly tag big game and aiding in concealment of game unlawfully taken.
In connection to the first four men, Tyler Anderson, 23, and Taylor Hejtmanek, 20, both of Valley City, will likely be charged with three counts each including refusal to halt, hunting with artificial light and illegal use of a rifle or handgun in the taking of raccoon or beaver.
“These are actions of slobs and poachers, not hunters; they take away opportunities from many people young and old to lawfully harvest an animal, and here they were needlessly slaughtered and went to waste,” commented Perry Kapaun, President of the Barnes County Wildlife Federation, on the pending allegations, “it’s a bad deal, it goes against everything that outdoorsmen and women and BCWF stand for,” Kapaun added, remaining hopeful for a resolution which goes to the fullest extent of the law.
Members of the public can report suspected wildlife, hunting and angling violations throughout the state by calling the North Dakota Game & Fish Department’s Report All Poachers (RAP) line at (800)472-2121. Rewards are offered for information which leads to a conviction and callers are given the option of remaining anonymous.