Three northern Michigan men charged in 2019 elk poaching

Jan 26, 2021

Three relatives have been arrested in connection with poaching three elk in the Pigeon River State Forest over a year ago. 

Blood stains the snow where an elk was poached in the Pigeon River State Forest in 2019.
Credit Dan Wanschura

Christian White, 29, of Gaylord, Harry White, 70, and Ronald White, 56, both of West Branch, have all been charged for illegally shooting three cow elk east of Vanderbilt in December 2019.

The relatives pled not guilty during their arraignment Monday in the Otsego County District Court. They face a total of eight charges of wildlife crimes.

“I think they made a massive mistake, and they made the choice to not report that mistake to the DNR,” says Conservation Officer Matt Theunick.

Theunick says the trio had two legal cow elk hunting tags but were not hunting in the right zone. They also made no attempt to retrieve the animals once they shot them, and of course killed three elk — not two.

Had the men self-reported the elk poaching to the DNR, Theunick says the meat from the animals could have been salvaged and donated to a local food bank. 

“The fact that (they) ... just arbitrarily went up there and shot three of these animals and then left them ... was just sickening,” says DNR Sergeant Mark DePew. 

Credit Michigan Department of Natural Resources

“Without our officers' professional commitment to pursuit of the facts, these suspects would have gotten away with one of the worst elk poaching incidents I have ever seen.”

The incident was part of a rough poaching year for Michigan’s elk herd. There were a total of eight known cases in 2019, and two of those cases are still unsolved.

Theunick says it’s important to go after the people who illegally kill these animals.

“It’s a very precious resource not only to the hunters but to the general public,” he says. “There are a lot of people that come up from southern Michigan just to watch and see this large animal in the Pigeon River Country.”

If found guilty, the men face a penalty of 30 days in jail,  having their Michigan hunting privileges revoked for 15 years, and up to $5,000 fines per elk.