Two young men have lost privileges to hunt in Tennessee and most of the United States because they pursued unethical poaching methods rather than following the lawful path of ethical hunters.
Eddy Albert, 21, and Densibel Calzada, 23, both residents of La Vergne, might not have known that a permanent hunting ban for poaching deer in Tennessee could also mean no hunting in other states, but after illegally killing numerous deer they learned a message that will last them a lifetime.
“Their actions were among the worst I have seen for their lack of respect to our landowners and to our wildlife,” said Matt Brian, a Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency sergeant assigned to Rutherford County. “Most of our states now abide by what is called the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, which means a ban in Tennessee is upheld by every compact member.”
Currently, 44 states are members of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact
Albert and Calzada entered guilty pleas Feb. 3, 2016 in Rutherford County General Sessions Court. The result of their misconduct included the hunting bans, thousands of dollars in lawyer expenses and court costs, confiscated rifles and bows, $5,000 each in restitution fees, and at least $1,800 each to post bail.
General Sessions Judge Barry Tidwell presided over the case where Sgt. Brian and Sgt. Jonathan Lee, also a wildlife officer in Rutherford County, explained that Calzada and Albert documented their numerous illegal kills with cellular phone video and photographs.
The wildlife officers noted that the poaching took place on private property and often at night when deer hunting is illegal. Judge Tidwell ordered Albert and Calzada to serve 100 hours of community service supervised by TWRA, along with placing each on probation for 18 months.
“If they decide to hunt or poach again, they face the likelihood of going to jail,” explained Sgt. Lee. “With their actions they have created a bad situation for themselves.”
Considering that most wildlife violations in Tennessee are misdemeanors, the judgments against Albert and Calzada – neither with prior criminal records – indicated the seriousness with which Judge Tidwell considered their offenses.
Charges brought by Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency included hunting out of season, hunting without permission, illegal transportation of wildlife, and failing to report to Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency the deer they had killed.
Sergeants Brian and Lee became familiar with Albert and Calzada in late December after responding to a landowner call about trespassers. Both men received citations from the officers for hunting without permission.
Approximately 48 hours after this initial encounter, the officers responded to a midnight call from the Smyrna Police Department, which had detained the suspects following a report of firearms discharged near the city’s airport.
The wildlife officers began their investigation after Smyrna Police Department officials told them that Albert and Calzada had a rifle and dead deer in a pickup truck, and were probably responsible for the reported shots.
In the weeks that followed, questioning of the suspects would lead to search warrants issued for their homes and cell phones, said Sgt. Brian. The cell phone searches provided wildlife officers with their most incriminating evidence.
Images of dead deer lined up alongside each other and video of the two men celebrating their kills were among collected evidence.
“We will never know how many deer these two killed, but we believe they could have poached at least 40,” said Sgt. Brian. “We charged them with violations based on the strongest evidence we found showing the seriousness of their poaching crimes.”
The agency said a new law will allow judges to set cash penalties (restitution) for deer more severely than ever. While most wildlife violations are misdemeanors, the new law raises the stakes for those who poach deer.