Three people are facing fines and other penalties for their roles in a disturbing string of wildlife crimes committed in southwestern Pennsylvania. Charges for 21-year-old Michael Matson Jr., 19-year-old Angelica Morgan, and 20-year-old Chase Piper were announced on Friday, Jan. 24 after a tip led to a lengthy investigation of their activities. In total, the three individuals illegally killed 26 deer in October and November of 2022. 

The poachers did most of their damage at night—and shot most of the deer with .22 caliber bullets typically used for small game hunting. At the time, “we started getting a couple of phone calls from the public about shots being fired at night,” Bill Brehun, a warden for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, told The Tribune-Democrat

Soon after that, Brehun and his team were able to get a search warrant for the cellphone records of the suspects, which provided crucial information in the investigation. They also confiscated a Rossi .22 caliber rimfire rifle. 

The perpetrators were primarily shooting antlerless deer from the road and leaving them to rot. “They were just making circles there in [a] given area and just shooting anything they saw,” explained Brehun.

Piper received six months of probation, a $1,600 fine, and a 25-year hunting ban for admitting to killing five deer. Morgan received the same punishments and a 10-year hunting ban for admitting to killing two. Matson, who owned the firearm and killed 15 deer himself, received the most serious punishments; He was sentenced to one to two years in state prison with a 75-year hunting ban. Prior to this case, he was already prohibited from owning a firearm due to past offenses. 

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Brehun says this is the largest poaching case he’s ever worked on. He encourages folks to report game violations to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, which runs a confidential poaching hotline 24/7 known as “Operation Game Thief.”