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Pair's poaching nets lifetime hunting ban

Evin Oneale

Two Cambridge men found guilty of multiple poaching and other wildlife-related crimes have received lifetime hunting license revocations and been ordered to pay thousands of dollars in fines and restitution to the state of Idaho.

Richard Goodling, 61, and his son Scott Goodling, 30, also lost their hunting privileges in 20 other states for the remainder of their lives, received suspended jail terms, and must complete 50 hours of community service as a condition of their probation. Firearms used in the commission of the crimes were also surrendered, including a .300 Winchester magnum rifle, nicknamed “Thunder” by its owner, Scott Goodling.

The lengthy investigation that brought the pair to justice began on April 15, 2005, when Conservation Officer Rusty Anderson was contacted by a Cambridge area landowner. The landowner suspected that the younger Goodling had trespassed onto private ground to poach a wild turkey. A concerned sportsman also reported that he spotted Scott Goodling packing a turkey off of the property.

Following up on those reports, Anderson made contact with Scott and Richard Goodling that afternoon and casually asked if Scott had been hunting. Scott replied that he had not hunted at all that day. “Because of the eyewitness account, I considered citing Scott on the trespass charge,” Anderson explained. “But I decided to hold off and see what else I might learn about the Goodlings.”

Anderson checked Fish and Game’s license data base and determined that neither Scott nor Richard Goodling had 2005 licenses or tags for bear, turkey or any other big game species. A background check revealed no wildlife violations of any kind in Idaho, but the Goodlings spent considerable time in Oregon prior to their move east. A search of criminal records revealed three wildlife-related violations for both Scott and Richard Goodling.

He also received a call from a second local landowner who related how he confronted Richard Goodling the previous year on a trespass issue. “Based on the information I received from these two landowners, the information from Oregon, and my own impressions when I contacted the Goodlings, I decided to widen the investigation to determine if either of the Goodlings was involved in other illegal activities,” Anderson said.

The investigation ensued, with Anderson and other Fish and Game officers building their poaching case against the Goodlings. During the course of the investigation, officers discovered that both Richard and Scott Goodling were engaged in a variety of poaching crimes, involving several species of wildlife, including mule deer, nongame birds, upland game birds, and wild turkeys. The father/son poaching team planned their illegal activities months in advance and demonstrated on multiple occasions that they had little regard for Idaho’s wildlife resources, private property or public safety. The Goodlings’ poaching spree was not their first: it was soon discovered that both men had committed numerous wildlife violations in the past, violations for which neither man had ever been held accountable.

As summer turned to fall, Anderson and his team of officers continued to document wildlife violations against the Goodlings. The younger Goodling’s Washington County killing spree included flock shooting wild turkeys that resulted in wounding loss, the closed-season killing of a gross over limit of wild turkeys, the closed-season killing of upland birds in an unlawful manner, attempting to take (kill) federally protected bird species, and shooting from/across a public road at game birds and big game on multiple occasions.

In the first few days of the 2005 deer season, the poaching case against Richard and Scott Goodling reached its dramatic crescendo.
On Oct. 10 — opening day of the mule deer general hunting season — the Goodlings took to the field, intent on poaching several mule deer. Richard — in possession of a 2005 license and deer tag — shot a young mulie buck early that morning with his 7mm rifle, field dressed the animal, and transported it to his residence. Once there, he placed a neighbor’s deer tag on the animal, then joined his son for additional mule deer “hunting.” Despite having no valid license or tags, Scott attempted to kill several other mule deer, apparently missing each of his targets.

The Goodlings resumed hunting the following day. Early that morning, Richard brought his vehicle to a stop in the middle of Rush Creek Road and Scott jumped out the passenger side, “Thunder” in hand. He shot from and across the road at a mule deer standing on an adjacent hillside. Richard exited the vehicle and laid his rifle over the hood, aiming at the deer, but did not fire. In the midst of this public safety violation, a school bus gingerly passed the two men and their vehicle which was parked in the middle of the road. Scott moved off the road and fired at the deer, but apparently missed his target with all three of his shots.

Later that morning, Scott killed a 1X5 buck mule deer, and Richard shot two more buck mule deer. Evidence revealed that Richard field dressed one of these deer while it was still alive.

The duo’s poaching rampage ended on Oct. 12 when both men were taken into custody. Richard Goodling was arrested on a felony charge of unlawfully killing and/or possessing three mule deer within a 12-month period, while Scott Goodling was arrested on a felony charge for unlawfully killing six wild turkeys within a 12-month period.

In a twist of irony, the arrests went down outside “The Gobbler” restaurant, an institution in the town of Cambridge.

Even while the Goodlings were being transferred to the Washington County jail, a search warrant was executed on the Goodling residence, the surrounding buildings, and the four Goodling vehicles. A cased, 7mm Browning rifle with a 3 x 9 Nikon scope was seized from the Goodlings’ red Geo Metro. A search of the Goodlings’ Cadillac resulted in the seizure of a Davis .22 caliber magnum derringer, together with drug paraphernalia. Among items seized from the Goodling residence were several small bags of marijuana, additional drug paraphernalia, several hunting knives and saws, assorted ammunition, a Jennings .380 semi-automatic pistol, a .300 Winchester magnum rifle (Thunder) with attached Simmons 3X9 scope, a Charles Daly 12-gauge semi-automatic shotgun, a Mossberg .22 caliber magnum rifle with attached Tasco 4X scope, assorted ammunition and five frozen turkey carcasses. Three untagged mule deer carcasses were seized, as was a fourth carcass, with the tag of the Goodlings’ neighbor still attached.

In total, more than 50 wildlife-related charges were brought against Richard and Scott Goodling at their preliminary hearing on Oct. 19. The evidence against the pair was overwhelming, and with felony convictions looming, the county-appointed public defender sought council with the Washington County prosecuting attorney in hopes of working out a plea agreement for the two men.

Less than a month later, a plea agreement was hammered out. In the end, Richard Goodling pleaded guilty to two counts of unlawful possession of wildlife, while Scott Goodling pleaded guilty to two charges: unlawful possession of wildlife, and hunting without a valid license.

On Nov. 16, Richard and Scott Goodling received their final sentences before Washington County Magistrate Gregory F. Frates. Both men were given the opportunity to address the court prior to final sentencing and both expressed remorse regarding the crimes they had committed. They went on to apologize for the time and energy Conservation Officer Rusty Anderson was forced to commit to the case, and expressed their sorrow for “everything we put the court and the game commission through.” Richard added an ill-advised footnote to his comments, stating that he felt his sentencing was too harsh given that his son Scott was charged with the bulk of the poaching offenses.

Judge Frates was unmoved.

Richard Goodling received a lifetime hunting license revocation, fines and court costs totaling $1,500, civil penalties totaling $1,200 to be paid to the Department of Fish and Game, and 360 days in jail (with credit for time served and the remainder suspended). He was also ordered to reimburse the court for the cost of Goodling’s public defender ($635), was given 24 months of probation and ordered to perform 50 hours of community service for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game within the next six months.

Scott Goodling received a lifetime hunting license revocation, fines and court costs totaling $1,500, civil penalties totaling $1,600 to be paid to the Department of Fish and Game, and 360 days in jail (with credit for time served and the remainder suspended). He was also ordered to reimburse the court for the cost of his public defender ($475), was given 24 months of probation and ordered to perform 50 hours of community service for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game within the next six months.

In addition, Judge Frates read a statement to both men regarding the Western Wildlife Violator Compact, an agreement signed by 22 state wildlife agencies that suspends hunting privileges in all 22 Compact states for anyone losing hunting privileges in one of the participating states. Judge Frates made both men sign a statement acknowledging that they understood the conditions of the Compact.

In reference to the lifetime hunting license revocations, Judge Frates added additional conditions. For the rest of their lives, neither Richard nor Scott Goodling may legally accompany another hunter in the field, be in a vehicle with any person actively hunting, nor be present in any hunting camp. The judge also ordered that all firearms used in the commission of the poaching crimes, together with all animals illegally taken, be surrendered by the Goodlings.

From the day of sentencing, Richard and Scott Goodling have 42 days to appeal their sentences. As of this writing, no appeal has been filed.

To those who care deeply about the natural world, the Goodling case represents the worst of human behavior: the wanton disregard for game laws, private property, and most importantly, the wildlife resource itself. It remains the responsibility of everyone who appreciates Idaho’s fish and wildlife to be vigilant against persons such as the Goodlings, and to report suspicious activity to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. “This case began because a few concerned sportsmen got involved,” Rusty Anderson said. “And because of that involvement, two hard-core poachers are now out of business for good.”

In the near future, a new exhibit highlighting the Goodling poaching case will be housed in Fish and Game’s Citizens Against Poaching (CAP) trailer. The focal point of that display — a .300 caliber Winchester magnum rifle with the words THUNDER emblazoned along the stock — will offer mute testimony to a poaching duo whose luck finally ran out.

Evin Oneale is conservation educator for IDFG’s Southwest Region.