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MDNR report

Edward Trout, 29, of Cedar Springs, confessed to Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers that he illegally shot and abandoned multiple deer in Northeast Kent County.

Since late January, eight tipsters have contacted the DNR’s Report All Poaching hotline, reporting gunfire at night and deer carcasses located on or near properties in Nelson and Spencer townships. 

Trout originally faced three charges in connection to the deer; since failing to appear for his original court date on June 3, he accumulated two additional charges for illegally taking snapping turtles.

Today in Kent County’s 63rd District Court, Trout pleaded not guilty to a five-count misdemeanor, including the charges of:

  • Two counts of hunting and fishing without a license (up to $250 in fines, per count).
  • Taking game from a vehicle (up to $500 in fines).
  • Taking, possessing deer out of season ($1,000 per deer).
  • Using illegal fishing devices (up to $1,000 in fines).

Trout’s hunting and fishing privileges have been suspended until he is scheduled to reappear in court on July 19. He faces jail time, reimbursement to the state for illegally taken wildlife, court costs and losing his hunting and fishing privileges. Officers seized Trout’s firearm, crossbow, homemade spear and additional evidence.

“We’re grateful for the concerned community members who reported the many dead, gunshot deer that were discovered throughout these communities, which helped officers identify a suspect,” said Chief Dave Shaw, DNR Law Enforcement Division. “The suspect has continued to display repetitive, unethical behavior while stealing public trust resources and allowing them to go to waste.”

In January, Conservation Officers Casey Varriale and Justin Ulberg began investigating the tips, often locating deer that appeared to have been shot from near the roadway.

By Feb. 13, officers investigated 13 deer that had been shot and abandoned in the two townships.

After hearing several news stories about the poaching, a concerned community member anonymously contacted the Report All Poaching hotline on Feb. 14. The tipster reported local rumors of Trout driving around over two to three nights, shooting deer from his vehicle.

Varriale interviewed Trout, who admitted to three instances of going out and shooting at deer, stating that he, “relieved frustration by driving around at night, listening to music and occasionally shooting his pistol into vacant fields from his pickup truck,” often while under the influence of alcohol and/or marijuana.

Trout did not remember the exact times and dates but provided Varriale with a map of where the shootings took place and admitted to shooting at least five deer.

During the investigation, officers retrieved additional evidence that, since 2020, Trout has a history of driving around at night and shooting deer from his vehicle. Trout initially denied the history of offenses until he was presented with a series of text messages where he openly told people about his illegal activities.

On June 7, Varriale began investigating a new tip that Trout was spearing turtles at Pine Lake, also located in Cedar Springs.

In Michigan, snapping turtles can be harvested from July 15-Sept. 15 using a trap or a hook and line. 

The caller reported that Trout has been seen fishing late at night and leaving multiple lines unattended. Additionally, Trout has been seen spearing and leaving snapping turtles on the shore.

During the June investigation, Trout blamed family members for the unattended fishing lines, and stated he speared the snapping turtles because he feared for his children’s safety while they were fishing. Varriale located multiple speared turtles, including one with a spear still in it, among other evidence.

Conservation Officers Jeremy Beavers, Anna Cullen and Sgt. Jeff Rabbers assisted with the deer investigation.

Anyone with information about wildlife crimes can anonymously contact the DNR's Report All Poaching hotline by calling 1-800-292-7800 or using the online reporting form available at Michigan.gov/RAP.