Poacher Who Left Elk to Rot Loses Firearms and Hunting Privileges

by Vern Evans

A Tennessee man who pleaded guilty last week to poaching two elk and abandoning the carcasses had his hunting privileges revoked for the next five years, according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. As part of his plea agreement, the poacher also forfeited two of his firearms and was ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution plus fines and court costs.

In a press release shared to Facebook, TWRA officials said Preston William Douglas, 34, lied to investigators at first but eventually confessed to the poaching incident, which took place in November inside a state-run wildlife management area.

The agency said its investigation began on Nov. 19, when a tipster reached out to TWRA wildlife manger Darrell England, who oversees the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area in Campbell County. The reporting party told England they had heard multiple shots “just before 9 a.m.” that morning while they were deer hunting on the WMA.

“The informant went to investigate and spoke with another hunter who had shot two ‘deer,’ one being a doe and the other a six point buck,” TWRA said. “The limit for deer on NCWMA at that time was one per person.”

Investigators identified Douglas as the hunter the informant spoke to that day using information from his vehicle tag. They questioned Douglas at home, where he admitted to firing shots but claimed he didn’t kill anything. Investigators spoke with the informant again and then revisited the NCWMA, where they found the decomposing carcasses of a bull and a cow elk, “both with bullet wounds to the bodies and heads.”

After taking the two elk carcasses to the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine for a necropsy, investigators continued searching for clues over the following days. They found shell casings from a .40 caliber handgun and a 6.5 Creedmoor rifle, along with a bullet inside one of the gut piles.

This led wildlife officers to meet with Douglas a second time, at which time he confessed to hunting, killing, and not retrieving both animals, the agency said. They charged Douglas with two violations each of hunting in a closed season, illegally tagging big game, failure to retrieve big game, and tagging violations. They also seized a rifle chambered in 6.5 Creedmor and a .40 caliber handgun from Douglas’ home.

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It’s unclear what Douglas admitted to during his confession, and TWRA did not immediately respond to requests for comment. However, a photograph that the agency used during its investigation and shared to Facebook matches with a self-taken photograph that Douglas shared to his own Facebook page on Nov. 19.

“Hunting season is officially back open!!!!” Douglas wrote in the post, which was made just one day after the statewide deer season gun opener on Nov. 18. In the selfie, Douglas is wearing full camo, a blaze orange beanie, and a vest. He’s also holding what appears to be a grunt tube in his right hand.

Tennessee’s highly regulated elk hunting season would have ended on Oct. 11, more than one month prior to when that photo was posted. (The state also holds an additional youth season from Oct. 11 to Oct 18.) Tennessee’s elk season only runs for a couple weeks in late September and early October, and TWRA issued less than 20 lottery tags for antlered elk in 2024. There are an estimated 400 to 450 elk currently living in the state, according to the Tennessee Valley Chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

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