Trophy cheat: Poaching conviction thwarts Sacramento hunter’s quest for the record books

John Kautz reportedly had big plans for a buck he shot; but there was just one problem with it, according to state wardens

This is an extended version of a story that appears in the December 28, 2017, issue.

In mid-December, a Sacramento County man learned the hard way that you can’t set a hunting record with the Safari Club International if your “trophy” comes from poaching.

John Frederick Kautz, 51, recently pleaded guilty to possession of a large, illegally poached male deer—with its 31-inch, five-point antler spread—and falsifying state hunting-tag information.

According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, a three-month investigation by its law enforcement division revealed that Kautz illegally killed “an usually large” buck on private property in Wilton in December 2016. State wardens said Kautz shot the deer months after the hunting season ended. He then allegedly drove it to Nevada to have its head mounted by a taxidermist while he started the process of seeing if he could get its trophy-sized antlers marked in the Safari Club International’s record book.

That hope was thwarted when wardens used search warrants and forensic computer analysis to prove Kautz had been engaged in poaching. Fish and Wildlife officials said in a statement that “the deer’s trophy-sized antlers would have been surely accepted” by the Safari Club had Kautz not been flaunting laws designed to protect wildlife populations and resources.

On December 19, Kautz appeared in Sacramento Superior Court and pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors. He was sentenced to two days in county jail, three years of probation, a three-year ban from hunting and a $5,000 fine. Wardens also confiscated his ill-begotten trophy.

Earlier in the year, a similar investigation by state wardens led to 22-year-old Garrett Peacock of Yuba City pleading guilty to poaching “a trophy class buck” in Colusa County. Peacock was sentenced to two years probation, a temporary hunting ban and given a $5,000 fine.