Dugan Traversie, 39, of Eagle Butte has been charged with killing a huge white-tailed buck outside of tribal hunting season on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation and inside a private game ranch.
The incident attracted national attention in the sense of social media posts about it on hunting-related sites, apparently started after Traversie posted a photo of himself with the slain buck last fall.
A grand jury indicted Traversie on Feb. 12, charging him with a violation of the federal Lacey Act and of larceny. Traversie appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Moreno in federal court in Pierre on Tuesday, Feb. 18, and pleaded not guilty.
The Lacey Act outlines federal laws against illegally taking and trading on wildlife.
The charges against Traversie carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. U.S. Attorney Ron Parsons announced the charges in a news release on Feb. 18.
On Thursday, Feb. 20, U.S. District Judge Roberto Lange set Traversie’s trial for April 21. The great majority of federal cases get decided through a plea agreement before trial.
Traversie was released on bond Feb. 18, pending trial or other disposition of the case.
According to the grand jury that brought the charges by indictment, Traversie killed a white-tailed deer between Oct. 28 and Nov. 4 on the Timber Lake Elk Ranch on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation that borders the west bank of Lake Oahe northwest of Fort Pierre.
The ranch is a few miles south of Timber Lake, which is about 40 miles west-southwest of Mobridge.
Traversie left the slain deer until the next day when he returned and removed the head. The deer had a value of more than $1,000, according to the federal charges that say he was in violation of tribal hunting laws and regulations.
According to those familiar with the deer and the way such high-fence hunting and deer management are done, it was worth perhaps $20,000 or more, because of its huge rack developed by the intensive management of such game farms.
The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe’s Game, Fish and Parks office.
Traversie’s case was all over social media right after the deer was killed because Traversie had posted a photo of himself holding the giant rack of the buck.
According to someone with knowledge of what happened, Traversie apparently shot the buck through the eight-foot fence surrounding the 8,000-acre Timber Lake Elk Ranch. He climbed over the fence and took a photo with the dead deer, then cut the head off and threw it over the fence and left with the head.
Photos of the deer's body, lying headless, were posted on social media pages.
The photo of Traversie with the giant slain buck went sort of viral on wildlife social media pages. A photo of the same deer - apparently one or two years younger and alive with the same general giant rack but a little smaller - was posted next to the photo of Traversie with the slain buck, on a well-known social media page devoted to large male deer from South Dakota. It appears to be a match.
The photo of Traversie with the buck was posted on other hunting-related social media sites, including Hunting News.
The owner and moderator of the big South Dakota deer social media page said he did not post the photos of the deer. They were posted by a frequent user of his social media site, he said. But he deleted the photos after several people posted angry demands that he take down the photos, he said. It was like nothing he had seen since he opened his popular site about six years ago, he said.
Neither he nor someone connected with the Timber Lake Elk Ranch, wanted to comment on the case when it’s still being prosecuted.
Attempts to reach Traversie were unsuccessful. He’s being represented by a federal public defender.
Like other such “high-fence” hunting resorts, Timber Lake Elk Lodge sells high-end hunts for elk, deer and bison on its 8,000 acres. There is some hunting involved on the huge ranch, but it’s not the “fair chase” hunting experienced in the wild, in the minds of many, including some who own such ranches.
A giant rack such as Traversie is charged with taking illegally, along with the buck under it, could score 230 or more. But such deer taken in such hunts generally aren’t eligible for the Boone and Crockett record books.