Four residents from Okaloosa and Walton counties are facing multiple charges for killing at least seven deer at night on Eglin Air Force Base, two of them large trophy bucks in velvet.
Justin Leon Bailey 23, Niceville; William Cody Meakin 24, Mossy Head; and 16- and 17-year-old juveniles from Niceville are each charged with taking or killing deer during the closed season, discharging a firearm from a public roadway and willful and wanton waste of wildlife.
Each of the charges is a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and one year imprisonment.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) law enforcement officers began receiving calls immediately after two deer, one of them minus the head, were found on private property adjacent to Northwest Florida State College in Niceville in August.
“The suspects were sending Facebook posts to each other, and the posts were then circulated,” said Lt. Mark Hollinhead, an FWC law enforcement supervisor.
Hollinhead said the deer were killed at night along Highway 85 in the Duke Field area of Eglin. Highway 85 runs from Niceville to Crestview.
“The thing about this case is the suspects didn’t use any of the meat from any of the deer. They simply left the animals to rot,” Hollinhead said. “The suspects did remove the velvet antlers of two large trophy bucks but they got rid of the antlers when they heard we were conducting an investigation.”
According to Hollinhead, the racks were clearly shown in the Facebook posts and would likely measure in the 120s to 130s on the Boone and Crockett measuring system. The racks were supposedly tossed in the Yellow River and have not been recovered.
Two rifles reportedly used by the suspects have been seized as evidence.
Florida is one of 39 states participating in the Wildlife Violator Compact. Depending on the outcome of the court case, Florida statutes allow for a three-year in-state license suspension, and will also apply to all states that are members of the Compact.
Eglin AFB authorities also have the option of preventing the four from being on the base for up to 60 months.