New Mexico Poacher Slapped With Massive Fine After Beheading Mule Deer

by Emily Morgan

After four months of investigating, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish has finally caught the poacher who shot and beheaded a mule deer buck in 2015. Now, after a court ruling, the poacher, Cody W. Davis, must pay a hefty fine totaling $74,000.

Previously, Davis appealed the restitution fine a judge ordered him to pay on June 23, 2020. However, the New Mexico Supreme Court upheld the appeals court’s judgment on Sept. 15, 2022, confirming the figure.

Authorities caught Davis, who hails from Arnegard, North Dakota when he returned to the mule deer’s head, which he intentionally hid after he shot the buck. 

Later, NMGFD set up surveillance around the region where they located the head. Finally, after four months, they spotted Arnegard loading the head into his truck. He then tossed the head into the Rio Grande river. 

Then, officials spent the next two weeks trying to locate the head. After they found it, they collaborated with the North Dakota Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to obtain and serve a search warrant for Davis. Once they commenced a search, it didn’t take long for Davis to confess. 

“Davis, originally from Lindrith, N.M., has an extensive history of game law violations in New Mexico dating back to 2000,” read a press release from NMDGF.

New Mexico authorities finally close the case on mule deer poacher

The $74,000 in civil restitution included a $20,000 fee for killing the deer out of season and wasting game. Another $54,000 was added to counterbalance the investigation costs. In addition, as a part of his criminal conviction, he had to donate $3,000 to NMDGF’s Operation Game Thief, the poaching hotline that authorities used to catch him. 

“The investigation required nearly 2,000 officer hours, over 25,000 miles driven, and numerous search warrants conducted in two states,” according to the Los Alamos Daily Post.

Moreover, a judge considered tacking on jail time for Davis, but it was taken off the table when he completed 90 days of unsupervised probation. Many seasoned hunters find it hard to believe that Davis would just come across a mule deer buck of that size (232 7/8 inch).

Considering he has a rap sheet over a decade old, some believe he may have been a professional. Some also theorize the deer was an escapee from a high-fence private area. Either way, officials are pleased the case found a resolution. 

“It was a long investigation, involving many conservation officers, Department biologists, and staff from every part of the agency,” NMDGF Conservation Officer Ben Otero said in the July 8 press release. 

“It also would not have been possible without support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and North Dakota Game and Fish Department.”