This photo that purportedly shows Joshua Snyder with large, poached whitetail buck was posted on Facebook.
This photo that purportedly shows Joshua Snyder with large, poached whitetail buck was posted on Facebook.

December 24, 2018

The 38-year-old Carroll man suspected of poaching one of the largest typical-antlered deer in Iowa possessed an additional three deer heads that also appeared to be poached recently, according to court records.

State conservation officers began investigating Joshua Ray Snyder after receiving tips from other hunters that Snyder was posing with bodyless trophy bucks in photos he posted online.

Details of that Department of Natural Resources investigation now are part of the public court record because of Snyder’s ongoing request for the return of four deer heads officers confiscated from him last month.

In a court hearing Friday morning Snyder’s attorneys — William Kutmus and Trever Hook, of West Des Moines — argued that, under a recent change to Iowa law, officers obtained an improper search warrant and shouldn’t have been able to confiscate the heads until Snyder was convicted of a crime.

The attorneys are well known for defending hunters in court and say this will be the first test of the new law, which state lawmakers approved this year in an effort to expedite the return of confiscated hunting items if hunters are not convicted of a crime.

Carroll County Attorney John Werden has said that the deer heads are evidence in an ongoing criminal investigation and should not be returned.

It’s unclear when a judge will decide the issue.

The investigation into Snyder began in earnest with a Facebook post in November on the Trophy Bucks of Iowa page, in which Snyder posed with a buck with a purported 220-inch rack.

Some hunters question the kill because the deer had been “caped” — when head and hide are removed from the deer’s body.

Snyder reported on Nov. 13 that he killed the deer with a bow and arrow in Taylor County in far southern Iowa, but officers found a bullet hole in the deer’s cape when they observed it two days later at a taxidermist shop, court records show. The taxidermist claimed he had not noticed the bullet hole.

Investigators suspect that Snyder killed the deer at least two days before he reported it — which would also violate a 24-hour reporting rule — because he had requested a duplicate of his deer license about that time, and because of a text message he sent to the taxidermist on Nov. 11 that said Snyder had a deer head to make into a wall mount.

Days later, conservation officers found the original deer license affixed to another deer at his parents’ rural Glidden residence.

The officers used a search warrant to confiscate Snyder’s cellphone during a traffic stop Nov. 18 in Carroll County and also searched the parents’ property.

Snyder allegedly refused to give his phone to the officers and was attempting to destroy evidence on the phone when an officer pulled one of Snyder’s arms behind his back to force him to release it.

In his petition for the return of the deer heads, Snyder accused the officer of physically abusing him.

At his parent’s property the officers found three bucks that appeared to have been killed during the 2018 hunting season. Two of them were not tagged with licenses as required by law, court records show.

The man’s father, Kenny Snyder, a prominent conservationist and long-time member of the county’s Conservation Board, said “Josh, they found the deer” and “walked away from him shaking his head in disgust,” according to an investigative report.

The report says Kenny Snyder was unaware of the deer heads — which were found on his property in a row of cedar trees and in a grain cart — and that he lamented his son’s interest in hunting coyotes at night with a thermal-imaging device.

The investigative reports did not say whether the officers suspect Joshua Snyder of hunting deer at night.

Examinations of the deer revealed evidence that at least two of them were shot with a gun.

It’s unclear when the officers might file criminal charges against Snyder.