AMADOR COUNTY (CBS13) – Two Amador County cops posted rare trophy kills online, but the California Department of Fish and Wildlife grew suspicious, saying they were too big and too rare to happen legally.

The state regularly monitors social media for poaching crimes. It was the officers’ photos of deer kills that tipped off Fish and Wildlife.

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“Those are not common in California, bucks that are that large and that plentiful, especially for those who use archery as a hunting tool,” said Captain Patrick Foy with California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Foy said investigators thought the two may have been cheating, luring deer in using bait, which is an illegal practice in California.

The state launched an investigation on Chris Stone, who is an Investigator for the Amador County District Attorney, along with Joe Frater a corrections officer at a local prison.

Investigators went on a hunt of their own, looking into the pair’s tactics and using every resource to build a solid case.

“If we think we can catch a poacher we will use every resource available to us in the form of aircraft surveillance or even vehicle tracking devices,”

A property search was conducted where a dozen officers with firearms drawn were seen outside one of the defendants’ homes. Candice Fields represents Joe Frater and says this went too far and in the end just ended up leaving the state with a big bill for the investigation.

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“Was that appropriate here? I think not, and I think early in the investigation it was fairly obvious they weren’t going to turn up any major basis for a serious bust yet they pursued spent more money and presented a case that did not impress the prosecutor,” said Fields.

CBS13 asked the department how much an investigation like this would cost. They didn’t have an exact dollar amount but do call this “expensive.”

The defense believes the cost is over $100,00. So was the expense worth the result? The Department of Fish and Wildlife says yes.

“Every ethical hunter is applauding this investigation and all of the resources that went into this investigation because we’re taking poachers out of the realm of hunting. Those are the ones who are giving hunters a bad name,” said Foy.

In the end, the defendants could have faced up to $40,000 and a year in jail, but ended up with two misdemeanors, a few thousand dollars in fines and their license suspended for one year.

Stone pleaded no contest to one count of hunting over bait. He was fined $780 and placed on three-years probation along with a suspension of his hunting privileges during the probationary period.

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Frater pleaded no contest in January to two counts of hunting deer over bait. He was fined $5,000 and is on informal probation. He forfeited his hunting license for a year.

Marissa Perlman