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FWC charges 4 with illegal deer harvest in Walton County after year-long investigation

Nick Tomecek
Northwest Florida Daily News

After almost a year-long investigation, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has charged four people with multiple hunting-related charges.

The charges include night hunting, over-the-season bag limit of white-tailed deer, petit theft and entering fraudulent information into the FWC Harvest Reporting System.

In February 2020, FWC officers received information of illegal deer harvesting that was taking place at night on private property without landowner permission, according to a press release from the FWC.

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Dustin Bryant of Freeport, 38, was identified as a suspect. Phone records for Bryant were subpoenaed and further investigation identified more suspects who were involved, FWC said. 

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“I appreciate the dedication of our officers and their supervisors for their diligence in staying with this case for almost a yearlong investigation,” said Maj. Craig Duval, commander of the FWC’s Northwest Region.

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“I am incredibly proud of their tireless efforts in conserving our state’s natural resources.”

Arrest warrants were issued for the suspects and they were booked into the Walton County Jail on Jan. 8.

Phone records also showed that violations occurred in Alabama. Two of the suspects, Bryant and James Mcleod, were charged with additional violations by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the release said.

Dustin Bryant

Bryant, 38, of Freeport, is charged with:

  • one count of unlawfully taking or possessing any freshly killed deer or turkey with the use of a gun and light at night
  • one count of petit theft
  • one count of entering false information on licenses or permits
  • one count of entering a wildlife management area posted as closed to public access
  • one count of failure to report deer harvest within 24 hours of taking of deer
  • one count of operation of ATVs prohibited on Lafayette Creek WMA
James Mcleod

Mcleod, 29, of Freeport, is charged with:

  • two counts of unlawfully taking or possessing any freshly killed deer or turkey with the use of a gun and light at night
  • one count of petit theft
  • one count of taking more than five deer per season
  • two counts of hunting in a wildlife management area in an area posted as closed
  • one count of entering a wildlife management area posted as closed to public access
  • one count of failure to report deer harvest within 24 hours of taking of deer
  • one count of operation of ATVs prohibited on Lafayette Creek WMA
  • one count of operation of a vehicle in a closed area
Kirstan O’Neill

Kirstan O’Neill, 24, of Santa Rosa Beach, is charged with:

  • one count of unlawfully taking or possessing any freshly killed deer or turkey with the use of a gun and light at night
  • one count of entering false information on licenses or permits
Dalton Morrison

Dalton Morrison, 28, of Freeport, is charged with:

  • one count of unlawfully taking or possessing any freshly killed deer or turkey with the use of a gun and light at night
  • one count of solicitation and conspiracy to commit a crime.

To report fish and wildlife violations, contact the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).