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Father, son accused after poaching investigation

Michigan’s first elk hunt of the year starts Tuesday in the northern Lower Peninsula. A Rogers City man is charged in Presque Isle County with poaching elk, among other species. (Michigan Department of Natural Resources photo)

LANSING – A father and son duo from Rogers City are being charged for poaching, following an ongoing investigation by Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers.

Initially denying any wrongdoing, Val Vogelheim, 56, and Josh Vogelheim, 26, turned themselves in to the Presque Isle County prosecutor’s office in July, where they were arrested and arraigned for several criminal acts at multiple hunting camps across northern Michigan.

Val Vogelheim was charged with nine counts, including:

— Aiding and abetting; taking elk without a license.

— Possession of illegally taken game.

— Taking deer without a license.

— Loaning a deer license to another.

— Unlawful methods of taking turkey.

— Possession of protected raptors.

Josh Vogelheim was charged with two counts: taking turkey without a license and taking deer without a license.

Conservation officers received an anonymous tip in September 2019 regarding illegal activities at a camp located in southern Presque Isle County. After a lengthy investigation, Conservation Officer Sidney Collins obtained a search warrant.

During the investigation, which was assisted by several of Collins’ peers, officers located several Michigan elk, white-tailed deer and wild turkey that were suspected to be illegally taken. In addition, a snowy owl, a sharp-shinned hawk, a barred owl and other frozen game were found. Officers also discovered evidence pointing to the unlawful feeding of wildlife and a second camp that involved similar illegal activities.

In October, officers searched the second camp, also located in southern Presque Isle County, where they found additional evidence, suspects and criminal activity linking back several years.

“A lot of people have been directly involved with these camps,” Collins said.

DNA evidence confirmed that all of the game was taken in Michigan. Collins and Conservation Officer Paul Fox have conducted numerous investigations with other suspects located throughout the state and anticipate additional arrests.

“It takes time, often years, to investigate illegal activity that takes place at hunting camps,” said Chief Gary Hagler, DNR Law Enforcement Division. “We’re pleased to see how quickly Officer Collins was able to put together the evidence and coordinate a thorough, investigative effort at multiple locations throughout the state.”

No evidence has been identified connecting the suspects or camps to five elk poached in three separate incidents last November and December; those remain under investigation.

Michigan’s first elk hunt of the year begins Tuesday.

Every year, thousands of Michigan residents apply for elk tags in a drawing process that allows a set number of hunters to target this controlled elk population. In 2019, 200 Michigan residents received elk tags.

Anyone witnessing a natural resources crime or having information about such a crime is encouraged to call or text the DNR’s Report All Poaching hotline at 800-292-7800. You can remain anonymous.

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