This photo on the Trophy Bucks of Iowa Facebook page led to an Iowa Department of Natural Resources investigation of Joshua Snyder.
This photo on the Trophy Bucks of Iowa Facebook page led to an Iowa Department of Natural Resources investigation of Joshua Snyder.

January 24, 2019

A new state law that enables suspected poachers to more easily reclaim their trophy kills and equipment if they are not convicted of a hunting crime does not prevent law-enforcement officers from seizing those items during investigations, a district judge ruled Wednesday.

Joshua Ray Snyder, 38, of Carroll, is challenging the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ confiscation last year of four of his deer heads that are evidence in an ongoing criminal investigation into his hunting.

His attorneys — William Kutmus and Trever Hook, of West Des Moines, who have represented hunters in high-profile cases in recent years — have said that Snyder’s seized-property case is the first legal test of the new law.

Kutmus argued in a court hearing last month that, in light of the law change in July 2018, officers obtained an improper search warrant and shouldn’t have been able to confiscate the heads until Snyder was convicted of a crime.

But District Judge Gary McMinimee disagreed in his written Wednesday ruling.

“This court cannot believe the legislature intended to hamstring law enforcement by forcing the return of such evidentiary or investigatory materials,” he wrote.

Hook said they will likely appeal the decision to the Iowa Supreme Court.

The investigation into Snyder began in November when officers saw a photo on the Trophy Bucks of Iowa Facebook page in which Snyder posed with a buck with a purported 220-inch rack, which would make it among the largest in Iowa for deer killed with a bow.

Officers located the buck’s head and cape at a southern-Iowa taxidermy shop and discovered a bullet hole in the cape, according to court records. It’s illegal to shoot a deer with a gun during bow season in November.

Several conservation officers used a search warrant to confiscate Snyder’s cellphone in a Nov. 18 traffic stop, and they also searched his parents’ rural acreage. There they found the heads of three recently killed deer hidden in a row of cedar trees and in a grain cart.

There was evidence that at least two of them also had been shot with a gun, court records show.

It’s unclear when Snyder might be charged with a crime.

Carroll County Attorney John Werden, the chief criminal prosecutor of the county, declined to comment for this article because of the ongoing criminal investigation into Snyder.