A Serious Case of Oryx Poaching

In January 2022, Socorro District Cpl. Jake Baulch received an anonymous tip. A hunter had information about fraudulent hunting activity involving the owner of Wing River Outfitters, Jared Piepkorn.

The hunter knew people who booked hunts with Piepkorn. He sold more than $30,000 worth of private-land oryx hunts, yet conducted several of those hunts on White Sands Missile Range and other public lands in south-central New Mexico.

The White Sands Missile Range is a military base and restricted area for hunting. Oryx hunting is only allowed during controlled hunt dates. Most of the hunts that take place there are once-in-a-lifetime hunts with a limited number of tags allocated per license year, creating significant demand.

Baulch suspected that multiple oryx must have been harvested illegally by nonresident hunters there under Piepkorn’s guidance. But when he looked Piepkorn up, he discovered that Piepkorn wasn’t even registered as a guide or outfitter in the state of New Mexico.

Baulch realized that this was much more than a case of fraud. After reviewing social media posts and YouTube uploads, our officers identified Mark Bishop and Clint McCoy of Decision Pointe Outdoors—an internet and social-media-based hunting production—from Louisville, Kentucky. They’d harvested oryx in January 2021 and 2022 with Piepkorn.

The search for more evidence was on! Sgt. Logan Vanlandingham and officers Larramy Roberts and Jake Morales managed to locate Bishop’s oryx carcasses, as well as one of McCoy’s. All had been found on White Sands Missile Range.

The officers ultimately deduced that Bishop shot and killed an oryx in January 2021 and another in January 2022 without an oryx hunting license. The carcass was decapitated with the meat left to waste. McCoy’s carcass had its head, hindquarters and backstraps removed, but the front quarters and tenderloins were left to waste.

Our wardens located another oryx during their investigation, which was killed on public land (BLM) in November 2021 by another hunter Piepkorn had guided. When interviewed, the hunter confessed that he had a private-land-only license valid for November 2021.

In March 2022, game wardens found yet another oryx carcass on White Sands Missile Range. The officers later found out that Piepkorn poached this oryx on the range in January 2022 when he had a private-land only-license.

That’s a total of five poached oryx! Search warrants were executed at Piepkorn’s residence in Clovis with the support of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) agents. Three unlawfully killed deer and one bull elk were seized. Service agents also interviewed Bishop and McCoy in Kentucky and they surrendered their oryx.

“This is one of the most egregious cases I have ever investigated in 10 years as a Game Warden,” Cpl. Baulch said. “It’s sad to see people taking advantage of our wildlife and committing crimes just for status on social media. It’s a slap in the face to the people of New Mexico who wait for decades to draw a tag. I hope this case shows the public we are investigating these crimes and holding poachers accountable for their actions.”

In April 2023, Piepkorn plead guilty to felony attempted fraud, accessory to hunting without a license, and hunting on public land with a private-land-only license. He was placed on supervised probation for three years and ordered to pay $30,000 in restitution to the defrauded hunt clients.

Piepkorn surrendered all heads seized by the Department and is not allowed to hunt, fish, guide, outfit or be employed by an outfitter during his three-year probation term as part of a plea agreement. The New Mexico State Game Commission further revoked Piepkorn’s hunting privileges through October 2026, which is reciprocated by the 48 U.S. states who are members of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact.

Piepkorn plead guilty to a federal misdemeanor Lacey Act charge and received a sentence of two years of probation, 50 hours of community service and a $2,000 fine paid to the Lacey Act Reward Fund. He also faces a $2,000 civil restitution fine for the recovery of damages and to compensate the State of New Mexico for the loss of this public resource paid to the Game Protection Fund.

In June 2023, Bishop pled no contest to waste of game, hunting without a license and unlawful possession of oryx and received a conditional discharge. He was ordered to pay $100 to the Socorro County Community Alternative Program.

Bishop was also issued a $1,500 citation by the USFWS, as well as a $4,000 state civil restitution fine, which was paid to the Game Protection Fund. McCoy pled no contest to unlawful possession of oryx and was required to pay $123 in court fees and faces a $2,000 state civil restitution fine.

The three men were charged with more than 37 state and federal violations related to illegal oryx hunting and outfitting services. This was a staggering result after a months-long investigation by Department officers and USFWS agents.

“Through vigorous work and investigative techniques, these officers identified and solved this substantial case involving poachers stealing wildlife and opportunities from law-abiding hunters,” Col. Tim Cimbal said. 

“If you are aware of any wildlife law violators illegally stealing the wildlife of New Mexico, please report them to our Operation Game Thief program at 1-800-432-GAME, so we can work to stop them too.”

Operation Game Thief was created in 1977 as a tool for the public to report wildlife violations and criminal trespass. Tips can be submitted online on the NMDGF website or by phone and the reports can be made anonymously. If the reported information leads to a conviction, a cash reward can be provided.

About Colleen Payne

Colleen Payne is the Public Information Specialist in the Southwest Area for the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.