The buck stops here

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Alexander buck rack
Mike Rex, the official scorer for the Buckeye Big Buck Club, holds the “once-in-a-lifetime” rack of the buck Christopher Alexander allegedly harvested illegally on Nov. 9, 2023. (Submitted photo)

The story went that Christopher Alexander, best known as CJ, was hunting on a 30-acre parcel in Clinton County, Ohio, owned by his sister. According to interviews with sports news outlets, CJ explained that the day he bagged a huge buck was the first time that he’d ever hunted the property.

The 28-year-old crossbowman said he had been hunting deer on public property most of the 2023 season and not having much luck. He decided to make the move to the new parcel and give it a try.

According to North American Whitetail Magazine, CJ explained that he’d sold his vertical bow a year prior and purchased a crossbow which ended up broken sometime in October “just prior to deer season.”

Ohio’s statewide bow season actually began Sept. 30, 2023. Before he could hunt on the day the buck was killed, CJ borrowed an Excalibur Matrix 380 crossbow from a friend. That friend also had to lend him a climbing tree stand to use on the property. CJ said that his own tree stands were erected in other areas.

On Nov. 9, 2023, the young man who had never hunted the property — who was using a borrowed crossbow and arrows with which he’d likely had little to no experience, while sitting in a borrowed tree stand because his were in an area he hadn’t hunted since breaking his crossbow in October — had a once-in-a-lifetime monster buck walk into range.

Preliminary examination by Mike Rex, official scorer for the Buckeye Big Buck Club indicated that the rack’s total score was 235 7/8 (non-typical) and 206 7/8 for a typical whitetail rack. Ohio’s current big buck champions were the Jerman Buck (typical) at 201 1/8, and the Beatty Buck (non-typical) at 304 6/8. It looked like the buck, now dubbed “Alexander the Great,” was poised to overthrow the reigning king of the typical throne.

The investigation

That’s one lucky hunter — until luck starts to run out. Soon, it was revealed that the hunter was being investigated by the Ohio Division of Wildlife. Some aired the belief that wildlife officers were after him “just because of” (insert your idea or accusation here). It seemed the prevailing notion was that the deer had run “just a few feet” onto neighboring property. Regardless of these errant innuendos, the officers were looking at information that kept leading them to clues.

In a news release made at the time of the inquiry, ODNR and the wildlife division were careful to point out that Alexander had not been charged yet.

The inquiry garnered national attention due to the size of the deer and the hunter’s eagerness to be interviewed for news reports and to volunteer excessive details about the hunt Of course, excitement about such a deer is normal — until it isn’t.

The officers weren’t fishing for reasons to prosecute anyone; they were searching for the truth and verification of CJ’s story. Now, investigators have gathered enough evidence about CJ and his accomplices that Ohio’s attorney general’s office decided to prosecute the case — a rarity.

A statement released by Attorney General Dave Yost, states: “Blinded by greed, the defendants set their sights on fame and fortune while disregarding basic hunting regulations. Instead of the cover of Field & Stream, their notoriety will be a booking photo.”

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want Ohio’s attorney general to release that statement anywhere near my name. It should serve as a warning shot over many a pirate’s bow.

At the time of this writing, suspects have been charged — not convicted. In fairness to them, they will have their day(s) in court during the prosecution for alleged crimes.

The indictment

The attorney general’s indictment was released May 10, and CJ and his friends got some very bad news. It accuses Christopher J. Alexander of unlawfully harvesting the deer Nov. 9, 2023.

CJ claimed that the animal had been on property owned by his sister, Kristina, when he harvested the deer and presented written permission from his sister to hunt on her land to a wildlife officer. Also, charged were Corey and Zachary Haunert who aided Alexander.

According to Yost, the Division of Wildlife investigators have provided ample evidence to prosecute the cases.

“Wildlife officers discovered through warranted searches of cellphone data that Christopher Alexander had illegally hunted the trophy buck on private property about 10 miles from his sister’s land, and later learned that the written permission from his sister he had presented to wildlife officers had been falsified — after the deer was killed — to mislead authorities.

Evidence revealed Christopher Alexander staged the deer taking at his sister’s property with the help of Corey P. Haunert and his brother, Zachary R. Haunert, to conceal the poaching.”

“The investigation also found that Corey Haunert aided Christopher Alexander in poaching deer on multiple occasions, providing the crossbow used to hunt and assisting in deer retrieval and staging with Zachary Haunert. Kristina Alexander is accused of falsifying the date when the written permission to hunt occurred.”

“Likewise, wildlife officers learned that Christopher Alexander deceptively profited from the illegal deer taking, selling deer antlers and receiving payments totaling $20,000 from an antler collector, a hunting magazine and a company that sells deer products.”

Yost also included this statement, “This once-in-a-lifetime deer embodies the great natural resources Ohio has to offer. It is shameful that this deer ended up in an evidence room rather than adorning an ethical hunter’s wall as a prized trophy.”

The lesson

Situations such as this should serve as a reminder that doing things correctly and within the law is always the best practice. Nobody should willingly place themselves in jeopardy of landing on the wrong side of the wildlife regulations. The results, especially with trophy animals, can be costly. Although the irretrievable theft of a trophy animal that is so rare and valuable is bad enough, the greater loss may well be in what your friends and community learn about your ethics and the type of person you have become.

“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.”

— Thomas Jefferson

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