DNR: Felon asked wife to pretend she shot trophy buck

By: - January 5, 2022 5:29 pm

(Photo by Yves Adams/Getty Images)

A 38-year-old rural Burlington man who is a convicted felon and prohibited from possessing firearms is accused of poaching a trophy deer with a muzzleloader rifle in October, according to court records.

Adam Aaron Rhodes faces a felony charge for having a firearm and is accused of more than three dozen hunting violations.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources accuses a Burlington felon of poaching a trophy buck with a muzzleloader rifle in October. (Photo by Iowa DNR)

State conservation officers were alerted in October to a suspicious request to mount the deer for display after it had begun to rot.

“Someone showed up at a taxidermist with a deer that had been sitting out a couple days,” said Paul Kay, a conservation officer for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “It was just odd.”

That led officers to Rhodes’ property where, in an Oct. 20 interview with another officer, Rhodes said he shot the deer with a bow. He claimed the deer wandered away after being shot and eventually fell near a food plot, however there was no visible blood trail between the two locations.

It’s illegal to bait deer with food and shoot them as they are eating or are poised to eat.

Officers examined the deer carcass and found an arrow in it but also a muzzleloader bullet, court records show. They obtained a search warrant to collect text messages and photos from Rhodes’ cellphone and discovered a photo “showing a muzzleloader in front of him while he was hunting a baited food plot,” according to documents associated with the search warrant.

Further, the officers found a text message exchange between Rhodes and his wife in which she said she heard a gunshot, and he replied: “I just killed him,” court records show.

“Mr. Rhodes then asked Mrs. Rhodes if she wanted to shoot the muzzleloader so it would look like she shot the deer,” the documents say. It’s unclear if she did.

The deer appeared to be at least a 14-point buck, based on a photo provided by the DNR.

The DNR investigation also uncovered more deer and a turkey they accuse Rhodes of poaching. It’s possible the state will revoke Rhodes’ ability to hunt in the future and fine him. The felony charge is punishable by up to five years in prison.

Rhodes was convicted of felony burglary in 2004, court records show.

Rhodes is being represented by a local attorney for the hunting violations, according to court records, but he has retained a pair of prominent West Des Moines attorneys, Bill Kutmus and Trever Hook, to defend him in the felony case.

Federal law does not classify certain muzzleloaders as firearms, and felons in some states are allowed to possess them. Iowa law is murky on the subject.

The criminal complaint against Rhodes points to part of state law that appears to group muzzleloaders with shotguns, pistols, cannons and other weapons that fire a projectile. When asked to clarify, DNR spokesperson Mick Klemesrud said Iowa Criminal Jury Instructions define a firearm as something that discharges a projectile “by the force of a chemical explosive.”

Kutmus and Hook did not respond to a request to comment about Rhodes’ felony charge.

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Jared Strong
Jared Strong

Senior reporter Jared Strong has written about Iowans and the important issues that affect them for more than 15 years, previously for the Carroll Times Herald and the Des Moines Register. His investigative work exposing police misconduct has notched several state and national awards. He is a longtime trustee of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, which fights for open records and open government. He is a lifelong Iowan and has lived mostly in rural western parts of the state.

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