Five Merced County men have been arrested by California Department of Fish and Wildlife officers on suspicions of illegally hunting and poaching several deer along the Merced River.
Martin Abarca, 24, and Horlando Martinez, 22, both of Snelling; Alfredo Martinez, 25, of Atwater; and Manuel Vargas, 24, and Silvestre Guadarrama, 53, both of Merced, were cited for taking deer out of season, killing a female deer, unlawful use of light to hunt deer, hunting deer during nighttime hours and other charges.
Wildlife officers Glenn Rodriguez and Steve Chase made the arrests Feb. 26 after hearing gunshots and discovering an SUV parked on a private ranch road. Inside the vehicle, they spotted several rifles, shotguns and spent casings. Two of the suspects were immediately detained, and three were arrested after being spotted dragging a deer carcass toward the SUV. A sixth suspect escaped into the thick vegetation.
Officers continued their investigation the next morning and found at least five more deer carcasses. One rifle and four shotguns were seized along with ammunition and a butcher knife.