JACKSON- Recently, Jackson resident Jeramy Hutchison was ordered to serve 20 days in jail for antler hunting during a closed season and violating a Game and Fish big game winter closure at the same time. Hutchison also lost his hunting and fishing privileges for three years and paid $1,110.00 in fines. Hutchison had been caught for similar violations on Forest Service lands adjacent to the National Elk Refuge in 2017.
At about 2:30 p.m. on March 31, 2020, South Jackson Game and Fish Warden Kyle Lash caught Hutchison violating the winter range closure and stashing elk antlers at the South Park Wildlife Habitat Management Area (WHMA) and elk feedground, approximately five miles south of Jackson. The South Park WHMA and the gathering of antlers are both closed until May 1 to protect wintering big game.
Warden Lash made a second case of violating the antler season when Jason Heggenstaller of Star Valley Ranch, WY, was caught carrying antlers the morning of May 1, prior to the opening of the antler collection season at noon. It was clear Heggemstaller knew he was in violation of the noon opening time as his antlers were concealed and he tried to evade Warden Lash as he approached. Heggenstaller paid a $435.00 fine and lost his antlers for starting early.
On April 26, 2020, North Jackson Game Warden Jon Stephens also cited two individuals for antler hunting in the Gros Ventre drainage north of Jackson during the closed season. Ryan Blair, of Jackson, pleaded guilty to the offense, paid a $435 fine and lost his hunting and fishing privileges for one year. The second case is still pending.
The antler hunting regulation prohibits the gathering of shed antlers from January 1 through April 30 on all public lands in the designated closure (primarily west of the Continental Divide). The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission enacted the regulation after considerable public input in the fall of 2009.
According to the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission regulation, “collection” is defined as: to search for, locate, stockpile, or possess shed antlers and horns of big game animals on public land or attempt to search for, locate, stockpile, or possess shed antlers and horns of big game animals on public land.
In addition, many big game winter ranges on public lands in western Wyoming have further restrictions to either human presence or motor vehicles during the winter months. However, the shed antler regulation does apply to all other federal or public lands not covered under such winter range closures.
One man receives stiff punishment for his third wildlife conviction
LANDER- On March 4, 2020, Fremont County Circuit Court Judge Robert Denhardt the found Kelly J. Grove of Dubois, Wyoming guilty of two counts of accessory before or after the fact in taking big game without a license (elk and deer), and one count accessory before or after the fact in the take of big game from a vehicle. The prosecution dismissed two charges including accessory before or after the fact of shooting from a roadway and interference with a peace officer in a plea bargain reached with Mr. Grove.
Through the sentencing, Fremont County Circuit Court Judge Robert Denhardt sent a strong message to Grove to stop his poaching behavior and take responsibility for his actions. Judge Denhardt ordered him to pay a total of $6,365 in fines, assessments, and restitution, to spend one year in jail with 7 days credit for time already served, and three years supervised probation upon his release. Grove is required to serve the remaining 358 days in jail. The Judge also suspended Grove’s hunting and fishing privileges for 18 years in Wyoming and the 44 other states (https://www.naclec.org/wvc), and to forfeit his Remington 700 .300 Ultra Mag bolt action rifle.
On January 7, 2020 Spencer Carrico of Dubois, Wyoming pled guilty and was sentenced by Judge Denhardt for two violations of taking an elk and a deer without a license. The prosecution dismissed the counts of take big game from a vehicle and shooting from a roadway in a plea bargain reached with Mr. Carrico. Judge Denhardt ordered Mr. Carrico to pay $6,110 in fines, assessment, and restitution and suspended his hunting and fishing privileges for four years in Wyoming and 44 other states. Carrico was ordered to one year unsupervised probation and sentenced to 90 days in jail, which were suspended.
The case itself began on the evening of November 10, 2018 when Carrico and Grove were coming down the Union Pass Road west of Dubois in Grove’s truck. They spotted and shot a cow elk and Carrico, using Grove’s rifle. The men were unable to locate the elk after searching for it and were unsure if Carrico had mortally wounded the animal. The next day, both men, again in Grove’s truck, spotted a doe mule deer off the East Fork Road northeast of Dubois. Grove again handed his rifle to Carrico who shot the doe from the road and inside the truck on a dare from Grove. The men loaded the deer whole into the truck, drove down the road a distance, pulled over, and gutted the deer. They took the deer home and quartered the animal. Both men had been drinking when they shot the animals, and neither man had an elk or a deer license in 2018.<
Although Carrico was the primary defendant in the case, he received a less serious punishment from Judge Denhardt than Grove did as the accessory. This was Carrico’s first wildlife violation, he was cooperative with the officers conducting the investigation, admitted his role in the crime, and took responsibility for his actions. Grove did not take responsibility for his role, tampered with evidence, and is a repeat wildlife violator with two previous serious violations and several minor infractions.
Grove was placed on federal probation for the unlawful taking of threatened wildlife just months before he and Carrico committed these most recent crimes. In 2018, he and another man, Matthew Brooks, formerly of Dubois, were both found guilty for their roles in the illegal take of a grizzly bear north of Dubois in 2015. Grove was ordered to pay $7,000 in restitution and his hunting privileges were suspended worldwide for five years. Eight other charges against him in the grizzly bear case were dismissed, and his Remington 700 .300 Ultra Mag bolt action rifle was also confiscated in that case but returned 2 months before he handed it to Carrico to shoot the elk and deer.
Grove also pled guilty August 2007 to being an accessory to taking a bighorn ram without a license, waste/abandonment of a bighorn sheep, two counts each of waste of an elk and deer, and two counts each of false oath to obtain resident big game licenses.
“This man has a shocking history of violations. He’s been convicted of wanton waste of animals, including a bighorn sheep, he’s attempted to shoot the antlers off of live deer, he was on federal probation for game violations when he committed this crime and more. We appreciate the work of the Game and Fish in bringing us solid, well-investigated cases. The Fremont County Attorney’s office is pleased with the sentence that the circuit court handed down, in recognition of the intolerable history that preceded this case,” says Chief Deputy Fremont County and Prosecuting Attorney Ember Oakley, who represented the state in the current case and in the federal grizzly bear case.
Grove will next appear in front of U.S. District Court Judge Skavdahl for violating his federal probation by committing another wildlife crime while on probation from the illegal take of the grizzly bear.
LARAMIE- South Laramie Game Warden Bill Brinegar was recently recognized with the Outstanding Service Award from theNorth American Wildlife Enforcement Officers Association (NAWEOA). The Outstanding Service Award is given for outstanding achievement or service in the field of wildlife law enforcement. NAWEOA holds an annual training conference that attracts up to 500 field officers from 60 different agencies throughout North America and provides recognition for members through its annual award program.
Cokeville Game Warden Neil Hymas racks up 40 years of service!
Cokeville - Cokeville Game Warden Neil Hymasreached a milestone this month, achieving his 40 year service award. Hymas, in above photo on the left, has worked tirelessly during his career to conserve wildlife and serve people. Among many of his accomplishments during his career was his assistance with the many mule deer research projects going on in the Wyoming Range Mule Deer Herd. Great job, Neil-GF 34!
Dubois Man Charged With Wildlife Violations for a Third Time
Pictured Above: Female grizzly bear poached by Grove and Brooks in 2015.
LANDER - Kelly J. Grove (34) of Dubois, Wyoming pled “not guilty” on Tuesday, September 10, 2019 before Judge Denhardt in the Circuit Court of Lander, Fremont County, 9thJudicial District. Grove pled not guilty to 5 counts including Accessory before or after the fact in taking game animals without a license, Accessory before or after the fact in taking game animals without a license, Accessory before or after the fact in using automobiles for hunting, Accessory before or after the fact of hunting from the highway, and Interference with a Peace Officer.
Grove was recently arrested on August 28, 2019 by Fremont County Sheriff’s Deputies on an arrest warrant issued out of Judge Denhardt’s court for the above wildlife violations. He remained in jail after his bond hearing on August 30 before Circuit Court Magistrate Phillips. He spent 6 days in the Fremont County Jail and was released after posting a $10,000 cash bond on September 3.
Grove was recently sentenced on July 2, 2018 on a previous wildlife case, along with a Casper man, Matthew Brooks, for the Unlawful Taking of Threatened Wildlife for his role in the death of a grizzly bear in September 2015. Grizzly bears are a federally protected species.
In this recent plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Grove pled guilty to the unlawful taking of a grizzly bear. In the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming in Casper, Wyoming, Chief United States District Judge Scott Skavdahl ordered Grove to pay $7,000 restitution for the bear and revoked his hunting privileges worldwide for 5 years. In addition, he was sentenced to 5 years unsupervised probation during which he was ordered not to commit another federal, state, tribal, or local crime. Grove was also ordered to pay a $25 special assessment.
As part of this global settlement with the U.S. Attorney’s office, Fremont County Attorney’s Office, and Grove, 8 state wildlife charges were not filed on Grove.
The primary defendant in the grizzly case, Matthew J. Brooks, (now 32), formerly of Dubois, in a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, pled guilty and was sentenced on July 23, 2018 in U.S. District Court in Casper. Judge Skavdahl ordered Brooks to pay $20,000 restitution for the bear and revoked his hunting privileges for 4 years. Brooks will also forfeit his firearm or firearm parts, complete 200 hours of community service, pay a special assessment of $25, and was put on 5 years of unsupervised probation during which time he is to have no violations of law.
As part of this global settlement with the U.S. Attorney’s office, Fremont County Prosecutor, and Brooks, 5 state wildlife charges were not filed on Brooks.
The grizzly bear case began with a report from the public received by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) of a grizzly bear found dead just below U.S. Forest Service Road 515 near Barber’s Point located between Wind River Lake on Togwotee Pass and Brooks Lake in the Shoshone National Forest northeast of Dubois, Wyoming. A WGFD Game Warden and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Special Agent investigated the bear and found it was an adult female bear shot dead while feeding on an elk carcass. The G&F had no previous dealings with this bear and it was not considered a problem bear.
USFWS and WGFD officers over the next two years interviewed suspects, witnesses and collected evidence including during a search warrant conducted on Grove’s residence in Dubois. As a result of this investigation, a total of 8 people were found to have committed state and federal wildlife violations. Some are still to be located and charged with their crimes.
The tale of how the bear was killed is as intriguing as any mystery novel. The bear had been observed by some local Dubois residents feeding on a hunter killed elk carcass for several days before Brooks and Grove killed the bear. The sow was somewhat of a novelty as the bear could be safely observed from a vehicle on the Forest Service Road located above the carcass. Grove and another man had actually harassed the bear a few days before, throwing rocks and agitating the bear to do some short bluff charges.
According to Brooks, on the night of September 22, 2015, he and Grove were together as Brooks had been hunting elk earlier in the afternoon in the Togwotee Pass area. The two had been drinking and Grove suggested to Brooks they locate the bear and kill it as it might pose a hazard to either themselves or other hunters that might hunt the Barber’s Point area nearby. The men drove to the area and at about 11:00 p.m. Brooks turned his vehicle across the forest service road, illuminated the bear on the carcass with his truck’s headlights, and shot it. They covered their tracks and quickly left the area. Brooks said they made a “pact” to not talk about killing the grizzly but word soon started to get out in the community and officers started to hear rumors of what had happened.
Brooks said several weeks later, after officers had conducted interviews of suspects and witnesses and completed search warrants, he and Grove and a third man, went up a rural local Dubois road during the night and buried his rifle, ammunition, and other accessories in bags in the ground so the gun could not be found by officers. Several months later, Brooks, fearing that Grove would recover the rifle or talk too much, retrieved the rifle and reburied it at another location that only he knew of. Brooks later dug up the gun a second time and took it to a friend who was a gunsmith and had the friend break the gun down and attempt to turn it into a different caliber rifle.
As details and evidence of the crime became overwhelming, Brooks decided to come clean and admit to shooting the bear and relate all the details of what occurred the night the bear was killed. As a result of his cooperation, the U.S. Attorney’s office and Fremont County Prosecutor’s office entered into a plea deal with Brooks and his attorney to resolve the case with a “global settlement” where the State of Wyoming would not pursue charges for state wildlife violations after Brooks answered to his federal charges. A similar plea agreement was worked out with Grove and his attorney.
This grizzly bear was just doing what a bear does and had posed no danger to humans nor had any history of negative interactions with humans. In this case, the humans were more dangerous than the bear. Brooks apologized to the Court and officers for shooting the bear and attributed his actions to a rough time in his life where he was making some poor decisions and also drinking too much. At sentencing he said he was already a different person than he was three years before when he shot the bear.
Grove also previously pled guilty 1 August 2007 to being an accessory to taking a bighorn ram without a license, waste / abandonment of a bighorn sheep, 2 counts each of waste of a big game animal, and 2 counts each of false oath to obtain resident big game licenses. The ram was killed illegally in November 2006 by Grove and a Tennessee man, Roger McKean. Ninth Circuit Court Judge Denhardt fined Grove $2,490, ordered him to pay $1,500 restitution for the ram and revoked his privileges for 3 years. In addition he was sentenced to 1 year probation, a 30 day suspended jail sentence, and ordered to forfeit a .243 bolt action rifle used in the crimes.
Bighorn sheep ram poached by Grove and McKean in 2006.
Buffalo resident signs plea agreement in 2018 poaching case
Buffalo - On June 24, 2019, Buffalo resident Ray Ludwig signed a plea agreement for poaching four cow elk and harassing big game from a vehicle in November 2018. As part of the agreement, he will pay $5,000 in fines and restitution.
The case began on Nov. 27, 2018 when Buffalo Game Warden Jim Seeman was contacted by two hunters who witnessed and recorded a vehicle chasing a group of elk in Hunt Area 35 south of Buffalo. They also heard multiple shots coming from the vehicle. Based on the information they provided, Seeman identified the vehicle as belonging to Ludwig and interviewed him via phone that evening.
“What happened next was probably the biggest cover up and conspiracy that I have seen in my 27-year career,” said Seeman.
When told that his vehicle had been seen chasing elk, with shots fired from it, Ludwig falsely claimed that several of his friends who had Area 35 licenses were in the vehicle with him that day and they had killed three elk. He also asked Seeman what defined ‘shooting from a vehicle’.
In the following days, Seeman interviewed six people by phone or in person- three Wisconsin residents, a Nebraska resident and two Wyoming residents - that Ludwig had identified as members of the hunting party. Seeman was unable to contact a fourth Wisconsin resident that Ludwig implicated in the poaching.
“The group of subjects all had been coached on what to say and not to speak with a game warden if asked,” said Seeman.
The individuals falsely claimed that among the group, three elk had been killed in Hunt Area 35 and two in Hunt Area 34.
However, the timeline from the video and evidence gathered by Seeman contradicted their statements. After further investigation and assistance from investigators and officers from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Seeman learned that two of the Wisconsin subjects who claimed to have shot elk, were not even in Wyoming at the time of the incident and one of the Wyoming residents who later tagged one of the elk with his Area 35 license, was at home during the incident.
It was eventually determined that Ludwig was the only occupant in the vehicle at the time of the poaching and he did not possess an elk license for Hunt Area 35. Two of the Wisconsin residents, the Nebraska resident and one Wyoming resident were two miles away on foot, attempting to hunt the herd of elk. As the group began shooting at the elk, the herd ran towards Ludwig.
Though Ludwig did not admit during his interview to killing the elk, he was the only person in the vehicle and in the same proximity as the elk and later statements from the rest of his hunting party laid blame for the poaching on Ludwig. Ludwig also said during his interview that in addition to the five elk killed, he saw a blood trail from a sixth, crippled elk that led onto a neighbor’s property but he did not pursue it.
Five subjects were charged with accessory to taking a big game animal without a license for their part in the crime. They each pleaded guilty and were collectively assessed fines totaling $2,375.
Ludwig was charged with killing four big game animals without a license and harassing big game with a vehicle. In addition to $5,000 in fines and restitution, Ludwig’s hunting privileges are suspended in Wyoming and 46 other Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact states for five years.
“If it were not for concerned hunters, who care about ethical hunting practices, this case would never have been made,” said Seeman. “Their willingness to report what they saw and provide video of the event was critical to determining what happened.”
Baggs Game Warden Kim Olson Receives Awards
Congratulations to Baggs Game Warden Kim Olson for her Green River Region Peer Recognition Award! Olson also received her 15 year service award after coming to Wyoming from Utah, where she worked as a conservation officer. Olson is known for her dedication, tireless work ethic, being a team player and she and her family are important members of their community. Her supervisor regional wildlife supervisor Todd Graham presented Olson with the awards June 17.
South Dakota residents plead guilty in 2017 poaching case
GILLETTE - On Aug. 9, 2018, the second of two South Dakota residents pleaded guilty to being an accessory to the illegal taking of a buck mule deer in Wyoming in November 2017.
The case began with an anonymous call received by Newcastle Game Warden Troy Achterhof on the night of Nov. 2, 2017. The caller stated that occupants in a white Dodge pickup with South Dakota license plates had just shot at a buck mule deer on the School Creek Road southeast of Wright in Deer Hunt Area 10.
The area is a limited quota hunt area with just 100 antlered deer licenses issued in 2017 and the mule deer season in this area had closed for the year on Oct. 16. The next day, Achterhof, joined by South Gillette Game Warden Dustin Kirsch, traveled to the area to search for the subjects. Around 7:30 a.m., the wardens heard a gunshot nearby and saw a vehicle matching the report from the previous evening.
Achterhof and Kirsch stopped the vehicle and identified the occupants as Forrest Schramm of Hot Springs, S.D. and Jared Frasier of Custer, S.D. After a short interview, both subjects admitted to attempting to take a mule deer buck.
Schramm then accompanied Kirsch to the scene of the crime and Kirsch located the buck mule deer that had been shot by Schramm, lying in the snow paralyzed. At this point, Schramm was placed under arrest for intentionally taking an antlered big game animal without a license and during a closed season. Kirsch euthanized the buck mule deer and drove back to meet with Achterhof and Frasier. When Kirsch returned, Frasier was also placed under arrest as an accessory to the crime. Both suspects were transported by Campbell County sheriff's deputies to the detention center in Gillette.
Wardens Achterhof and Kirsch continued their investigation and determined the buck mule deer had been wounded on Nov. 2 by a shot from Schramm's rifle. They also discovered that in the hours it laid in a paralyzed state, the mule deer had suffered repeated puncture wounds, likely inflicted by another buck.
After finishing the necropsy of the buck mule deer, Kirsch returned to Gillette and began a consent search of Schramm's pickup truck. Inside the vehicle, Kirsch discovered four firearms, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, various hunting gear and four unused 2017 South Dakota deer licenses issued to Schramm.
On April 4, 2018 Schramm pleaded guilty to intentionally taking a buck mule deer during a closed season/without a license, using an illegal firearm cartridge for taking big game and shooting from a public road. He was assessed fines and restitution of $9,525 and forfeited a Remington .22-250 rifle with a Zeiss scope.
On Aug. 9, 2018, Frasier pleaded guilty as an accessory to intentionally taking a buck mule deer during a closed season/without a license. He was assessed fines and restitution of $6,555. In addition, both men lost their privilege to hunt, fish or trap in Wyoming and 46 other Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact states for three years.
Game & Fish Cites Antler Poachers
PINEDALE - May 1 serves as the defacto opening day for antler hunting across much of western Wyoming. Since 2009, Wyoming has had a season in place which prohibits the collection of shed antlers and horns from January 1-April 30 on all public lands west of the Continental Divide. Plus, May 1 is when several big game winter range closures are lifted on key federal lands in western Wyoming. In the weeks leading up to May 1, Game & Fish wardens in the Pinedale Region are always busy patrolling area winter ranges making sure antler hunters are playing by the rules. This year, Pinedale game wardens Jordan Kraft and Bubba Haley along with Big Piney Game Warden Adam Hymas, apprehended 10 antler hunters, all Wyoming residents, who couldn't wait until opening day. Citations were written for violation of the antler collection season, trespassing on private land and trespassing on the Soda Lake Wildlife Habitat Management Area. There are still court appearances pending for two individuals, but thus far sentences have totaled $4100 in fines and seven years of lost hunting privileges. All confiscated antlers are returned to the field when the cases are closed.
Closed Season Buck Mule Deer
GILLETTE - A Gillette couple will pay close to $10,000 in fines and restitution for the illegal taking of a buck mule deer during the fall of 2017.
On June 1, 2018, Rocky Lamascolo pleaded guilty and was sentenced in Campbell County Circuit Court to the illegal take of a buck mule deer without a license/during a closed season. He was ordered to pay a $5,055 fine, $4,000 in restitution and his .270-caliber rifle and scope used during the commission of the crime were forfeited. His privilege to hunt in Wyoming and the 47 other Wildlife Violator Compact member states was suspended until June 2, 2021.
This case began with an anonymous tip to South Gillette Game Warden Dustin Kirsch on Nov. 10, 2017 suggesting Rocky Lamascolo of Gillette had illegally killed a large buck mule deer without a license in a closed area. The investigation by Kirsch revealed the 6-by-8 non-typical mule deer was killed in northern Campbell County on Nov. 8-19 days after the season had closed. Rocky Lamascolo solicited the help of his wife Sarah Lamascolo, who unlawfully purchased a resident general deer license on Nov. 8 to help cover the illegal take of the deer. Though Rocky Lamascolo initially claimed he killed the deer near Sundance, with the help of fellow wardens and two concerned citizens who provided photographs and video, Kirsch was able to identify that the deer was alive on Nov. 4 along the Bitter Creek Road in Campbell County.
"Information provided in the initial report and the willingness of concerned citizens to step up and provide crucial evidence, were key to apprehending Mr. Lamascolo," said Kirsch. Sarah Lamascolo pleaded guilty to making a false statement to purchase a resident Wyoming deer license and was ordered to pay a fine of $805 and lost her privilege to hunt in Wyoming and the Wildlife Violator Compact member states for one year.
Welcome back to the Sheridan County Detention Center
Dayton - For the second time in just over a year, a Montana man was arrested for wildlife crimes by the same game warden in Wyoming. Wales Nyjoel Springfield of Lodge Grass, Montana was arrested in September of 2016 for poaching a large 6x6 bull elk out of season and without a license near Parkman, Wyoming. Springfield entered a private ranch at night and by using a spotlight, found and killed the large bull. The head and some meat was taken.
Springfield pled guilty and was fined $5040 and spent 52 days at the Sheridan County Detention Center. Fast forward to December of 2017, Dayton game warden Dustin Shorma received information from a late season deer hunter that he observed a man shoot at a herd of mule deer from inside a passenger car, off the county road. Shorma recognized the description of that vehicle because landowners in that same area had called him about it acting suspiciously the past few weeks. The deer hunter went on to say he believed the shooter missed because he did not hear the sound of a bullet strike any of the animals and when the shooter noticed the deer hunter, he sped off.
A search of the area the following day did not turn up any dead mule deer. An investigation revealed Springfield was the driver of that car and was positively identified by the deer hunter as being the man he saw shoot at the deer. It was also discovered that Springfield had an active arrest warrant out of Wyoming for failing to pay his fines for poaching the elk.
On December 10th, 2017, Shorma was on patrol when he observed the car involved with the shooting and saw Springfield sitting in the passenger seat. He followed the vehicle to a gas station and arrested Springfield without incident. Further investigation revealed Springfield had an additional extraditable warrant out of Montana.
Springfield was cited for "take big game (deer) without a license, take wildlife from a motor vehicle and shooting from a county road." He did not pay any fines but spent 60 days in jail before being sent to Montana to face charges there. He is also still required to pay the balance of $5040 for the bull elk.
Pronghorn poached and stuffed in rental van
Rawlins - In September 2017, Game Warden Teal Cufaude received a report that a Washoe County Sheriff's Deputy (Nevada) had made a traffic stop and discovered an illegally harvested buck pronghorn in the vehicle that was stopped. The vehicle occupants were identified as California residents Steve Stern and Bruce Martell. Nevada Game Wardens arrived on scene to further investigate the wildlife crime. During the course of interviews, Stern and Martell eventually admitted to the Nevada Game Wardens that the buck pronghorn had been killed by Stern in Wyoming without a license.
Stern reported that they had seen the buck on Highway 287 during a trip from California to Stern's hunting property in South Dakota. Stern had made this drive many times before and was always amazed by the number of pronghorn in Wyoming. Stern did not have a license to hunt pronghorn in Wyoming, nor had he ever purchased any Wyoming hunting or fishing licenses. After Stern shot the buck pronghorn they retrieved it from the field, loaded it into their rental minivan, and then drove for a while before gutting it, near Alcova, Wyoming. Stern and Martell then drove to South Dakota and hung the buck pronghorn in a friend’s outbuilding for the weekend. They were returning back to their residences in California when they were stopped in Nevada with the illegally taken buck pronghorn.
The Nevada Game Wardens arrested Stern and Martell following their interviews and charged them with violations of State Lacey Act and unlawful possession of a big game animal without a tag attached. Stern and Martell pled guilty to unlawful possession of a big game animal without a tag attached. They each paid a fine of $632 and a civil penalty of $500. They forfeited the rifle used as well as all their ammunition and the pronghorn.
Stern assured Warden Cufaude that this was a spur of the moment occurrence and they had not planned to kill a pronghorn during their travels, but their cell phones would say something different. After receiving a search warrant for cell phone data, the Nevada Game Wardens sent Stern's and Martell's cell phones to Warden Cufaude. Text messages from the phones showed that the men had premeditated killing a pronghorn during their trip. Following the kill, the men bragged to several friends about the event via text messages.
In March 2018, the individuals showed up to their arraignment in Carbon County, Wyoming. Stern pled no contest to taking a pronghorn without a license and Martell pled no contest to accessory to taking a pronghorn without a license. The Carbon County Circuit Court Judge accepted their pleas and subsequently suspended Stern's hunting and fishing privileges for six years. Martell's hunting privileges were suspended for six years and fishing privileges were suspended for one year. They were also fined $490.00 each, put on one year of probation, and ordered to pay $3000 restitution to the Game and Fish Fund. Although they have never held a Wyoming hunting or fishing license, with these sentences they will be entered into the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact and their hunting and fishing privilege suspension would be recognized in Compact States including their home state of California.
Washoe County, Nevada Sheriff Deputy's traffic stop and search with Stern and Martell.
Pronghorn carcass in back of rental van. Photos courtesy of Nevada Sherriff's Office.
Poaching case and string of burglaries finally solved
Hanna Elk Mountain Game Warden Ryan Kenneda wrapped up a case that took place in winter of 2016 in which several deer were taken out of season. The investigation began as a burglary case, but soon became a wildlife violation. Warden Kenneda worked with the Hanna Marshall's office to obtain a search warrant for the residence.
The wildlife violations were settled out of court. The suspect pleaded guilty to two counts of taking deer out of season and was ordered to pay $5,040. His hunting, fishing and trapping privileges were suspended for 30 years. The suspect is currently serving a prison sentence for the burglary charge.
Timely Poaching Tip Results in Fine and Lost Hunting Privileges
Buffalo – A call to Buffalo Game Warden Jim Seeman from an archery hunter on the evening of September 13 began an investigation of a Florida man that was reported to have shot an elk on private land from a county road. Just before it got dark, the archery hunter observed a vehicle driving slowly on Hazelton Road south-west of Buffalo. Within seconds after the vehicle went out of sight of the archery hunter, he heard three gun shots. The archery hunter knew a person in the vehicle would not have had time to exit the vehicle prior to shooting, so he quickly drove to the location, recorded the vehicle license plate and called Seeman.
Seeman arrived at the location about one hour after receiving the tip and finding no one at the location at 9:30 p.m., returned to the scene early the next morning. Seeman found a white Florida vehicle with a license plate matching the one reported to him the previous evening. When Seeman asked the person driving the vehicle if he was looking for the elk he had shot the night before, the suspect was less than truthful and would only say he and his wife were just taking photos. While searching the area for a dead animal or other evidence, Seeman noticed orange flagging marking a trail from the right-of-way fence leading 300 yards onto private land. Seeman interviewed the suspect again, and after discussing evidence found at the site where the shots were fired and a roll of orange flagging in the suspect's vehicle, the man admitted to shooting from the county road and trespassing, but not hitting an elk.
Two days later, after the man went back to Florida, hunters in the area found a dead cow elk in the sagebrush within 200 yards of the orange flagging marking the trail. The man was then issued an additional citation for wanton waste of a big game animal. Through an agreement with the Johnson County Attorney's office, the Florida man agreed to pay a $750.00 fine and he will lose his hunting privileges for one year. Game Warden Jim Seeman indicated he would not have been able to catch this poacher had it not been for the observation and timely report made by the archery hunter.
Cow elk which was shot from a Johnson County road by a Florida man and wasn't found until three days after it was shot.
Cody – Last month, South Fork Game Warden Grant Gerharter responded to a report of multiple ducks killed and left in front of the Valley Elementary School. Several of the ducks were missing their heads and there was a blood smear left behind on the side of the building.
After it was determined that the school had a security camera, Gerharter thought he was finally catching a lucky break and the persons responsible for such a disrespectful act could be identified. After reviewing the footage, it was discovered that two owls had killed the ducks and even dropped one, which hit the side of the school, leaving a smear of blood on the building. Mystery solved!
Owls commonly choose to consume the brain and/or head of their prey first be-cause it is high in fat and nutrients. This may have been two juvenile owls sharpening their hunting skills.
One of the headless ducks found at Valley Elementary School that were killed by owls.
Deer Decoy Operation
Jackson – Wyoming Game and Fish law enforcement officers from the Jackson Region conducted a deer decoy operation on the west side of the Teton Range, near the Wyoming-Idaho border, in an effort to reduce the number of hunting violations occurring there. Game and Fish officials have received several complaints of out of season deer hunting occurring in the area over the years. The buck mule deer decoy was set up in Wyoming, two miles from the state line, on October 10 in deer Hunt Area 149, which closed to Wyoming deer hunt-ing on October 7.
During the eight hours the decoy was set up, a total of seven vehicles passed by with four vehicles stopping and three of them actually shooting at it. A total of five citations were given to the shooters for taking a deer out of season, which carries a $805 fine and for shooting from a public roadway.
"We don't use decoys a lot," says Jackson Game Warden Kyle Lash. "But when we have certain problem areas such as this, they have proven to be pretty effective. They're effective in that they put the wildlife, the game warden and the violator all at the crime scene at the same time. They're just a good tool to keep hunters playing by the rules."
Jackson Game Warden Kyle Lash and Jackson Wildlife Supervisor Brad Hovinga set up a deer decoy on the west side of the Tetons to help deter illegal hunting there.
Anglers: Avoid citations by reading regulations
Wheatland – Anglers are urged to read the 2017 Wyoming Fishing Regulations prior to fishing to avoid receiving a citation as many others have this summer. Recently the bass limits on Grayrocks Reservoir were changed. An angler can possess three bass and only one can be over 12 inches.
In the top photo, an angler had three bass, with two over 12 inches. The angler was issued a warning and one bass was forfeited and donated to another angler. In the middle photo, an angler had 6-and-a-half walleye fillets, cut from walleye caught in Glendo Reservoir. The daily creel and total possession limit is 6 walleye. Additionally, these fillets did not have a piece of skin attached to aid in species identification. The photo on bottom shows a seized batch of minnows. The owner of this bunch of minnows did not have a receipt, or a seining license, to accompany his minnows.
Coopers hawks found shot in Greybull
Greybull – Last month, Greybull Game Warden Bill Robertson investigated a report of two Coopers hawks that were shot in the town of Greybull. A tourist found both birds beneath a cottonwood tree in the city park. One bird was dead and the other injured. The injured bird was taken to Ironside Bird Rescue in Cody; reports from the facility indicate the bird is healing. Robertson has patrolled the area looking for someone with a high powered air gun and a news article was placed in the local paper asking for information. Unfortunately, no leads have arisen thus far. If you have information about his case, contact Bill Robertson at 307-765-2163.
An injured Coopers hawk that was found in the City Park in Greybull. Photo courtesy of Susan Ahalt.
Star of reality TV hunting show Wildgame Nation sentenced for poaching in Lincoln County
Kemmerer – On May 23, 2017 Billy A. Busbice Jr. of Olla, Louisiana appeared before Lincoln County Circuit Court Judge Frank Zebre and pled guilty to charges of intentionally allowing an antlerless elk to go to waste and an additional charge of taking an elk without the proper license. Busbice stars on Wildgame Nation, a reality hunting show on the Outdoor Channel, and also owns an outdoor products company.
The case started on October 16, 2016 when Kemmerer Game Warden Chris Baird received a report from a group of hunters that had observed a possible wildlife violation on the Spring Creek Ranch, which is owned by Busbice, on La Barge Creek. "The hunters told me that on the morning of October 15th they observed a man hunting on the ranch," Baird said. "Apparently, there was a younger man with the hunter who had a video camera and appeared to be filming the hunt. They watched the hunter shoot one elk, presumably a cow, and then shoot a bull. The first elk fell within around 60 yards of where the bull went down. They observed the hunter and the cameraman walk up to look at the bull and then leave the area."
Warden Baird also was told that another man came and field dressed the bull and hauled it away with a backhoe. "The hunters told me the first elk, which was later determined to be a bull calf, still lay in the meadow after the man had taken the bull away with the backhoe," Baird said.
Baird knew Busbice had a Commissioner's elk license and that there had been a very large bull elk frequenting the ranch. On October 17th Baird met with Busbice before he flew to Louisiana. Baird's summary of this encounter is that after a short interview, Busbice admitted to having accidently killed a calf elk while trying to harvest the large bull. Busbice stated that after the sun had gone down he had instructed the ranch manager and the cameraman to drag the calf elk into an irrigation ditch to conceal it. No attempt to field dress or preserve meat from the calf was made. Interviews of the cameraman and the ranch manager revealed similar stories and the men admitted to concealing the calf in the ditch and disposing of the bull's gut pile in the creek. Busbice admitted that he did not call Warden Baird because he was concerned about having recently been cited for previous wildlife violations. At this time Warden Baird seized both elk from Busbice and an unedited video of his hunt.
"Mr. Busbice told me they had been filming the elk hunt to feature on his reality TV hunting show," Baird said. The video and audio recording shows that Mr. Busbice shot several times at a large bull in a herd of elk and missed several times. The video then shows Mr. Busbice shooting and hitting a calf, and the calf goes down.
"On his fourth shot, Busbice hits the bull in the left shoulder," Baird said. It then falls to the ground. At the end of the video you can hear Busbice say, "We have to eliminate that part when I shot a cow." He also is recorded saying, "Yeah, but we got to get rid of that cow."
Judge Zebre sentenced Mr. Busbice to 180 days of jail suspended, providing that he lead a law abiding life during one and a half years of unsupervised probation; he was sentenced to pay the maximum fines for both violations and the maximum in restitution for the illegal take of both elk for a total of $23,000.00; and had all of his game and fish license privileges revoked for two years to include all of 2017 and 2018. Because Wyoming is part of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, this loss of his license privileges applies in 45 states, including his home state of Louisiana.
"There are many take-home messages from this event," Baird said. "We are extremely grateful to the sportsmen that reported these violations. The successful prosecution of this case likely would not have happened without them."
"The bull elk he was convicted of shooting illegally was a highly visible large bull elk. The bull roughly scored over 350 inches. Mr. Busbice was also cited earlier in 2016 of false oath for purchasing a resident general elk license as a nonresident and purchasing more than the authorized number of deer licenses and paid $1430.00 in fines for those violations.
Poached Antelope Case Solved
Buffalo – On May 10th, Buffalo Game Warden Jim Seeman received a report of a dead antelope that appeared to have been shot south of Buffalo on the Bull Creek state lands. Seeman arrived at the location and found a buck antelope that had been shot in the back of the neck. The only evidence Seeman was able to obtain from the field necropsy of the antelope was a small piece of orange plastic–the polycarbonate tip of the bullet that killed the animal. Seeman suspected the animal had been shot the previous evening from the county road. Upon examining a portion of the nearby Klonkide Road, he was able to collect evidence where a vehicle had left the road and stopped about 175 yards from the poached antelope. Using a metal detector, Seeman was able to recover a .17 HMR cartridge case.
Photographs of the tire impressions were taken. After visits to the local sporting goods store and tire store, Seeman determined he was looking for a passenger car, a .17 HMR rifle and Hornady brand bullets. With other evidence collected from the scene, including a bag from a fast food restaurant that contained a receipt time dated May 9th at 6:25 p.m., Seeman had a hunch the perpetrators were most likely high school age boys. After two days of following leads and spending time in the Buffalo High School parking lot looking at vehicle tires, Seeman found a Honda Odyssey with the exact tires matching the impressions that were at the scene. In the back of the vehicle was a .17 HMR rifle. With the evidence collected, Seeman was able to get a 17-year-old boy to admit he was out target shooting with a friend and his 11-year-old brother when the antelope was shot.
The small plastic polycarbonate tip from the .17 HMR bullet that killed the poached antelope. Buffalo Game Warden Jim Seeman found the plastic tip while conducting the field necropsy of the antelope.
Off-road violations on Yellowtail WHMA
Lovell – On April 8, Lovell Game Warden Dillon Herman received a report a possible off-road violation on Yellowtail Wildlife Habitat Management Area. When Herman responded, he found two trucks buried up to their axles off road. "When I reached the last truck, I noticed a whole lot of beer cans and bottles thrown around, and several empty six pack boxes in the back of the stuck truck with batch numbers matching the littered bottles," Herman said.
"That was Saturday, April 8; the trucks had been stuck there since Thursday, April 6. Herman contacted the owner of one of the trucks later in the day when he came back for it. The man reported that several other individuals had been out there with him on one of the nights drinking and trying to get him unstuck. In the process of trying to get one truck unstuck, they drove other trucks off-road and managed to get another truck stuck as well. "Two individuals from Lovell were issued citations for littering and warnings for off-road use. They each received a $160 fine and six hours of community service picking up trash on Yellowtail," Herman said.
A truck that was traveling off-road on Yellowtail WHMA.
Off-road and trespass violations lead to $1,400 in fines
Laramie – Game Warden Jason Sherwood discovered a spate of illegal behavior on a Hunter Management Area south of Laramie recently. Three vehicles were traveling off road and another was being driven on a closed road. All occupants in the vehicles were trespassing and a few attempted to take wildlife without first taking a hunter education class.
More than $1,400 in citations were issued. Prairie dog shooters must remember to ask permission to hunt or ensure they are on public lands. It is illegal to shoot any wildlife from a motorized vehicle (except species legally defined as predators) and it is illegal to shoot from an improved public roadway.
Repeat poacher fined, loses privileges
Laramie – Laramie Region law enforcement personnel are pleased to announce the closure of a significant fish poaching case in March. In 2016, a Laramie man was cited for an over-limit of trout and lost his privileges for a one year period beginning June 9, 2016. However, Game Wardens Jason Sherwood and Bill Brinegar received tips from multiple sources that the man was continuing to fish and keeping several big fish.
Warden Sherwood obtained search warrants for the man, his vehicle, and his home in early November. While attempting to serve the warrants on the morning of Nov. 6, 2016, the suspect was again found to be fishing at Lake Hattie. As Warden Brinegar approached him, the man caught his sixth large trout of the morning. He was arrested for fishing while under suspension and his vehicle was impounded. He was charged with a total of 11 counts of fishing while under suspension and one count of over-limit of game fish.
Via a plea agreement, the prosecution agreed to dismiss one count of taking fish while under suspension and the over-limit charge. The man pleaded guilty to the other 10 charges. He was sentenced to $5,400 in fines and court costs, with an additional $2,200 in restitution for the minimum of 22 fish documented in his possession since June. He was also ordered to pay $720 in public defender fees and had his fishing privilege suspended for six more years. As part of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, the suspension applies in Wyoming as well as 44 other states. Assuming no further violations, he will regain his fishing privileges in June of 2023.
Trucks stuck in muck
Laramie – Two men received multiple citations after their vehicles became stuck while hunting jackrabbits on private property. The drivers said they were hunting jackrabbits in the early morning hours. One driver said he had run out of ammunition so he decided to try and chase jackrabbits with his truck. The vehicle got stuck in a marshy area, so he called his friend who was hunting jackrabbits nearby. When his friend came to help, his vehicle also got stuck. The two men spent the remainder of the night sleeping in their trucks because they could not get a hold of anybody else to help them.
The next morning they called their friends to help them, but the friends were spotted by a deputy sheriff who then called the landowners. The landowner would not allow the friends to enter his land, so the deputy called a wrecker to tow them out. The deputy sheriff wrote both men tickets for property destruction and Game Warden Kelly Todd wrote them citations for hunting on private property without permission and for using artificial light while hunting. One of the men also received a citation for shooting from the road.
Poached Great Horned Owl
Casper – West Casper Game Warden Adam Parks recently closed a case involving a tip from the public. The tip stated that an individual, later identified as Larry Coshow, had recently shot and killed a great horned owl with a pellet gun in a west Casper neighborhood.
During an interview with Game Warden Parks, Mr. Coshow admitted to shooting and killing the great horned owl, placing it in a black garbage bag and then throwing it away. Mr. Coshow stated that he was attempting to scare the owl away when he shot. However, he stated that the pellet ricocheted off of a branch and hit the owl in the eye, killing it. Given this information and the statement from the reporting party, Mr. Coshow pled guilty to taking a protected bird.
"This is a case that never would have been solved had the reporting party not gotten involved. As game wardens we encourage the public to call our stop poaching hotline at 1-877-WGFD-TIP and report suspicious activity as it relates to wildlife, "said Adam Parks.
Powell – Recently, an informational sign at the Willwood public access area south of Powell was vandalized. The new sign, which cost approximately $600 to replace, had recently been installed by the Cody Region Habitat and Access crew to assist sportsmen using the site by providing area specific information and in identifying boundaries.
"The new sign had been shot at close range six times with a shotgun," said Cody Region Habitat and Access Supervisor Brad Sorensen. "We installed the new sign only four months ago, replacing an old sign that had also been shot." Sorensen said that vandalism such as this is far too commonplace on Game and Fish wildlife habitat management areas and public access areas around the region.
Within the Cody region, there are five wildlife habitat management areas and 48 public access areas that provide important access opportunities to the sporting public. "Many of the access areas are private land in which the Game and Fish has purchased an easement so the public can access rivers, creeks, and landlocked public lands," Sorensen said. "Amenities such as informational signs and vault restrooms are often provided at access areas for the convenience and benefit of those using the areas."
"It is difficult to understand why someone would vandalize or shoot at a restroom or a sign that is provided at one of these areas. It is costly and time consuming to replace or repair these items and ultimately, it is sportsmen who are footing the bill for this senseless vandalism."
To report vandalism or misuse of an access area or wildlife habitat management area, call your local game warden, Sheriff's office or the Stop Poaching Hotline at 1-877-WGFD-TIP.
Last December, Habitat and Access technician Kendra Ostrom installed a sign at the Willwood Public Access Area south of Powell.
Lander – Brady Frude was able to track down a violator who, after weighing in a 3 lb rainbow at Lip Rippers, promptly threw it in the dumpster on his way back to the lake. He was able to observe the violation via the security cameras from the neighboring gas station and got photos of the suspect, his vehicle and noted the time he entered and exited the bait store. State Parks rangers tracked the vehicle down at Tough Creek and Brady was able to contact and cite the individual. Thanks to Angela at the Fast Lane and Crystal and Annette at Lip Rippers for their help in solving this case!
Three pound rainbow trout wasted in dumpster
Suspect caught on security camera
Unethical disposal of carcasses
Laramie – A seemingly innocent action by a sloppy goose hunter is another check mark against hunters. While most hunters are ethical and take the necessary steps and care in proper disposal of carcasses, some improperly dump remains in clear view of the public.
South Laramie Game Warden Bill Brinegar said goose hunters have discarded their breasted-out carcasses near a school bus stop south of Laramie in the past two years. Most people don't recognize the difference between a breasted-out carcass and a whole carcass, so they assume no meat was taken from the geese. Warden Brinegar says this has unfortunately become a common occurrence, and it is detrimental to the sport of hunting.
Improperly disposing of game animal remains presents a negative public image and provides a legitimate point of criticism that can be used by people who oppose hunting. "This unethical and sloppy behavior only fuels the fire for those members of society who don't agree with hunters," Brinegar said. Keeping animal carcasses out of view of the public can help prevent a non-hunter from becoming an anti-hunter.
Canada Geese Discarded — Edible Portions Not Removed
Gillette – South Gillette Game Warden Dustin Kirsch responded to multiple reports of Canada geese dumped outside of a local hardware store. Kirsch arrived on the scene and searched a garbage dumpster where he recovered the carcasses of 14 Canada geese. Kirsch found the breasts had only been taken from six of the 14 Canada geese, with the other eight Canada Geese being thrown away with no attempt to recover any of the edible portions of meat. A day later a suspect was identified and after being interviewed, confessed to the illegal waste of eight Canada geese and a citation was issued.
Canada geese spread on the ground to sort out possible violations. Eight of the geese were discarded with no attempt to remove edible portions.
Canada geese dumped in a garbage dumpster in Gillette.
Evanston – Evanston Game Warden Nick Roberts said the first day of December turned into a memorable day him. "The night prior, I received a call that someone had harvested a bull elk on private property without permission," Roberts said. "Upon arriving at the general location of the bull, I contacted a nearby landowner who suspected a hunter in an ATV had just shot at a herd of elk on his property. I knew that the ATV hunter would eventually be coming back through, so I returned to investigating the bull elk trespass call. While searching for the bull elk carcass, I located a dead cow elk that was not recovered.
"The cow appeared to have died recently and I suspected that the cow was possibly shot with the bull," Roberts said. "I was able to remove a bullet from the cow and then located the carcass of the bull elk nearby. Shortly thereafter, the ATV hunter came driving back through and stated that he was heading back home for the morning. Upon further questioning, the hunter admitted that he took three shots from the county road at a herd of elk crossing the county road. We returned to the location where the elk crossed the road and found a dead cow elk laying just out of sight in the sagebrush. I helped the hunter recover the cow elk and spent the rest of the day making phone calls and trying to piece together who killed the bull and other cow elk."
"The next morning, I received a call from a professional guide who stated that his hunter killed the bull several days prior," Roberts said."I interviewed the hunter who admitted to shooting multiple times at a running herd and accidentally killing the bull on his cow license. I was able to match the bullet from the cow elk back to the same hunter. All in all, that morning led to one citation and one warning for shooting from a road, one citation for taking an over limit of elk, one citation for shooting the wrong sex elk and one citation for a professional guide failing to report a violation. Take home messages and lessons to be learned: follow up your shots and take responsibility for your mistakes. Using good optics is a must.
Lyman – Southwest Access Yes Coordinator Andy Countryman, contacted Timothy Haws while he was elk hunting with his resident general elk license on the Red Dugway Road in Uinta County. Mr. Haws stated he lived in Lyman, Wyoming. However, during Countryman's contact with Mr. Haws, several concerns led him to investigate further into his Mr. Haws' residency status.
"Mr. Haws had been residing in Washington, Utah with his wife and at least one child while making false statements to obtain Wyoming resident hunting and fishing licenses from 2011- 2015," Countryman said. "Twenty false statement violations were detected. Utah and Florida both verified Mr. Haws' purchasing resident hunting and fishing licenses in their states during those years also."
"The case was finalized on December 8th, 2016," Countryman said. "Haws pled guilty to five counts of false swearing to obtain resident Wyoming hunting/fishing licenses from the years 2011-2015. The Uinta County court sentenced Haws to pay $10,880 in fines and restitution and he will have to serve five consecutive days in the Uinta County Detention Center. Also, he will have all Game and Fish license privileges suspended for 10 years and will be entered into the Wildlife Violator Compact agreement of at least 44 states."
Case resolved with help from the public
Cody – Recently, a case involving a poached deer in the city limits of Cody has come to a close, thanks to information provided by local citizens. The case began on Nov. 14, when North Cody Game Warden Travis Crane received a report of an injured mule deer at a residence in Cody. When Crane responded to the report, he discovered a buck deer with an arrow protruding from its hindquarters that had been shot with a crossbow. "The mule deer had been shot illegally because the buck season for the area was closed," Crane said.
Crane dispatched the wounded deer, retrieved the arrow and was able to follow the blood trail of the animal to Alger Avenue. While following the blood trail, Crane was approached by witnesses who reported seeing a man earlier that morning who seemed to be looking for something in the same area. "A couple who lived nearby gave a detailed description of a man they saw searching the area, looking over fences and into backyards," he said. "More information was made available after Game and Fish reached out asking the public to help solve the case through a press release," Crane said. "The fact that we had witnesses who came forward to report suspicious activity was key in solving the case."
In Park County Circuit Court on Jan. 6, Leonard Wascher of Cody was sentenced in this case for the take of a big game animal during a closed season. He was fined $1,000 and will lose his hunting privileges for three years.