As families and antler buyers peruse Town Square picking over the fruits of this spring’s haul at ElkFest, one Idaho man will be in jail for having pilfered sheds off the Bridger-Teton National Forest during a seasonal closure.
Another Star Valley resident who plotted the same illegal act on a Horsethief Canyon hillside south of Jackson won’t be able to hunt or fish on Saturday — or any day — for the next two years.
Those are some of the consequences that Circuit Court Judge James Radda recently saw fit while sentencing folks who pled guilty to violations of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s seasonal antler-gathering prohibition. Game warden Kyle Lash, who made the cases during March and April using decoy antlers, was pleased with the outcomes.
“I would like to thank the judge and the prosecuting attorneys for all their help,” Lash told the Jackson Hole Daily on Thursday. “Having heavy fines with stiff penalties like the loss of hunting and fishing privileges — and even jail time for folks that have had priors — hopefully that will deter people from poaching shed antlers.”
Lash had a productive spring cracking down on illegal shed hunting, which is widely viewed as a pervasive problem, especially by folks who play by the rules but usually depart the field empty-handed. The warden also caught people jumping the gun ahead of the May 1 opener on East Gros Ventre Butte and near Alta, and he is still working on closing another case.
Bliss, Idaho, resident Robert Halligan, 44, is one person who got pinched.
Appearing before Radda on May 10, Halligan waived his right to an attorney and pled guilty to two antler-gathering violations on March 25 and another two violations two days later. All were from elk antlers that were picked off the hills in the evenings and in the night above where he was working as a contractor at the old Horsethief Canyon Landfill.
“I apologize,” Halligan told the judge. “I was not aware of the law ... but there’s no excuse for it.”
Teton County deputy criminal attorney Zane Aukee brought to light that Halligan had been convicted of 17 wildlife violations in Idaho last year alone, many relating to illegally engaging in hunting and fishing when he was not up to date on his child support. The prosecutor described this as a “total disregard” for Wyoming and Idaho’s wildlife regulations, and asked for a sentence that included jail time. Radda obliged, sentencing him to 10 days in jail, fining him $420 and suspending his hunting and fishing privileges for one year — a penalty that covers 48 states that participate in the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact.
A similar case adjudicated Thursday was also from Lash’s Horsethief Canyon decoy antlers getting the best of people. Three involved people in the April 11 nighttime heist of five antlers were cited, including the driver of a car who has to settle up on a $435 ticket for dropping off two men who did the misdeed.
Radda sentenced former Jackson resident James “Stu” Rollman last week to a $750 fine and a one-year suspension of his hunting and fishing privileges.
“I love fishing,” Rollman said in response. “It just sucks.”
Rollman’s accomplice, who Lash described as the mastermind of the midnight thievery, made out with an even stiffer punishment.
Thayne resident Danny Durante, who also pled guilty, was sentenced by Radda to $1,500 in fines, and stripped of his hunting and fishing privileges for two years. Durante asked that the judge spare his fishing privileges so he could continue to take his 5-year-old son, and to delay the suspension so he could partake in this Saturday’s Jackson Lake ice-off fishing derby. Both requests were shot down.
“It’s funny, you’re standing here [saying] you’re an outdoorsman, that’s why you live here,” Radda told Durante. “But there’s a direct correlation between picking the antlers out of season and adverse impacts on wildlife.
“The argument that this will deter other people from doing the same thing has merit,” the judge said, “and hopefully your son can go fishing with some other adult.”