It was in broad daylight an entire month before the legal antler-gathering season started when Jackson Game Warden Kyle Lash learned about a man who was wandering around the agency’s South Park Wildlife Habitat Management Area.
The man, Jackson Hole resident Jeramey Hutchison, was infringing on closed wildlife winter range but said he was just taking pictures and was ignorant of the rules. Lash told him he could prove if he was lying, and the story shifted.
“I told him I had cameras,” the warden said. “Then he came clean.”
Hutchison, 42, led Lash to two antlers, a five-pronged beam and an even larger shed with six points.
Later, while writing up citations, Lash happened to be on the phone with National Elk Refuge law enforcement officer Brian Yetter.
“Brian said, ‘Oh, we caught that guy in 2017,’” Lash recounted.
Hutchison was caught out on the wildlife winter range near the Elk Refuge’s boundary with the Bridger-Teton National Forest, and he was also jumping the gun by being out on the landscape at a time when it’s closed to human presence. The repercussions three years ago, according to the Game and Fish warden, were citations that carried $2,000 in fines and a two-year prohibition on entering the national forest.
Seeing that the poaching had persisted, Lash recommended an even stiffer sentence to Teton County deputy attorney Zane Aukee and asked for penalties that included several days of jail time.
But when Hutchison appeared in Teton County Circuit Court and waived the right to an attorney on May 28, Judge James Radda decided the warden and prosecuting attorney’s requested sentence wasn’t enough.
“The judge felt that, with his prior conviction, he probably didn’t learn from the previous mistake,” Lash said. “So the judge made that call: the 20 days in jail.”
Radda, the warden said, talked about seeing people lined up at the Teton County Fairgrounds who were playing by the rules. He spoke about setting a precedent to let people know the authorities are taking antler violations seriously.
On Friday, about a week after his appearance, Hutchison was booked into Teton County Jail to serve a sentence that extends through June 25. Attempts to reach him for an interview request via the jail and Teton County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday failed.
Lash cited one other person who was backpacking around the Pritchard Pass area with sheds in possession before the noon start time. His counterpart, North Jackson Warden Jon Stephens, nabbed a couple of people coming down the Gros Ventre Road with sheds in April, well ahead of the legal season, Game and Fish spokesman Mark Gocke said.
Lash said he thought compliance overall was pretty good. On May 1 he rode by a half-dozen sheds that were out in plain sight between 6 a.m. and noon. Their presence, he said, suggests that many people were playing by the rules.