Ram was actually shot by an undercover agent. Issue sparks controversy on Internet-

I don’t know if I should post this story, but looks like I did.

Montana: Charges filed in connection with killing of record bighorn. By Michael Babcock. Great Falls Tribune Outdoor Editor.

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides, and he is President of the Western Watersheds Project.

40 Responses to Three charged in connection with shooting of record bighorn ram

  1. avatar Vielfrass says:

    Why did he shoot the ram?

  2. avatar Ralph Maughan says:

    The story says the undercover agent said that they got him in so close, it was either shoot and hit the ram or admit who he really was.

  3. avatar Craig says:

    They may have been armed and he felt he had no choice but to shoot the Ram, or take a chance of getting shot himself. He was dealing with criminals and it’s hard to say what they were capable of.

  4. avatar ProWolf in WY says:

    He couldn’t have just missed it on purpose? Why didn’t he bust them over the course of the “couple of days” they were out hunting? I have a hard time believing any innocence on his part.

  5. ProWolf, read the article,

    He did miss on purpose, and they went and got him another shot the next day so close that he couldn’t plausibly miss.

  6. avatar bob jackson says:

    If we were talking humans would an undercover agent commit murder not to give himself away? Hardly not. Thus there was no need for this “agent” to kill this ram.

    As for the fact the “bad” guys were armed every poacher I caught was armed. Yes it could happen, but we are not talking drugs here. We are talking folks of the community who know little of the desperation needed to kill a person over a game animal killing. For all the poachers I caught, and some were very internationally professional in level of poaching, I never thought I’d have to compromise myself to carry out any enforcement action. In fact I always allowed them a pistol and ammo for their trip out in case a horse broke a leg. I might call in the helicopter to take out thew evidence and I did inventory their equipment so it could be identified…and then the judge could then demand them to turn it over as part of sentencing, but again all thewse kind of things were handled very professionally.

    Besides every poacher, no matter how macho, I caught cried at the crime scene. They were beaten men and to allow them to reflect on their personal trajedy while heading out the 2 days of the back country on their own was a lot more impacting for them than cuffing and transport by a law enforcement copter.

  7. So we can see why this is a controversial story.

  8. I have agree with Bob. The agent had ample opportunity to call in help and make the arrest without killing the ram.
    The insanity of placing so much value on the heads of big rams needs to stop. With tags for rams like this going for hundreds of thousands of dollars, those tag buyers are willing to pay a lot of money to a guide, legal or not, and will go into closed areas and National Parks to get their “Record Book Ram”.
    One of those wealthy tag buyers fired his Alberta guide when the guide refused to take the hunter into a closed area where they could see a world record ram.
    A few days later, with another guide, the hunter killed his world record ram. Only the hunter and his new guide know for sure if the ram was still in the closed area, but locals in the area, who know the guide, told me they think the ram was poached. That ram is either #1 or # 2 in the Boone and Crockett Record Book.
    I photograph huge rams like the one killed in this incident. I have had outfitters tell me that some of the rams in my photos might be worth over $100,000 to the right party, and that they would make it “worth my time” if I could show them where I photographed them. I always tell them that the rams live on the North Fork of No-Tellum Creek.

  9. It’s kind of funny that the great hunters that are often and properly credited for setting up some of the first conservation systems such as National Wildlife Refuges were trophy hunters.

    They looked down on what they called mere “pot hunters.” Today, however, I think one of the best arguments for hunting is for meat and for the instruction it gives the hunter that throughout most of human existence meat was hard to come by, a difficult task, and that the animals you hunt don’t want to die, and you have to outwit their desire to survive.

    Trophy hunting has gotten kind of a bad name because of how it sometimes distorts game management and especially because so many of the influential trophy hunters are rich, often not very capable, and have regressive views on conservation issues in general.

  10. avatar monty says:

    Right on Ralph! I have never understood “trophy hunting”. Is it a macho thing? As a child, I read all the books written by the “Great White Afican Hunters” and in the end I came to the conculsion that most were “game hogs”. The only
    “hunter”, that I have some respect for, was Jim Corbett, the Englishman who hunted man eating tigers in India in 1910″& 20’s who was first and foremost a “naturalist” He was such a good tracker that, on occasion, he hunted these dangerous man-eaters at night….. by himself.

  11. avatar Nathan says:

    So an officer of the law sworn to protect and defend a natural resource kills it anyways? In my eyes Montana fish and game and the officer responsible are just as guilty of poaching as those that have had charges filed against them. They broke there mission statement and everything they stand for.

    Undercover agents are not given permission to commit crimes. You cant do drugs undercover, you cant kill another person to prove to a gang your for real. This crosses those same lines if you ask me.

    What more did he need to prove by one more day in the field. he should of blown his cover or slipped away in the night and radioed backup that could help him.

    I am really torn if i should be directing my anger at the fish and game officer or the government agency itself, but this whole case is just not right.

  12. avatar Ryan says:

    “Trophy hunting has gotten kind of a bad name because of how it sometimes distorts game management and especially because so many of the influential trophy hunters are rich, often not very capable, and have regressive views on conservation issues in general.”

    Its usually such a small minority of true trophy hunters, most are just average guys who want the chane at a big mature animal and will wait years in the drawing process for such an opportunity all the while hunting and killing smaller animals while waiting. I consider myself both a trophy hunter and a meat hunter. I am waiting on a good tag in several states right now to hunt a “trophy bull” that didn’t stop me from shooting a young cow that will be a great winter meat supply on opening day. If I ever draw a sheep tag, I will most definately be trophy hunting as its a once in a lifetime opportunity. As for the value of the sheep, every state puts out “Govenor” tags and raffle tags that are bought instead of drawn with all of the money earmarked for AH&E projects with a protion going to the groups that auctioned them off (usually 10%). (groups such as RMEF, DU, FNAWS etc) I personally don’t have a problem with these as rich people spending their money, they are going to spend it anyways its better off spent on habitat than a Ferrari.

    As for the undercover guy shooting the ram.. Thats total bullshit IMHO, he should have called it the day before. If an actual poacher had shot it, the restitution would be high 5 figures and jail time.

  13. Oh no, trophy hunting has that bad smell for what it is: The killing of animals that you normally do not eat for fun purposes only. I´m sure those big game hunters all around the globe are and have always been quite professional and of course you need to have a bit of money – trophy hunting is a big money industry. You can´´t get a Rhino for a few dollars..

  14. avatar Ryan says:

    Peter,
    So is the money brought into rural economies by safari hunter in Africa a bad thing? Is the meat being spread out among the villagers a bad thing? Is assigning an animal value (which will bring on both protection and conservation of the species) a bad thing? What if you draw a once in a life time tag (big horn sheep, mtn goat, etc) which btw any average joe can do, then it is shot for both trophy quality and meat does that also have a bad smell to you?

    What about a green Rhino hunt, where the animal is shot with a tranq dart, a biologist takes blood samples etc and the animal walks free again, does that also smell bad to you?

  15. The world record ram that I mentioned earlier had a large yellow numbered tag in each ear. He was part of a research project and his horns had been measured (208+) when he was last tranquilized. The word had spread about him being a world record ram. The two numbered yellow tags in his ears could be read 600 yards away with a spotting scope. They just as well have painted a sign on him that said: “Poach Me.”

  16. avatar ProWolf in WY says:

    Is the meat being spread out among the villagers a bad thing?

    Ryan, that is encouraging dependence on the people in the villages. I know that there are many starving people in that part of the world, but I don’t like the idea that these trophy hunters think they are a savior to these people. The best help for them would be sustainable practices of food production. This is the give a man a fish, teach him to fish argument. The trophy hunters are giving a fish. Also, IMHO those trophy hunts in Africa are extremely wasteful, especially when people go and shoot several different animals they have no intention of eating.

    I am not arguing that there are not good sources of revenue from these hunts, but the way they are conducted is questionable.

  17. avatar Save bears says:

    My Father in law has done several African hunts and there has never been any meat wasted, they normally take some small portion of the meat and have it for a meal the night of the kill and then the meat is spread around to many villages, including the villages of those who are game bearers for the hunt. Many parts of Africa can’t maintain a sustainable growing season, due to the over use of the land and depleted soils surrounding the villages…in the areas that there is sustainable soil, and they do raise crops, I have seen a renegade elephant herds come in a wipe it out in a couple of hours, Africa is a completely different situation than N. America and Europe…

  18. avatar ProWolf in WY says:

    Save bears, when I said wasteful, I was referring to several articles I have read and what I have heard other people say about their hunts. I have heard people say that they could shoot all the baboons they wanted because they warn other animals, people shooting antelope just for bait to attract lions, and sensationalist stories about shooting hippos like they were a savior and all they took was the ivories. To me, that gives hunters a bad name. However, it sounds like your father in law must not be like that. 🙂

  19. avatar Save bears says:

    Pro,

    In any endeavor of life, there are always going to be thrill seekers as well as boasters of their conquests, I have often found they are in the minority, those that speak the loudest are most of the times those who are not successful and they are not the mainstream, for the tens of thousands of hunts that happen every year world wide, we only hear about a few of them, which of course are the most dramatic…as a hunter, I don’t consider the hunting shows on TV to be any better than the bullshit reality TV shows, it always seem to encompass one up man ship and sensationalism…which I have found is far from the actual truth of the majority..

  20. avatar ProWolf in WY says:

    Save bears, I share the same opinion of hunting shows, and any more I can’t stand magazines like “Outdoor Life.”

  21. avatar mikepost says:

    So Bob, you never heard of a guy named Claude Dallas and the two wardens he killed when confronted with poaching?
    Gunned down and then popped in the head just to make sure. Criticizing a person who puts their life on the line in an undercover capacity is inappropriate particularly when you wern’t there at the time and have no idea what the nuances of the situation were.

  22. avatar bob jackson says:

    mikepost,

    Yes, I know very well of Claude Dallas. I’m pretty sure he is the one who rode by on the trail a 100 yds. away from my cabin. Didn’t know who it was at the time but the way he looked around I knew this was one bad dude. Found out later he had been spotted earlier near Pahaska Tepee. before he headed into the back country.

    I also tracked, for two summmers, Nichols and his son up in the Parks NW corner. I again, did not know anything about them at the time except this pair wore moccasins and always tried to leave no trace of their being there when they came to a Park Service trail. They would come into High Lake from the grassy side to fish.

    I saw the tracks first when I was looking in indian camps. They were always looking for arrow heads. I had it down to about a 2 mile area as to where they were illegally living in the Park.

    The only info I had on them was a sheep party said a man with a beard and a kid would throw rocks (from the Park side) down on to the sheep they were trying to shoot. Every manner of travel I tracked said they were bad dudes.

    The reason I say I tracked them for two summers, was because one has to see folks like this before they see you. There is no leeway. I could have actually connected up with them much sooner but the way I’d have to track was to make wide circles. See their prints and then leave them to circle and see how far of a perimeter they made. In other words see where their home was. It started with maybe 5 mile circles and was down to the 1-2 mile eliptical surronds.

    One can not pretend to think folks like this don’t know when back packers, rangers or otherwise come into there area. It is more of they seeing me in the same activities as they ….but at the same time them not knowing the focus of why I am really there.

    I figured I’d have the drop on them the next year but then they did the killing thing in Big Sky. It was good to have folks like this out of the country.

    I also was the recipent of a crazy dude from Jackson one night in Thorofare. I found out after this episode (from his psychatrist) he was a mental (his brother was an outfitter in Yellowstone) case from Jackson who would get Russians mixed up with bears. then he would get bears mixed up with rangers. He had been seen naked on the shores of Heart Lake earlier that week with a knife and hatchet.

    What this guy tried to do was very quietly get into the cabin in the middle of the night. It turned out to be an over 1 hour episode. I’d point the gun to each step he took outside and never let on I knew he was there. He evidently knew I was in the back room but since two beds were always made up and I’d always shut the coleman off in the kitchen before going to sleep in the back room he didn’t know which window to come through. More to it, but from this encounter I knew people were a lot more dangerous than any bear.

    So yes, I know very well my friend what the dangers are associated with a law enforcement life in the back country. And I know when those dangers are to what level. The undercover agent in the sheep killing also knew more about the level of danger of the men he was with….far more than any than any poacher I approached or aprehended. His would have had to be a sureal world of Walter Mitty law enforcement to think they would have shot him. They knew they would never have got away with an “accidental shooting” or what ever else went through their heads. It just wasn’t there in this case. the MO’s didn’t fit.

    Gotta go, but yes I know the difference.

  23. avatar Vielfrass says:

    Wow Bob Jackson. That was one hell of a post. It read like a suspense novel. I guess it’s not crazy that one wonders about some of the people in the backcountry.

  24. avatar Craig says:

    Bob I’m guessing you probably know Al Lewis than? He’s been a family friend for over 35 years.

  25. I taught Bill Pogue’s daughter in one of my biology classes. He came to school one day and showed my classes slides of the deer and winter range on the Payette River above Garden Valley. Shortly after that Claude Dallas killed him.
    I don’t think that Dallas ever told where he hid Bill’s body.
    He tried to get a friend to help him quarter Elm’s body, because of Elm’s size, and haul it out of the canyon he was in. When the friend refused, Dallas dumped Elms in the Owyhee river. He should still be serving time. I am surprised someone hasn’t tracked him down and executed him.

  26. avatar bob jackson says:

    Craig, I can’t place the name, Al Lewis. Can you tell me more? where was he out of? Stuff like that.

  27. avatar Craig says:

    Albert Lewis was a sheriff back in the late 70’s for Boise county, he later became an undercover Officer for F&G or Wildlife services and did and extensive amount of illegal hunting busts ect up till the 80s. Thought for sure you’d know him. He was always here in Idaho, he was the one that some guys shot flaming arrows into his roof and caught his house a fire after he busted them.

  28. avatar bob jackson says:

    The closest I can relate to what you describe, I guess, was where my high school brothers and I would, on occasion, walk the half mile after dark …..along a creek… and sneak up to a nasty farmers cow yard…and far enough away that his dogs didn’t alert him by barking…and shoot cherry bomb strapped arrows over his house.

    Sounds like your family friend was an ok kind of guy, by the way.

  29. avatar bob jackson says:

    …and there were a lot more incidents one could fill an entire book with. I will say I one time had a flat out chase after a couple poachers…a guide and hunter (deputy sheriff from Mass). Another ranger and I saw these two dudes running …and it was at the other end of a poacher meadow a long ways from any Park trail..

    Threw the lead rope over the pack mules load and whipped the horses. The final result was a written confession by a crying guide that said, “I was in the park hunting elk. I knew I was in the Park because I had been there before doing the same thing”. The hunter ran because he saw his guide run and when he looked our way he saw these horses coming at him …..and he told me during interrogation…”I thought you were outlaws…. until you got closer and I saw the badge. Then I hid behind the tree because I thought you would shoot me if I moved”.

    What this confession illustrated was these dudes had no idea of what real life was when they were so far away from home and in a strange land. There’s was the world of western movies. The hunters were so dependent on the outfitters and guides because of this illusion. It was like they fell under the Stockholm Syndrome within hours of leaving the trail head. As long as one was aware of this it was fairly easy to “work” the hunter off by himself and tell all what had happened.

  30. Finally finding a little spare time to respond to Ryans notes. Hmm, I strongly feel there is a subtle difference between darting an animal – in this case a Rhino – and hunting it only to hang the stuffed head above the sofa (after the obligatory victory picture of course). The subtle difference is that in the first case the animal is alive! Yet, I´m not a supporter of the darting/collaring at all cost practice but in the mentioned case it makes sense. If you have to translocate a few Rhinos to build up viable populations elsewhere again (only to have them hunted and poached again) it makes sense to take blood samples to ascertain they are healthy. Would you like to wrestle a Rhino in one of these projects? Surely not. And, no, Africa does not generally feed on lions and cheetahs and rhinos and critters like that. Maybe in some poverty stricken countries sheer hunger dictates eating everything, but normally the people there have a lot of dignity remaining. The generosity of these wealthy white hunters donating the meat to those poor black guys is viewed with some reservation. The money from the hunting excursion remains with the (white) outfitter or the traveling organisation back home, only some tip leaks down to the locals, “Thank you, thank you Massa Bwana”. By the way, the honor of having lions and bears and coyotes on the menue (at least with recipes readily available) still rests with whom? The USA! I would not be surprised if somebody came up with a wolf recipe!

  31. avatar gline says:

    Bob Jackson Thanks for the humorous tales. Really helps!

  32. avatar Ryan says:

    “The money from the hunting excursion remains with the (white) outfitter or the traveling organisation back home, only some tip leaks down to the locals”

    So what your saying is that the trackers, cooks, maids, and native gamekeepers don’t get paid? Rhino, Hippo, and elephant all get ate, I don’t know about cats but I would guess they do as well as cougars are aten by many here. So which is better a controlled take on game animals, or rampant poaching?

  33. The WWF has repeatedly ascertained that the economic benefit of trophy hunting for the target countries is minimal. Compared to the overall costs of a big game trophy hunt – and I´m talking about “big five” trophy hunting in Africa only, not mentioning big game trophy hunting in Alaska, Russia, etc. – what is handed down to the local cooks, guides, etc. is nothing more than a handout. An elephant costs an average of 20 000 Dollar (ok, Zimbabwe makes it cheaper for you nowadays). This sum remains largely with your favourite outfitter back home to which you pay that sum when you book. Accommodation, even in luxury lodges, and food, is cheap in Africa. Maybe some more remains in Alaska when you book your coastal grizzly for about 12000, a real bargain.

  34. Small addendum: Many African natives, especially in Kenya, have a strong cultural and/or tribal taboo against eating the big cats. And you would not really want to eat the meat of an adult male african lion when it´s mane is at it´s best for trophy hunting. It could be a bit tough to chew, you know.

  35. avatar Ryan says:

    http://www.rhinoresourcecenter.com/index.php?s=1&act=refs&CODE=note_detail&id=1165242779

    Interesting read there that discusses profits and costs for rhinoa, from what I have read, about every type on animal is eaten in Africa. Heck there are lion farms that sell meat.

    “Maybe some more remains in Alaska when you book your coastal grizzly for about 12000”

    The vast majority of this money stays in AK because to be a guide in AK for hunting you have to be a resident. The only money that goes out of state would be for a booking agent that generally takes 5-10% up to a certain amount.

    “Trophy hunting was banned in Kenya in 1977 due to overshooting and corruption, costing the
    country approximately USD 20-40 million/year in lost revenues and contributing to a loss of about 70% of
    all wildlife since then.”

    ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/010/aj114e/aj114e09.pdf

    “Since the Kenyan government banned hunting in 1977, the number of wild animals outside National Parks has plummeted. Wildlife suddenly lost its economic value, prompting edible game to be snared and sold as bush meat, while carnivores that preyed on people’s livelihood were considered worthless vermin, and were exterminated, as they still are today. ”
    http://www.lionconservation.org/trophy-hunting.html

  36. avatar ProWolf in WY says:

    Interesting articles Ryan. Suppose wolves could ever get this kind of value?

  37. …was banned….due to overshooting and corruption. I think that says it all. Thus, a ban by the gouvernement means nothing at all – back at the corruption point again. The Rhino conservation projects at least speak a very, very different language. Poaching for the horn to be sold for the traditional Chinese medicine has again reached a level where they cannot afford to loose many more. They are definitely not talking about thousands of individuals left. Trophy hunting (which is of course always possible, banned by a Governement or not) is what they just need on top! One could say now “Better I – the Trophy hunter – get that Rhino and donate the meat than a poacher only takes the horn, leaving the rest to rot. But there are simply not enough left to do such blue sky thinking. Besides that, poachers from China and Vietnam have found a loophole for obtaining rhino horn by participating in legal trophy hunts in South Africa. Hunting and poaching in Africa, one big mess, going hand in hand with corruption! And, of course is Lion meet available, you can buy it on the Web, I even know a Restaurant downtown here where it is available for a substantial sum – if you are decadent enough and lobster no longer gives you any satisfaction……

  38. avatar Ryan says:

    Peter,

    So what your saying is that losing 70% of the wildlife outside of the park areas in Kenya is better than not have trophy hunting.

    Interesting.. Hmmm, doesn’t make much sense to me. Actually in countrys that allow Trophy hunting there is much less poaching than in countries that don’t because the money from outfitters, PH’s etc, goes to fund wildlife protection.

    So I guess the gist of this is, so that you can sleep better at night, we should ban something that has proven to be good for wildlife and in its place replace it with rampant poaching and large population losses.

    BTW, do a little research, you are confusing Black Rhinos, which are endangered with White Rhino’s which are not.

  39. This thread has gone a long way from the original subject! “Trophy hunting is good for wildlife conservation” (says the trophy hunter) equals “Smoking is good for your health” (says Dr. Marlborough). (Hey, do not take that too seriously, I sleep quite well despite the existance of trophy hunting). I have however yet to see a wildlife conservation project in Africa that is directly or indirectly financed by the hunting industry. In fact it is hard for me to figure out how such a model could work in the Africas chain of corruption at all! Even closer to home I only know of wildlife conservation projects that are mainly financed through donations by private individuals or groups or NGOs. It could be a bit different in the USA from what I get from this blog but here in Europe hunting has never ever financed a single sheep protection fence nor has it financed a single anti poaching patrol in Uganda. Ah, yes I´ll tell my friends down there at the forefront of the anti poaching war, that White Rhino is not endangered, that will distract a little bit from their daily search for hornless carcasses!

  40. avatar Ryan says:

    http://www.safariclubfoundation.org/content/index.cfm?action=view&content_ID=290

    http://www.scifirstforhunters.org/docs/content/508/REGIONAL%20CONSERVATION%20STRATEGY%20FOR%20THE%20LION%20Panthera%20leo%20IN%20WEST%20AND%20CENTRAL%20AFRICA.pdf

    “Europe hunting has never ever financed a single sheep protection fence nor has it financed a single anti poaching patrol in Uganda”

    Imagine that, there is only 1 hunting operation in Uganda and it was just liscensed in August of this year after being banned 30 years.

    Would you like to see a list of American hunting groups and there accomplishements as well. Hunting in europe is completely different than the US and other countries, I have seen several programs on it and it seems to be an elitist affair at best.

    Get past your emotions for a bit, do a little research and you’ll see that your feelings about this and the Facts have little in common. The southern white rhino is flourishing in great part because of trophy hunting. It was once thought near extinct.

    http://www.globaleye.org.uk/archive/summer2k/focuson/mars_pt1.html

    ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/010/aj114e/aj114e09.pdf

    http://www.cantondailyledger.com/homepage/x415869240/Should-trophy-hunting-be-allowed-in-Kenya-in-order-to-save-the-Masai-Mara

    “the southern white rhino and the Indian rhino are thriving in well-protected sanctuaries, and their numbers are increasing. Indeed, southern white rhinos were once thought to be extinct, but are now classified as Near Threatened”

    http://www.worldwildlife.org/species/finder/rhinoceros/rhinos.html

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

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