More felony elk poaching in Idaho

Father and son arrested for poaching two large 6-point elk-

Almost twice a week there is a story about major elk poaching in Idaho, often involving important people.  There is so much of this we have to question the real reason why elk numbers are below objective in a half dozen Idaho hunting areas.

Caldwell father, son arrested on felony charges in Owyhee poaching incident. Idaho Statesman.







  1. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Well, everyone had a nice day, I guess. 😕

    My point was about elk poaching, not legal hunting. I thought that whole thread of responses was unfortunate.

    I think it’s poaching that needs to be looked at. Its effects have been glossed over.

    1. Dave Avatar

      Well Ralph, I must say I am enjoying the dialogue.
      There are a lot of accusations thrown both ways. Unfortunately, there seems to be few in the hunting community that participate in these blogs.
      Well, “almost twice a week” is a misnomer.
      I won’t deny that we have had a string of poaching incidents, some by high profile people. High profile, not necessarily popular, Rex Rammell is a blight on Idaho.
      I find it strange, that it appears, out of 50 states, Idaho is the only one with poaching incidents?
      Is that the case or is it targeted reporting to create more bad publicity? I can assure you that every state has its share of poaching incidents or violations.
      The next question is, are they innocent until proven guilty or just guilty as charged and reported?
      Generally, poaching is a rare event, usually targeted toward trophy sized animals or species, not always, but usually. The overall effect on the herd is minimal, but it can effect the number of trophy sized animals in a specific area.
      CAP Citizens Against Poaching, is a valuable tool in catching poachers. Who do you think is out there witnessing and reporting these events? Usually, other lawabiding hunters.

      1. Ralph Maughan Avatar


        I was posting a comment to Mike Koeppen about Oregon just as you were writing your comment.

        You will want to read this It’s about a very high poaching level discovered in SW Oregon . . .
        “The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has found that poachers are killing as many mule deer as legal hunters.”

    2. Mike Avatar

      The “wolf controversy” is fake. It’s a bunch of grumpy dudes inclined to poach and take “their” game from nature. It’s a sickness.

  2. Mike Koeppen Avatar

    I’ll agree with you on that, Ralph. Are there any “official” studies that have come up with number estimates of poached animals in Idaho and Montana?

    I know, due to my involvement with law enforcement, that a lot of poaching happens. But what are the real impacts, I don’t know. I do know that poachers are rarely caught – what happens in the woods stays in the woods. Wardens are spread so thin, it usually takes a citizen to turn a poacher in.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar

      Mike Koeppen,

      I’m sure there are estimates, but I don’t know them offhand. We had that long discussion a month ago about the amount of poaching after the SW Oregon study showed poached deer numbering about the same as legally hunted deer.

      1. Dave Avatar

        Wow, I don’t know how to respond. I am suprised. I would need to read their report to how they decided an animal was poached/legally harvested or unknown. I wonder if oregon has mandatory harvest surveys for tag holders. I also know that in some cases ranchers with heavy depradation on their fields and hay in the winter time, will sometimes take matters into their own hands. Not a good thing.
        However, (light bulb!) remember from the sounds of things poaching may/may not have been going on for a long time. The new factor in the situation, especially for Idaho and Montana is the wolf. If populations were growing or stable before the wolf but declining after, the wolf would be the primary culprit, don’t you think? I doubt if poaching all of a sudden increased dramatically at the same time the wolf was introduced.
        Elk populations were at all time highs and increasing, before the wolf. Now they are deceasing and in trouble in a number of areas. The wolf is not the only factor to blame, but they are a primary predator. Controlling their numbers over time is important to understand the overall dynamics. Uncontrolled growth, if allowed to continue, will spell disaster.
        On another thread, there was some discussion about Idaho and Montana having the opportunity to manage the wolves, for one year. One year does provide enough data or trends to make any deductions, except that wolves are hard to find and hunt.

      2. Dude, the bagman Avatar
        Dude, the bagman

        I do think poaching increased about the same time the wolf was reintroduced. The wolf is not the only “new” factor.

        Between 1990 and today, the population of Idaho has grown about 50%. A lot of these people are likely lifestyle refugees who moved out of more crowded and regulated areas and into what they felt is “the wild west” (California transplants like Rockholm who seem to advocate for lawlessness).

        In my experience, people who come from out of state to the Idaho woods don’t always treat the land with the same respect as people who have more of a sense of ownership in their home. Amazed by the bounty they see, they think it’s still a vast wilderness where their slovenly behavior can never have an impact. Essentially, they treat the land as if it were a rental car.

        I realize that’s a generalization and doesn’t apply to all people from out of state. But I think the principle is still true. For example, look at the SF Salmon before and after salmon season. I think most of the fisherman there only make one annual pilgrimage to the area, and they generally leave the place trashed (for the FS to clean up).

        Poaching is a difficult thing to quantify. However, I think the increased population, and who comprises that population, could also play a substantial role.

        We don’t know how many wolves and elk there were prior to our extirpation of the wolves. But apparently the elk did okay. The “new” factor is humans, highways, hunters, and habitat encroachment/modification. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t factor into the equation, but the elk population isn’t affected just by any one factor.

      3. Ralph Maughan Avatar

        Dude, the bagman,

        Are you saying Rockholm is not a native!

      4. jon Avatar

        I remember when RH posted one of his videos and in the video he said, shoot any wolves you see. Clearly this scumbag Rockholm advocates poaching and breaking the law and that explains why he is friends with Tony Mayer and Rex Rammell.

      5. jon Avatar

        Speaking of Rock, has anyone seen his new video interview with the anti wolf activist woman who was Rex rammell’s campaign manager? He calls it a wolf attack even though the wolves didn’t attack this woman and ran off seconds after seeing her.

      6. Dude, the bagman Avatar
        Dude, the bagman

        According to what I’ve googled, he’s a native of Grass Valley, CA.

      7. JEFF E Avatar
        JEFF E

        Don’t tell that dumb ass Rockholm is from some other state trying to tell Idahoans how to run their business? No wonder he thinks Toby Bridges and Bob Fanning are so intelligent.

      8. Ralph Maughan Avatar

        Jeff E,

        I’ve heard Robert Fanning (Friends of the Northern Range Yellowstone Elk) is not a native Montanan. I’ve heard he’s from Chicago.

        I know people from places other than the interior West sometimes take shit on this blog because they are not from the West. I think that is wrong to do that.

        On the other hand, this hate-the-wolf, save-our-western-ways are folks we would expect to be from the West. If they turn out not to be, folks are going to hear about it.

  3. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    A lot of us (including myself) did somevery foolish things when we were teenagers, but grew out of it.
    When you have a 53 year old in this case and even older poachers like Rammel and SaveElk , I would suspect that these guys never grew up and continued this kind of behavior for most of their lives. They just happened to get caught this time.
    Over twenty years ago, a Utah poacher was caught coming out of the mountains with a large untagged Mule Deer Buck. When authorities searched his house, they found videos of him killing Huge Bull Elk in Yellowstone with his bow. (His videographer had included recognizable mountains in the background.) He was planning on selling them as a “How to hunt Elk” series.
    I hope authorities seached these guy’s homes for evidence of other poaching activities.

    1. JEFF E Avatar
      JEFF E

      I have to agree with you Larry. These people did not just wake up one morning and decide that today is the day I poach my first animal. This represents learned behavior and was taught by someone with significant influence in their life such as family or close friends

      1. Ralph Maughan Avatar

        Jeff E

        Seems to me that Rammell knows he’s likely to get a big fine and maybe end up in jail, so he’s decided to rabble rouse as payback to the governor, Fish and Game, those people in general he doesn’t like.

    2. skyrim Avatar

      Is that the incident involving the magnificent Bull “Charger” back in ’95?

      1. Larry Thorngren Avatar

        Skyrim –
        Charger was a different story. He was famous for chasing photographers and hung out between Norris and Gibbon Meadows.
        The guy that I mentioned, was killing Bull Elk with his bow and making videos of his “hunts” on the Gardiner River upstream from Indian Creek campground toward Gardiner’s Hole. He made the mistake of including panoramas of the mountains to the west.

    3. william huard Avatar
      william huard

      There could quite possibly be an addendum to the hunter education literature entitled “How to poach effectively and still blame wolves”. It’s in the back. Maybe it’s an Idaho thing

  4. Mike Koeppen Avatar

    If there are as many deer and elk poached as are legally harvested, then obviously over the years, if there wasn’t any poaching, the populations would have been much higher. It follows that with the introduction of the wolf, the prey base would have been much larger so that game numbers might not be where they are today. It is also possible, that all this “civil disobedience” talk about “shoot, shovel, and shut-up,” could encourage poaching. Advocating lawlessness sends us down a slippery slope…

    1. Dave Avatar

      I’m not sure I support your reasoning about the prey populations. Hunting seasons are set according to population levels and annual winter surveys. Increased populations would have warranted more tags or longer seasons. I believe in the long run, over a period time, poaching mortality is accounted for, although it was obviously not perceived as mortality caused by poaching. I do understand that poaching is a problem, much more than I ever perceived. It does show the need for increased enforcement.
      I also agree that advocating lawlessness is not the answer and greatly increases the rhetoric on both sides. To me “shoot, shovel and shut-up” is an expression of extreme frustration about the whole wolf issue.

    2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

      Seems to me that it makes sense for poachers to hate predatory animals, hate Fish and Game with their conservation officers, and at least silently not like legit hunters. These legal hunters are highly likely to turn them in.

      Poachers know that what they do potentially depletes the herd, and the more poachers the more impact on the herd. Add predators and legal hunters on top of their poaching and there’s less for the poacher.

      People may not find it easy to think like a criminal, but poachers might even be strong supporters of reduced seasons and bag limits. It leaves more for the poacher.

      I’ve learned to be suspicious of people who are too intense about the frailties of others. Many of these folks are honest, but think of all the anti-sex crusaders who get caught in sex scandals or those seeking tougher penalties for drunk driving and they show up with a DUI.

      What better public protection for a poacher than posing as a noisy person complaining about wolves, cougars, and Fish and Game “waste and abuse?”

      1. Dave Avatar

        hmmmmm, that sounds like a description of Rex Rammel to me!

  5. Cody Coyote Avatar
    Cody Coyote

    It’s widely presumed, with great anecdotal evidence from retired game wardens, that only a small fraction of poaching incidents are ever discovered in Wyoming.

    Taking game out of season is so prevalent in ranch and riverbottom lands that it is called ” The Long Season ” or the “Other ” season, especially now that some late season cow elk hunts licensed actually run past the New Year, which is a relatively new thing in Wyoming.

    It is quite possible that poaching is just as prevalent as it ever was , percentagewise, except more of those incidents are being observed and reported by a more diligent public. So at face value it would appear the number of incidents is climbing, when in fact it’s just the reporting of incidents.

    Oddly, the number of Game Wardens in Wyoming is fixed by the legislature. That is not helpful for increasing enforcement in these “long” seasons.

    It’s up to the public to report poachers or even the rumour of poachers to the 1-800 tip lines.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar

      Cody Coyote

      Now why would the legislature limit the number of game wardens? As I said in a previous comment, a fair number of public officials are poachers or have close ties to them, e.g. families. Poaching runs in families. So does getting elected to office in some places.

      1. Cody Coyote Avatar
        Cody Coyote

        Funny thing, Ralph…Game Wardens were not even full fledged peace officers until fairly recently. They were roughly the equivalent of Brand Inspectors. For a while in the middle of the 20thc entury , Wyoming G & F Biologists actually had enforcement authority, but that was taken away from them in 1965. They were not required to have law enforcement training and didn’t get guns and badges till 1975. The state’s Game & Fish laws were rewritten the year before, and the Legislature considers them state employees as such . Before, they had been relatively autonomous and more biologists than anything, and the agency pretty much paid for itself exclusively with license revenues. We call those the Good Old Days..

        There are only 50 Game Wardens in Wyoming …up from 44 in 1965 and 30 back in 1950 .

        The Wyoming Legislature is comprised of an unusually high percentage of ranchers and always has been . In fact the state’s short biannual lawmaking sessions were set up by the Stockgrowers to come during the dead of winter when ranchers had the time to go to Cheyenne for a few weeks. Wyoming Game and Fish has always answered to the Legislature and ranchers, but not necessarily in that order. Now that the State via the Legislature funds a great deal of G & F, they have more micromanagement authority over the agency . They simply do not want more game wardens. ( or State Troopers, for that matter). I think for the same reasons…too many of themselves, their brothers and their drinking buddies would be on the recieving end of more enforcement. Just a WAG , but reasonable considering the way Wyoming conducts ‘bidness’. Just as you yourself have surmised.

        The several Wardens I have known over the years got around some of this by having ” volunteer” sidekicks who rode the range with them and generally just acted as eyes and ears. Strange stuff happened to them on occasion , too.

  6. Trent Avatar

    Wow! a lot of information from a lot of people. I think the bottom line is there is a lot of poaching that goes on regardless of if it is a trophy animal or not. In Oregon we have a very small number of State Troopers to cover and enforce game laws and thus it is very easy to poach and not be caught, especially in remote areas of the state. I know several people who grew up in and some still live in small remote communities and they have told me poaching happens much more than is documented. It is also hard to prosecute and investigate a poaching incident. Several years ago I found a dead spike bull elk just above I84 and east of the Sandy River. I called OSP and the Trooper was able to find a bullet hole, but did not think he would be able to gather enough information to conclusively prosecute someone, so he chose not to investigate. This happens most of the time when wildlife is poached in Oregon. During hunting season more poachers are caught, as many more people are out and about hunting, but before and after hunting season in many parts of Oregon you can spend days without seeing anther person. I strongly feel this is having a much larger impact on wildlife than many poeple realize. It also plays havoc on Fish and Wildlife trying manage for healthy numbers of fish and wildlife. I am not a scientist, but based on the ODFW numbers it appears they manage for maximum taking of wildlife in most units based on the previous years hunter take and in many units an estimate of the number of animals based on past years when there may have money available to complete airiel counting of wildlife. I have never heard of ODFW taking into account the taking of wildlife through poaching when developing a management strategy. As there are more and more people in states there is also more and more poaching going on. Maybe Fish and Wildlife Departments do take poaching into account, but if they are they should estimate probably more than twice as many poaching incidents that are documented when developing a management plan. I would rather have healthy herds of animals with many trophy animals and take an animal every several years than have unhealthy herds with few trophy animals and take an animal every year!


    1. Dave Avatar

      Hunting seasons and overall herd health are usually determined by winter flight surveys after hunting seasons. Year to year numbers seen on the surveys are used to establish trends and huting seasons lengths, numbers of tags, etc. No, Fish and Game departments really do not have a method to track actual poaching numbers. However, the numbers seen on the flight surveys, year after year, track estimated numbers and help estalbish population trends, hence mortality by what ever reasons is factored in.

      1. Trent Avatar

        The Oregon budget does not allow for flight surveys every year or even for several years in a row. Ground surveys are conducted, but this doesn’t come close to the accuracy of a flight survey. Even flight surveys are suspect as animals migrate in and out of different hunting units for the winter. Without more accurate data it would appear ODFW just has to guess how to manage many of the Oregon hunting units and thus should take into account a “best guess” of the poaching numbers when developing a game management plan.

  7. Craig Avatar

    It’s interesting, are they reporting more poaching cases to keep the public aware and to help! Or are more people really poaching because of economic situations? Just seems to be a lot more of it in the papers now. I read an article about Oregon the other day and they said poaching is at an all time high and beyond what they can deal with.

    1. Dave Avatar

      Oregon changed the rules a few years ago. Now it is draw only for any tag. In the past it was mainly over the counter sale of tags, with draws only in a few specific units or extended seasons. The rise in poaching could be attributed to a combination of econmy and the new rules. It means that many who did not draw a tag are not supposed to hunt.

  8. Craig Avatar

    Dave that could very well be true! Idaho is looking at doing a point system or a draw only unit hunt! We have a very liberal open season gerneral hunt which is a huge plus in hard times! If Idaho adopts another system we could see a lot more poaching problems.

    1. Dave Avatar

      Unfortuanately, that is the writing on the wall. More game units each year have reduced tags with caps placed on the number issued. If a unit is sold out it forces more hunter into open areas, increasing the pressure there. We will first shorter and shorter seasons and reduced tags in more units. Eventually, it will be draw only for any tag, deer or elk.

  9. Craig Avatar

    Another strange thing is I travel to Garden Valley once a week and the snow did stack up big time around Thansksgiving! But since then I have not seen over 10 to 20 Elk up there! Last year and the previous 10 years I traveled there you seen 100s! Don’t know if the heavy deep snow pushed them somewhere else or what happened? I have not seen them around Horseshoe Bend or towards Emmett?

    1. Dave Avatar

      I was muzzleloader hunting that weekend. Large herds of elk right at the turn off into Crouch and between the highway and the river.
      I talked to a resident photographer up there last year. A herd that used to come down from Crawley Mtn area each year is down to around 50 animals from 200 plus a few years ago.
      As what happened around Lowman, you will start to see more elk (cows, calves, spikes, small raghorns) wintering as close to human activity as possible to get away from the wolves.
      The large bulls on the other hand, will remain high in deep snow, where they learned to survive by staying out of sight. Unfortunately, those habits will be their downfall, as wolves now target them in the deep snow. (verified in conversation with a local game officer and discussed with a biologist during last year’s wolf hunt).

      1. Salle Avatar

        Yeah, like that was unbiased info?

  10. Elk275 Avatar

    Over on Accurate Reloading there is a current small blog on poaching. Here is a well thought out response written by a former game warden. It was well received.

    “I’ve hunted all my life(I’m 59) and spent 26 years as a state game warden in Alabama, one of the “poor states”, mostly in our Blackbelt region. Seven of those years I led the state in number of annual arrests…I worked hard.

    I can count on less than one hand the poachers that I caught that were doing it because they had no other avenue to fresh meat.

    1980 or so we caught two out of work pulpwood cutters night hunting rabbits one night, had a dozen rabbits between them. Crazy damn District Judge fined them $500 each, fine should of been $50-$100!!

    1990 I caught an very old black man and his eight? year old grandson with a night killed illegal doe. They were in their front yard heating a big boiling pot as they skinned it, maybe five minutes after first light. You could throw a medium size cat THRU the walls of the shack they lived in. I told him to take it out back so I couldn’t see them skin it…..and left.

    I think I’d be safe saying that every other poacher I caught(hundreds) poached because they WANTED to. A poacher with a $1000 rifle/scope rig gets little consideration of compassion from me, esp driving a new 4X4 truck.”


  11. mikepost Avatar

    This is why aerial counts are so critical. When population targets are established in many states it is based upon a nuanced formula of the reported hunter kill and the spring counts. In this way the impacts of poaching (and winter kill) are generally folded into the next years population target cap which then governs the amount of tags issued.

  12. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    I have to say with all this poaching going on people really need to think about who to bitch about when the elk are decreasing. You really can’t blame wolves for killing everything when people are poaching. And you know the numbers of cases that are not caught is probably much higher.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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