Layne Spence finds himself in a place no dog owner ever wants to be.

An unidentified hunter shot and killed one of his three malamute dogs on Sunday as he was cross-country skiing in the woods west of Lolo. Because of the way events played out, it’s likely the shooter may never be charged with a crime, or even identified.

The man told Spence afterward he thought he was shooting a wolf, and asked if there was anything he could do. Spence said he was distraught and screamed at the man to go away. The man did, and Spence carried his dead dog back to his truck.

What happened next exposes some gray area where hunting, recreation, law and justice tangle together. In the end, the only thing certain is that Spence’s 2-year-old dog, Little Dave, will be in a cremation urn.

“I don’t want vigilante justice,” Spence said Tuesday. “I don’t want anything bad to happen to this guy – I just don’t want this to ever happen again. I just want my dog. I want an apology. I want to take away his guns and I want his license taken away.”

The facts as Spence recalls them: He was skiing up a closed road above the Lee Creek campground near Lolo Pass around noon on Sunday with his three malamutes. The older two, Rex and Frank, were running together while Little Dave was separate, some 15 or 20 yards ahead of him on the road. He heard a gunshot and saw the bullet hit Little Dave’s rear leg.

Spence is studying respiratory therapy and paramedic medical training in college. After the first shot, he said he saw the hunter and screamed at him to stop.

“I saw my dog’s leg get blown off but I’m thinking, I can fix that,” Spence recalled. “And then he just kept shooting. I’m screaming, ‘No, no, no,’ and he can see me. The shots are going ‘tak, tak’ – not the loud booms like a hunting rifle, but like he had an assault rifle with a suppressor.”

There’s some dispute about what Spence saw. The report he gave to a Missoula County sheriff’s deputy Sunday states he said the weapon was not an assault rifle. Spence maintains that was a mistake, and he went back to the sheriff’s office on Tuesday to amend his statement. Sheriff’s department officials declined to change the record.

Semi-automatic military-style rifles like AR-15s and AK-47s are legal for public hunting and require no special permits or licenses to own, as long as they aren’t capable of fully automatic firing. They can shoot the same caliber bullets as more traditional hunting rifles.

Nevertheless, Spence said he thinks the rifle and its rapid-fire capability contributed to the tragedy.

“I have nothing against hunting – I’ve hunted myself with a bow and rifle,” Spence said. “I just have something against irresponsible hunters who aren’t focused enough to know what they’re shooting at and keep shooting. I think we should ban assault rifles as hunting rifles. If you have to shoot something five or six times, and you’re that close and you can’t tell it’s a dog with a skier behind it, you shouldn’t have a license. You shouldn’t have a ... gun.”


Hunting writer and occasional legislative advocate Ben Lamb of Helena said the firearm is not the issue.

“Personally, that kind of a weapon is not what I want to carry in the woods,” Lamb said. “I’m perfectly happy toting around a bolt-action rifle. I think that’s a personal choice. But it’s the old adage, ‘It’s what you do in the woods when nobody’s looking’ that defines your ethics.”

It is illegal to fire from a road or at something on a road, but there are exceptions if the road is closed to motorized traffic. Because Spence and the dogs were beyond a closed gate and because the victim was a dog and not a game animal, the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks had no jurisdiction to investigate or file charges in the incident.

FWP spokeswoman Vivica Crowser said the incident raises concerns about hunter ethics and safety, but failed to break laws.

“For someone to have done that – make multiple shots, kill the wrong, non-target animal and then leave the scene – that all raises issues,” Crowser said. “To take responsibility for a mistake and help with the situation is one of the key things we stress in hunter education classes.”

If your car collides with another, Montana law requires you to exchange contact information before leaving the scene. No such law exists for accidents not involving motor vehicles. So the hunter was under no legal requirement to give Spence his name, assuming a conversation could have taken place under the traumatic circumstances.

Little Dave and the other two malamutes wore collars with lights on them to identify them as pets. However, the deputy who took Spence’s report said he thought the dog could be mistaken for a wolf.

And when the shooter made peaceful contact with Spence, that affected the legal situation. Sheriff’s Capt. Brad Giffin said officers must constantly test the boundary between criminal and civil activity.

“We as deputies have to go out and prove the elements of a crime we’re investigating,” Giffin said. “One of the most common challenges is to determine if it was purposely or knowingly or negligently committed. To reach criminal negligence can be exceedingly hard. Proving civil negligence is much easier. And every situation is a little bit different.”

By speaking with Spence, the man indicated he had no criminal intent – he said he mistook Little Dave for a wolf, which is a legal game animal with an open hunting season now in Montana.

“We’re still looking to talk to the guy who did the shooting and get his side of the story,” Giffin said. “I’m not saying the guy who lost his dog was to blame. This was a horrible thing. But is it criminal? Based on the story the victim himself gave us, I don’t believe it could be. He could still say, ‘I lost my dog because of your action,’ but that’s something that could happen in civil court.”


Taking pets in the woods has been a growing point of tension in Montana. As trapping has grown in public awareness, many pet owners have objected to how their animals’ safety takes a lower priority to a hunter’s or trapper’s right to pursue their pastime.

“It looks to me like the general public, who does not kill wildlife on public lands, has no right when it comes to encounters with hunters or trappers,” said Anja Hester, a campaign director for the Missoula-based In Defense of Animals organization. “This incident really brings this lack of existing policy or regulations to light.”

Lamb said the hunting community feels equal pressure.

“You have a very real conflict that will grow as the population grows – the public use of these lands,” Lamb said. “The most important thing for the hunter is to recognize there are other people with legitimate uses on that land. And if you’re out recreating during hunting season, you have to take responsibility for your own actions. Does the dog owner have an obligation to make sure it does not look like a wolf? My dog has a blaze orange collar and still gets mistaken for a bear or wolf by hikers.

“The (hunter) who was out there was completely legal,” Lamb continued. “Whether he made solid choices is up for debate, but that’s not a basis for more gun control or kicking hunters off public land. The hunting community is not giving the hunter a pass on this.”

But Montana law might. Neither the sheriff’s office, Fish, Wildlife and Parks nor the U.S. Forest Service could find a statute to bring criminal charges from Little Dave’s death.

“I’m known all around town for my dogs,” Spence said. “I don’t have family here. I just have my dogs. If there’s a law I can change, I want something to happen. I’d give everything I own just to have my dog back.”

Reporter Rob Chaney can be reached at 523-5382 or at

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(80) comments

Connie A Reppe
Connie A Reppe

With sincere sorrow to the family and guardian of Little Dave Montana Rules of Civil Procedure (M.R.C.P., Mont. R. Civ. Pro.) TITLE 25. CIVIL PROCEDURE CHAPTER 20. RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE PART VIII. Provisional and Final Remedies and Special Proceedings Rule 64., 65., 66., 67., 68., 69., 70., 71. Pleadings: The plaintiff starts a civil case by filing a summons, and generally a complaint, with the clerk of circuit court and paying a filing fee. A summons provides the defendant notice that a suit has been filed against him or her and notifies the defendant(s) that he or she must answer the complaint. The complaint sets forth the plaintiff's allegations against defendant(s). It must contain a short and plain statement of the plaintiff's claim, identify the events out of which the claim arises, and demand relief to satisfy the plaintiff's claim. I stand side with the plaintiff in this civil case.

Connie A Reppe
Connie A Reppe

With sincere sorrow to the family and guardian of Little Dave Montana Rules of Civil Procedure (M.R.C.P., Mont. R. Civ. Pro.) TITLE 25. CIVIL PROCEDURE CHAPTER 20. RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE PART VIII. Provisions and Final Remedies and Special Proceedings: Rule 64., 65., 66., 67., 68., 69., 70., 71. Pleadings: The plaintiff starts a civil case by filing a summons, and generally a complaint, with the clerk of circuit court and paying a filing fee. A summons provides the defendant notice that a suit has been filed against him or her and notifies the defendant(s) that he or she must answer the complaint. The complaint sets forth the plaintiff's allegations against the defendant(s). It must contain a short and plain statement of the plaintiff's claim, identify the events out of which the claim arises and demand relief to satisfy the plaintiff's claim.

space wrangler

So let me get this clear. BY definition no crime was committed because it was a domesticated animal. So by that definition I would not need my fishing license to fish FARM raised trout (pellet fed). And that being the case if I happen to "mistakenly" shoot a cow/cattle/Ranch fed BEEF/domestic animal, well no penalty what so ever? BS!I would at the Least be required to pay fair market value to the owner as to make the them "WHOLE" again. I am sure it would not so quick and smooth or let go by FWP, MCSO, USFS or say the USDA!!. It seems the real line is drawn at the monetary Value of the animal. AS many a driver has found out hitting "OPEN RANGE" cattle, and having to pay restitution to the owner. AS many a dog owner has paid for chickens i ask again? where is the line drawn? If LITTLE DAVE was a sled pulling dog permitted by the USFS would the outcome be any different?? As over here in Paradise Valley, where CHICO hot springs runs Sled tours in Mill creek. I would be in deep CREEK if I shoot a money making DOg. Being Little DAve was I am sure PriceLESS to the owner.. well that is a lot of $$$!! OH YEAH P.S. If controlling non native species is dam important lets put a BOUNTY on the coveted Brown Trout for the demise of the Cutthroat............


this is a 50/50 fault. The hunter really needed to read up and study what a wolf looks like even from a distance. As a hunter that is his responsibility, if he owns dogs he should be aware of the different breeds of dogs that resemble wolves. So that stated he is at fault. But at the same time, the dog owner should use a little common sense during hunting season and not go walking with animals that resemble those being hunted. I would never bring a husky, malamute or irish wolfhound out for a walk during wolf season! It's just common sense, so that said the dog owner is also at fault. It was a tragic thing, and the dog is the one who has to die because of the irresponsibility and ignorance of a hunter and dog owner.


Some of the comments are stunning. Ignore the obvious lapse in hunter ethics -and say this is a liberal conspiracy to ban Wolf hunting? The paranoia is facinating


dog owners need to realize that there are hunters out there that make mistakes. There are bad hunters out there. Did you actually think all hunters make 100 percent sure what their targets are? Shame on you for not putting orange on your dogs. I don't let my dogs run around in the woods during hunting season without orange on and I personally would not walk around without orange on. At a distance a running malemute could actually look similar to a wolf. There are so many different versions to this mans story that I really am not feeling very sympathetic at this point.


Those lights on these dogs isn't enough to get the hunter to think twice before shooting????

renick stevenson
renick stevenson

if you don't publish my 2 comments then you are verifying ALL i said about this situation is true :( that SHERIFF IBSON chose to "sweep it under the rug" because it was either a WELL CONNECTED LOCAL or maybe IN HOUSE :( either way the shooter was NOT a good HUNTER and won't own it :( so as are retired DEPUTY i believe the SHERIFF owes the community and LITTLE DAVE'S DAD more ? oh well , guess this is freedom of the press :(


Ya! Your verifying it as all true! So there!

renick stevenson
renick stevenson

i guess you won't permit calling "A SPADE A SPADE" on this DOG SHOOTING ? KILLING by an irresponsible hunter :( there is no "GREY" area ! as a retired Deputy from another area i still say that SHERIFF IBSON chose to let it slide :( i can only guess the SHOOTER was either "IN HOUSE" or "WELL CONNECTED" with no HEARTFELT response to LITTLE DAVE'S DAD:( sort of like sweeping it all under the table or "let bygones be bygones"? tell that to LITTLE DAVE or his DAD :(

renick stevenson
renick stevenson

I am a retired deputy from a county in Colorado that gets a lot of trigger happy hunters from all over the world :( a GOOD hunter doesn't need an assault weapon / one ... two shots are enuf ! and this person rode the trigger ! and if a hunter can't tell the difference between a wolf and LITTLE DAVE then that makes anything or anyone a target :( a HUMAN / LIVESTOCK / anything / and to continue shooting after already blowing the dog's leg off tells me the shooter just liked to shoot no matter what the target was :( another thing that I question is WHY the shooter was EXCUSED by the S.O. and is anonymous ? one of their own ? or WELL connected :) HUNTERS like DRIVERS should have drug and alcohol clearance before hunting ! and NO DRUGS or ALCOHOL allowed on any camp site ! and this should apply to LOCALS as well as VISITORS ! last but not LEAST will the SHOOTER of a PET issue a PUBLIC apology to LITTLE DAVE'S dad published on the FRONT PAGE of your PAPER ? probably NOT :( DISGUSTING ! and now our GOV'T is declaring OPEN SEASON on almost ALL WILD LIFE :(! but I guess / KNOW you can get away with anything if you have enuf $$$ ! "GRAY"area my foot Sheriff Ibson! YOU just CHOSE to not deal with it ! were they "WELL CONNECTED" or "IN HOUSE"?


and I'm an Admiral on the high seas................


What would the penalty (penalties) be if it was a horse mistaken for an elk?


There were three horses shot and quartered a number of years back. Never did figure out who did it. I have heard of people having the horse shot out from underneath them as well. Apparently the penalties are not much if that can happen.


Some "hunters" brought someone's llama to a meet packing plant near Flathead Lake about 15 years back, convinced it was a deer. I agree, there are some bad hunters out there. They are the reason I never hunt opening weekend and the reason for mandatory orange vests. It's the overkill that concerns me. A real loose cannon and a threat to everyone who hunts near him. They should have least made him take (or re-take) a Hunter's Safety program. I know the program is for kids but I've seen a lot of fathers attend with their kids and actually learn a lot from the review.

Alan Johnson

This was bound to happen with the advent of wolf hunting. Since even deer and elk hunters have mistaken moose and even livestock for deer or elk, it was inevitable that a domestic dog would be killed by a wolf hunter. Rather than blame either side we should recognize that the problem exists and take steps. Clearly there is a hole in the law in that neither the criminal code or hunting codes address this kind of negligence. Perhaps a wolf tag should not be sold until the applicant has had a course on proper identification of the animal. A wolf hunter that knew what he was doing would not mistake a malamute for a wolf. There should be something put in the fish and game codes to address this. The guy doesn't necessarily need to lose lifetime hunting privileges, but there should be some sanction available, if anything to make future hunters take greater care before pulling the trigger. Likewise anyone who takes their dogs into the woods during hunting season should take the precaution of coating their pets in hunter orange


“We’re still looking to talk to the guy who did the shooting and get his side of the story,” Giffin said
I talked to a captain at the sheriffs office and was told that the shooter has contact them twice.
I believe I was lied to. Either that or this cop is lying. Either they have talked to him or they haven't. Someone with law enforcement is lying. (no surprise there.)


KNOW YOUR TARGET AND BEYOND. Sound familiar to anybody? Based on the blame being placed on the pet owner I would say that everyone needs to go back through hunter safety, including FWP. They will ticket you for shooting a decoy, but not a dog?


The answer to your question is yes. At this time everyone's hands are tied, if he didn't break the law then he didn't break the law. Existing law that is. If Spence wants to use this incident to accomplish something he feels is constructive and change the law he should do so.

Jason Maxwell

I'd like to know the real age of Little Dave. Anyone who has seen this guy in Missoula knows one of his 3 dogs was old and arthritic. My opinion, put the dog down created a story to push negative publicity on wolf hunting. Probably wouldnt think that if his story didn't change every interview.

Stan Reck
Stan Reck

It might be far fetched but it did cross my mind. I would hope that this guy is honest enough to tell the whole story and I hope the Missoulian is honest enough to publish it. The fact the guy threatened to kill the hunter rings big warning bells. Folks in this discussion are so worried about the legality of killing the dog they have failed to address the legality of threatening another human with bodily harm. If anything charges could be pressed against the owner for making verbal threats against another person, regardless of how upset he was. If he would have had a gun would he have shot the hunter? Now we are talking murder, which it seems that most of the pro-wolf anti-gun crowd would prefer in this case. Use your brains folks, understand that you don't have the full story. Before you create a lynch mob for some unnamed hunter you really need to relax and wait for the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.


What does the real age of the dog have to do with anything? Are you seriously stating that hunters have zero responsibilities to positively identify their targets? Anything not covered head to toe in florescent orange is fair game?


It is obvious that the FWP and the Sheriff's department are very heavily on the right wing. Assault rifles are only necessary for hunting if you are a TERRIBLE shot. Also, the sheriff's department choosing not to pursue criminal action and calling it a "civil dispute" means that they don't have to do any kind of investigation. Good luck finding this moron without law enforcement's help. It seems neither agency cares about the victim. Their concerns are with the "rights" of the "hunter".


Where is the proof that this was an assault rifle? I am not saying that what the hunter did was the right thing. This more than likely is avoided if the dog owner used common sense and put orange on his dogs. There are currently no wolves, wearing orange, running around the mountains.


Are there wolves running around with flashing light collars such the one the slain dog was wearing?
I would think flashing lights would be a better indicator of what not to shoot at than orange.


I believe that the hunters actions were 100% wrong and that he is also 100% responsible. That being said, I also believe that it was indeed an accident and that he did make a mistake. This incident is disturbing but not enough to make me jump on the anti-hunting band wagon. I will tell you what is disturbing enough to make me jump: the percentage of comments I have seen that are placing the fault of this accident with the dog owner. That it is his fault for having wolf-like dogs, his fault for walking them during hunting season, his fault for not putting on orange (he had lights--I am sure he thought that was sufficient). Again, I will use the seat belt analogy. While wearing your seat belt will decrease the risk of harm if you are in an accident, not wearing one does in no way make you responsible if someone else causes an accident that involves you while you are driving. It is a little more than pathetic to see people so entrenched in their own sense of entitlement that they completely disregard the rights of other human beings and are willing to go as far as conspiracy theories to misplace responsibility. I know how I will vote and comment on anything that affects hunting in the future. If ground is lost on hunting rights, don't look to this dog owner or this hunter....take a good hard look in the mirror. Oh yeah, a 68-year old man from Colorado was shot by a hunter up by Flathead recently as well. I had better see everyone who has said the dog should have been in orange to prevent this commenting on the man's attire on that story!


The dog looked enough like a wolf that it was mistaken for one. Lighted collars on a bright day in the snow obviously weren't noticed readily enough. 45, 60 feet or how ever far away from the owner the dog really was it was too far without something obvious and readily visible showing it as a pet. Right or wrong, whether one should have too or not, just a little common sense by the owner and the dog would likely would not have been shot. If you have a dog take some responsibility for its well being.


If you hunt take some responsibility for what you are shooting.
Again Typical "If it aint orange shoot it!!" mentality.


Not sure where you are getting "if it ain't orange shoot it." By all means, take responsibility for what you are shooting, I think that, you obviously think that, we all think that. And yet there is a dead dog. So you are implying a person should not have to take any responsibility for his dogs well being?


Yes it is a good idea to have orange on you and your animals, but just because something is not in orange shouldn't make it ok to shoot. I don't look anything like a deer, elk, bear or wolf but if i'm in the woods without any orange then, according to the opinion of many others, it's my fault if I get shot? That is what i mean by "If it aint orange shoot it." mentality.

renick stevenson
renick stevenson

that you don't know the difference between wolves or dogs is obvious :( and if you had any common sense you would put your MIND/ HEART in gear before opening your insensitive MOUTH. Namaste :(


Let's see, wolves are dogs, I didn't shoot it, If you choose to own dogs, take care of them. Colorado misses your MIND/HEART and MOUTH I'm sure (:


2buck2, I'm a dog owner /trainer and handler and just love dogs in general,and when I see this happen and know there was an all too obvious level of prevention that was simple and effective as orange on your dog, that would have prevented this, it outrages me.
No professional, whether it's search and rescue or law enforcement that uses dogs in the hills during hunting season would have made that mistake of neglecting to protect their dog.
Studies prove you are 7 times less likely to be mistakenly targeted by a hunter when wearing orange and in that particular study, no one was shot wearing orange, only those who weren't. Orange may not be a cure all but It's ridiculous not practicing preventive safety for your animals and yourself.

And since you like analogies ie;seatbelts. Here's one to ponder,, if that dog were in the care of a third party professional like a commercial kennel and this would have happened in the hills on a exercise walk during hunting season, I would bet the owner would be screaming bloody murder that the kennel personnel did not out of common sense, place safety orange on their dog. I would also bet if legal recourse was taken, a judge would find that a portion of liability to be assessed to the kennel by not having safety orange on that animal based upon the assumption that this could likely happen at this time of year and that a professional should have been aware of the obvious risk.


Well not everyone is a "professional" like you apparently. Good lord, I sure wish I knew who you were so I could avoid your business like the plague as heartless as you are towards dog owners.


I care about the dogs first, and not their owners when they act as irresponsibly as this one did.
I got the same bashing from you bleeding hearts when I was critical about the rescue German Shepherd who recently got ran over in Helena. It's owner ran straight to the newspaper and cried foul when a man hit and killed their new dog after it broke out of their yard and went missing. After looking for it with no luck they still decided to go to work the next day and not continue to look for it,hoping it would magically reappear after they got off work.
It didnt, and when it turned up dead they had the audacity to be critical of the man who hit it because he drug it off the road and went on his way.
They should have kept looking for him, and when I raised that issue, your bleeding heart types called me heartless just like you're doing.
Do the dog world a favor, dont own them. You have no common sense and seem to react solely on emotion, which makes you a very poor dog owner.


The man in Helena did not drag that dog off the road and be on his way, he reported it first. Most people seemed to miss that part. You're emotions are running your post as well so guess you might want to address that board in your eye before you worry about the speck in mine. I am being caustic because I enjoy it. What is your excuse?


Look db, the only irresponsible party here is your buddy who pulled the trigger.


Well said. We are all sad this happened but to me, at least, it's simply common sense.


This is ridiculous. As a pet owner and a hunter I can sympathize with both sides of this issue. but the fault lands with the pet owner. You take animals that can easily be mistaken for something you bare the responsibility to protect them. Yeah the hunter made a mistake shooting them. but demanding to have his guns and hunting privilages taken away are absurd. This dog owner is obviously distraught over the loss of a pet, but what he is doing is deflecting blame and not taking responsibility for his mistakes as well. Own up to it and take your personal responsibility for your dogs getting shot. The hunter tried to but you shooed him away. Live with your decisions.

Mr C

How many times is this story going to change? Now the hunter had a suppressor on his rifle??? Come on!

Run - A- Mook

@Mr C

It is getting hard to keep up with.
At 1st it's a rifle, then is it an assault rifle? yes - no
Is it a semi-auto? Yes - no An AR-15 -- AK-47 don know for sure.
Talked to the hunter, didn't get his or anything, Just said Go away.

Says he "has hunted with a bow and rifle."
"the shots are going "tak, tak," - not the loud booms , like a
hunting rifle, but like he had a assault rifle with a suppressor."

{Or maybe someone with a 22???} Just saying--- I don't know
one or the other. As I said before "I was not there."


Hmm. Over-armed irrational wolf-hater kills innocent creature and doesn't step up and publicly take responsibility for his actions. Sounds like a typical Republican voter.


ever since this story broke I have wondered ... why did he not have blaze orange on his dogs (all of them) AND on him self ? It is HUNTING SEASON folks ... yes , the hunter made a terrible terrible mistake , one that can not be undone ... BUT ... blaze orange would have prevented this tragedy. . My dogs do not resemble wolves , but they wear some orange in the field ,, my horses are a black and a buckskin , they could be mistaken for moose or elk,, they wear blaze orange flagging on the trail AND in the timbered pasture,,, I am very sorry for this mans loss,, I had a dog shot and killed by a neighbor because it pee'd on his fence (really) ,, so I DO know how he feels BUT ... I think he needs to be aware that the hunter in this case is only (mostly) partly to blame .... public lands + rifle season + wolf season = blaze orange on all.

space wrangler

I was told by a game warden, that even if the road was closed, still illegal to shoot! UNLESS it is a road which can not ever be used by vehicle traffic. A locked gate is able to unlocked by FWP and USFS employees. Please someone post the regs for this particular road!! I live in a different part of MT. Again would a trap been legal there? Target shooting is not a allowed with 1/2 mile of any road or trailhead or campground. Again where did this actually happen? Is there proof of a TAG? I say BS to this not being in the hands of FWP, if not them then who?3/7/77?


"It is unlawful to hunt from, on or across any public highway or the shoulder, berm, borrow pit or right of way of any public highway (The entire width between the boundary lines of every publically maintained when any part thereof is open to the use of the public for the purposes of vehicular travel."


Here is a link to the USFS website on that particular campground:


After what's taken place, I wonder if in the future, Mr. Spence will now put hunter orange vests on his dogs. If not,I would be extremely shocked and that would be something interesting to follow up on and write about.


Thank you Rob for pursuing this issue.
And it is an issue on a few fronts.

First: Safe gun handling and all the tenants regarding that, which I shouldn't have to repeat. I am very concerned about the fast growing number of people who are hunting and/or carrying firearms as protection against predators. Know that I am NOT against firearms/2nd Amendment, hunting...But...ANYONE who carries for ANY reason MUST learn safe firearms handling which includes mental state, like not getting so overly excited by seeing hunted game, or getting freaked out at seeing a predator...and shoot with no regard to the actual situation. Trigger pull should NEVER negate thought processes. I wish so much more of these people who are carrying for ANY reason (hunting, safety...) would get serious training.

In law enforcement, there is substantial training given and undertaken in overriding that adrenaline rush to shoot...........When that adrenaline hits, all rational thought can disappear. Yup...split second decisions MUST be made.

Second: Ethical hunting. Great attempt is made in hunter ed, but unfortunately it doesn't always sink in with a FEW people. MOST are responsible. But there are always going to be those few who disregard, or it isn't even in the realm of their consciousness...who do not understand ethics and the principles behind ethics.

Third: At the start (even the week before, and I include archery) of hunting season, my dog is in orange from her neck to her tail. Does she look like a wolf? No. But she does have stand-up/pointy ears. Even if they hung down like a lab's, she'd still be in flaming orange...a vest covering her torso from her neck to the base of her tail. This winter she'll be in that on ALL our walks/hikes until well after wolf-rifle season ends.

I will add: I can completely understand Little Dave's owner being so emotionally distraught that he might have screamed out to the "hunter" to go away. Did it help the situation, especially the investigation by law enforcement? No.

I think that all these points are related.
All it takes is one stupidly fired bullet to ruin someone's day.


good commentary. thank you for your rational, non-emotional contribution.


I dont remember this sort of outrage when two un-armed citizens were attacked by two pit bulls while they were looking for a Christmas tree on Lolo National Forest several years ago. Their dog had to be put down and the man ended up in the hospital eventually from injury sustained in the attack. The point is this, it's not a firearm's fault, nor always a dog's fault. People are the problem and their lack of consideration for others, too often. More laws wont fix "stupid". When recreating anywhere, we all should consider how our actions or carelessness can affect someone elses rights to enjoy the outdoors, and even their safety. Think!!!


"All it takes is one stupidly fired bullet to ruin someone's day."

Not to mention the dog's day, or a wolf's day.


The laws have obviously been written to protect hunters. The law is not about justice; it's not about right and wrong; it's simply about who has rights and who doesn't. Hunters have rights and dog owners do not (and neither do dogs or wolves). But when right and wrong are ignored as they were in this case and many others, don't be surprised if people take the law into their own hands. The law may not know right and wrong, but people do. I know what I would do to anyone who shot my dog in front of me.

Spence may not have realized the extent to which hunters have taken over public lands. If hunting was confined to one month per year, let's say October, it would be a lot easier for everyone to track. Everyone else would stay off public lands during October. But since the hunting and trapping season is pretty much year-round, when is anyone else allowed to use their lands? And, no, I don't think being covered in orange from head to toe is much protection. There are some fools out there and they're armed. Hunting needs to be time-limited.


Bottom line - the hunter was at fault. He did not take the time he should have to properly identify his 'target' animal. He didn't follow basic practices of an ethical hunter. My family members have 'missed' several shots at game because they waited to see if they could in fact take the shot - perhaps they couldn't see the antlers, couldn't tell what kind of bear it was, etc. - and then the animal was gone and they were 'empty handed'. Which is the proper thing to do, and if they didn't get their 'kill' at least they didn't shoot anything they weren't supposed to. Simple, basic ethics of hunting. It isn't political.


Shooting the dog was likely criminal in a civil sense of negligence, shooting a dog with a collar and light evidently not making sure of what he was shooting, but no criminal investigation will ensue because of a lack of witnesses and maybe the shooter (since he walked away). The Sheriff’s office passed the buck to FWP. FWP passed the buck to the Sheriff. If the shooter cannot tell the difference between a Malamute and a wolf, he should turn in his rifle and go back to his Lazy Boy chair. If he was shooting a canine with a human nearby, was there endangerment and stupidity? There seems to be several ethical hunting violations which would contribute to a civil case argument. In any case there is another Elmer Fudd Nimrod out there, so watch out for yourselves and your pets folks. It is amazing what the hunter and trapper can get away with in state like MT-WY-ID-WI! So few are taking priority over so many in the use of public lands. I know I do not feel safe with my dog on public land where there are Nimrods looking for something to shoot and trappers looking for something to trap. Maybe, like divers and divers’ flags on the water to warn that a diver is beneath could apply to flags warning of hunters in the woods, or traps ahead.


Agreed! Don't really understand that so few can usurp the safety of so many others on public lands.


Jacob........ You’ve got to be kidding !!..Right?
That hunter would have to be brain dead from front to back and side to side to ever be heard from again.
He doesn’t have a leg to stand on for what he did and has everything to lose by showing up or trying to explain
an indefensible position.
Those who have posted here , both pro and con, have already made up their minds and stated their opinion and NO ONE is going to change their opinions
no matter what is said from this point on.


The hunter through the words of the victim tried to do the right thing. There are about three different reports as to what happened. One had the hunter just running away and the other has the victim yelling, and rightfully so, I'm going to kill you. But now after we've amassed the pitch fork crowds he wants him to come forward. That's something nobody would do.


I am an ardent supporter of the 2nd Amendment but this obsession with killing wolves, I simply do not understand. There are only two reasons to kill someone or any animal that you do not eat, in sefl-defense or in battle.

Rev Black

Well said Walter 12. This blood-lust to kill wolves is more indicative of serial killers than "hunters" and it's giving hunting a bad name .
People world wide are watching what goes on with this wolf slaughter and it's reinforcing the premise of Montana having the dubious reputation of being culturally retarded.


Your comment has been reported as abuse...Your time here is limited.
Sucks to be you.


This is NOT a gray area. Maybe we should all buy a gun and a holster? Bring back the wild west and good old Montana Justice. Something needs needs to be done.


I know that if I get shot at I WILL return fire!


I am a dog owner and a hunter and I would NEVER take my dog out during hunting season without mucho blaze orange attached to him.It is the responsibility of Spence to mitigate any danger to his dog in any given situation, Would he cross a busy intersection with his dogs without leashes on them?


The hunter told the dog's owner he thought the malamute was a wolf and asked if he could help.
The owner screamed at the hunter "get out of here, I'm going to kill you"...the hunter then left.


I also saw this KPAX article this morning. Either KPAX is guilty of lousy reporting, or the "hunter" had every reason to leave after offering to help, and getting this threat. Don't take me wrong. The "hunter" was absolutely in the wrong...provided that all being said about him was truthful to begin with....and I'm in full sympathy concerning the loss of Little Dave. It's just so tragic!


Sad deal.... I still would have had some orange on myself as well as my dog even though he's a lab. It's hunting season and you can't always trust that everyone is going to "be sure of their target and beyond". Dog owners who have wolf like dogs should take appropriate precautions when recreating this time of year. This dog owner messed up as well as the hunter although I think more blame on the dog owner is merited. And maybe the hunter will grow a pair and talk to the mcso to clear this matter up.


So true. Whenever I'm in the woods this time of the year, hunting or not, I wear orange and if my dog is with me it has orange as well. The law specifies wearing orange, not so that people or game animals will know we are hunting, but for safety and identification to other hunters so this kind of thing will be avoided.


Don't think just... Shoot!!!

Stan Reck
Stan Reck

Something is mighty fishy about this story. More attention is given on what type of gun he was using rather than the shooting of the dog. If I was a betting man I'd say something was staged here. An unidentified hunter that is never to be seen or heard from again, a dead dog that happens to look like a wolf and an owner advocating the removal of assault type weaponry and license to hunt. FISHY..... If someone shot my dog I wouldn't be screaming for them to go away. We aren't getting the full true story here.


Don't be ridiculous.


Stan I totaly agree. Someone has an ax to grind. Either Rob Cheeny needs to get the facts right or Spence needs to tell the same story.


Rob is trying to get the facts right. Give him credit for that. He is reporting only what he knows and is choosing his words very carefully. It's Chaney by the way.


Serious? By far the fishiest statement is: “The (hunter) who was out there was completely legal,” Lamb continued.

How does Lamb know? I thought the person was UNidentified....It could have been me..(for example). I don't have a license to shoot anything. Can I come shoot your dog claiming that I thought it was a wolf? You're saying that's ok right?


Sorry everyone....For the record, I'm pro-hunting and NOT anti-guns. But, logic (or the lack of logic) like Mr. Reck is what makes 2nd-ers looks so ridiculous to the rest of the country. Fro what is written in the article, the guy who shot the dog could be a convicted felon, could have been the guy that law-enforcement chased into the woods on Lolo pass a year ago. How can anyone claim that he was legal without even knowing his identity? Mr. Reck. You're doing a disservice to the rest of us with this type of radicalism. If the government eve does move to take away our freedoms, it's due to the expressed ignorance of people like you and Mr. Lamb. Think before you comment.


I think the implication was at that time there was nothing that suggested the shooter was illegal or breaking the law. And yes, I agree, Miss Reck sounds like an idiot.

Objective observer

Thank you for your well placed comment. Nailed it.


And you should think before you comment as well. You see, it doesn't matter to anti-gunners what pro 2nd amendment folks do. There is no rational thinking behind their arguments. No matter how civilized and courteous pro-gunners are, those on the left will never understand nor begin to compromise. So really, what's the point in even trying to accommodate their viewpoint?

Stan Reck
Stan Reck

I'm a radical? Thank you! I'd hate to be like the rest of you jumping to conclusions based on inaccurate and incomplete information. Question everything and leave no stone unturned.


I had the same thought as Stan Reck (as a long shot possibility), but I kind of doubt it - the dog's owner seems genuinely disturbed by the incident, which he should be if what he reported is true. Most people wouldn't have the stomach to kill an innocent dog in a scheme like that.


Very sorry for your loss. I was pondering this today while at work. "I don't want anything bad to happen to this guy..."

I suggest do what you can to change the law if that's what you feel is flawed. Turn bad energy into good. I actually looked through the hunting regulations after I first learned the FWP's hands were tied because even though the hunter thought this was a game animal it was actually domesticated. I was wondering if a citation could have been issued under their "decoy" law, but that only applies to "decoy" (mounted game animals) that have been set out by the FWP. Even though the "decoy" is not an actual living game animal, citations can be issued as if it were such. Furthermore, even if this person shot a "decoy" wolf that day it is unlikely he would have committed no crime as long as he held a valid license, wolf tag, and met the other requirements such as hunters orange, caliber restrictions (if any) etc. It seems many people still think he was breaking the law by shooting from a road, or on a road but this road was closed at the time to vehicular travel so that was not a violation.

A very sad deal for Mr Spence. I'm sure both hunters and non hunters would agree.

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