HAMILTON – Two elderly Hamilton residents may have experienced their last legal deer hunt in Montana.
John Post, 84 and Dianne Gors, 73, lost their hunting and trapping privileges for 10 years recently after pleading guilty to charges of poaching two deer.
The two were charged last fall after they were caught dragging out a mule deer buck they killed in a highly-prized trophy hunting district in the southern reaches of the Bitterroot Valley.
Ravalli County has two trophy mule deer hunting areas that thousands of hunters seek to draw a permit for each year.
In Hunting District 261, 2,185 hunters put in for 35 permits last year. In the adjacent HD 270, nearly 6,600 sought the 45 permits offered there.
The Hamilton couple was charged after a bit of good luck led two state game wardens to their vehicle in time to see Gors dragging a buck deer down a steep hillside.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks warden Justin Singleterry said their first call in the case came from a landowner upset that the couple had trespassed on his private road on Nov. 24.
The landowner had called the state TIPMONT line after having a run-in with the couple who were busy gutting out a small forked-horn deer just off his road.
“He had heard a shot and had driven his four-wheeler over to investigate,” Singleterry said. “He found the suspects gutting out the deer. When he told them they didn’t have permission to drive up his road, John Post apparently got pretty argumentative.”
The landowner asked Post if he had one of the special deer permits required to hunt the area.
“Post told him, ‘Yeah. I got one of those,’ ” Singleterry said. “The landowner told them after they were done to get out of there and then he called TIPMONT.
“He forgot to get a license plate number,” the warden remembered. “He was so ticked off at himself about that.”
The landowner did give Singleterry a description of both people and the dark green or blue American-made SUV they were driving.
After talking with the landowner the next morning, Singleterry and fellow warden Lou Royce opted to drive up Gird Creek to look around. A few minutes after setting up a check station, a hunter came by and told him that an older couple was just up the road dragging out a deer.
“I asked him what they were driving,” Singleterry said. “When he said it was like a green SUV, I thought we might be on to something.”
When they arrived on the scene, they found Gors dragging the deer down a gully and Post scooting down the steep hillside on his backside using the lever-action rifle as a brake.
“We walked up to her and said something about her having some luck,” Singleterry said. “When I asked her where the tag was, she reached into her pocket and pulled it out. It wasn’t validated. She pulled out some scissors and said ‘I need to cut out that tag.’”
Singleterry told her no.
“I was immediately pretty sure that we had our suspects,” he said.
As Post continued to struggle to get down the hillside, Singleterry told Gors that she must have been pretty lucky to get one of the coveted HD 261 mule deer permits.
“She looked at me and said, ‘Well. That’s a whitetail,’ ” Singleterry said. “I replied: ‘No ma’am. That’s definitely a mule deer.’”
While they waited for Post to navigate the last bit of the hillside, Royce noticed there was blood on the car’s tailgate.
The couple decided to remain silent about the bloody tailgate until Singleterry told them he was going to get a warrant and seize their vehicle. At that point, Post acknowledged they had shot a deer the day before, but said their shot had messed up all the meat.
Royce later found the first deer hanging intact at their home. It didn’t have a tag on it either.
“When we finally searched their vehicle after getting consent, we found an elk license with dried blood on it,” Singleterry said. “They told us they had accidentally put the elk license on the first deer and decided that since they still had a deer license, they would just go out and get another one.”
Gors was charged with two misdemeanor counts each of hunting without a license or permit and unlawful possession of an illegally harvested buck and failure to obtain landowner permission.
Ravalli County Justice Jim Bailey required her to pay $1,245 in fines and $500 in restitution.
Post was charged with two misdemeanor counts of possession of an unlawfully harvested deer and failure to obtain landowner permission. He was fined $585 and required to pay $500 in restitution.
“They both claimed that Dianne shot both bucks using a lever action rifle with open sights,” Singleterry said. “This is one of those jobs that you just never know what you’re going to come across. These deer were definitely not trophies, but they were definitely a loss of a resource to sportsmen.”