POLSON – Half a dozen Montanans have been fined in the past month for two separate big-game poaching incidents involving an elk and two deer on the Flathead Indian Reservation.
The illegal killing of the two deer east of St. Ignatius resulted in the heftiest fines, and the loss of hunting, trapping and fishing privileges for two years, for Andrew Jensen of St. Ignatius.
Five people were charged in the killing of the 6-by-6 bull elk on a ranch near Hot Springs.
According to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, Jensen was observed on his own property with a flashlight and two dead whitetail bucks on the ground.
Lake County sheriff’s deputies and CSKT police officers had responded to a report of gunshots being fired at 3 a.m. After finding Jensen with the flashlight and two bucks, they called in Tribal Warden Sgt. Archie Fuqua.
Because the incident involved a non-tribal member on non-tribal land, Fuqua notified FWP Game Warden Ron Howell.
Jensen allegedly admitted to Howell that he used a flashlight to spotlight the second deer while shooting it.
The suspect eventually pleaded guilty to two counts of hunting during a closed season, two counts of unlawful possession of game unlawfully taken, and one count of hunting with the aid of artificial light.
Jensen was fined a total of $1,075, ordered to pay $1,000 in restitution to the tribes ($500 for each deer), and lost his hunting, trapping and fishing privileges for two years.
A ranch manager on Garcon Gulch Roach near Hot Springs reported that the 6-by-6 bull elk had been shot on the ranch.
Howell and Tribal Warden Mike McElderry investigated. Again, it was determined that the case involved a shooting by a non-tribal member on non-tribal land.
Five people were eventually charged in the case.
“All suspects claimed the elk was wounded prior to shooting it,” FWP Region 1 spokesman John Fraley said. “At no point did anyone involved call wardens prior to shooting the elk or after it was shot.”
Instead, Fraley said, Reese Hindman of Havre shot the animal, and Robert and Tara Barrows of Hot Springs cut and wrapped the elk meat, marked it “beef,” “pork” and “dog,” kept some for themselves and gave some away to friends.
The wardens said Tara Barrows hid the elk’s head at a friend’s house. The meat and head were confiscated by McElderry and Howell.
Hindman pleaded no contest in Lake County Justice Court to hunting during a closed season, was fined $135 and ordered to pay $250 in restitution to the tribes.
Carol Sharp, Matthew Lonergan and Robert Barrows, all of Hot Springs, were found guilty after forfeiting bond for violation of FWP Commission rules and regulations, and were each fined $135.
Tara Barrows was also found guilty, of unlawful possession of a game animal, after forfeiting bond. She was fined $535 and lost her hunting, trapping and fishing privileges for two years.