Two brothers are charged with multiple felonies and misdemeanors related to what investigators describe as years of poaching on a Fergus County ranch.
James Stephen Page, 32, of Garniell, and William Thomas Page, 32, of California, are charged with poaching eight bull elk between 2006 and 2016 on the 3 Bar Ranch southwest of Lewistown. Charging documents accuse the brothers of hunting on the ranch without permission.
“The Pages are accused of serious crimes that should concern all sportsmen and sportswomen in Montana,” said Game Warden Shawn Briggs. “Our team worked very hard to bring these two men to justice.”
Briggs said it is one of the largest cases he has ever been involved in, saying the alleged poaching appeared to be intentional and planned.
The brothers face a combined 16 charges.
Seven of the eight bulls qualified as trophy animals, which under statute, are felonies in Montana. The law dictates bulls with at least six points on one side and scoring more than 320 inches under the Boone and Crockett system are considered trophies. The largest bull scored 365, Briggs said.
James Page is charged with six counts of felony unlawful possession of a game animal, two counts of felony tampering with evidence, one misdemeanor count of hunting without a license, and two counts of misdemeanor failure to obtain landowner permission for hunting.
The tampering with evidence charges stem from accusations that following execution of a search warrant, James Page cut the antlers off two trophy bull elk and threw them in a pond.
William page is charged with one felony count of unlawful possession of a game animal, one misdemeanor count of unlawful possession of a game animal, and three counts of purchase of a resident hunting license by a nonresident.
The Pages have pleaded not guilty to the charges. A message left with their attorney was not immediately returned.
If convicted, the brothers could lose hunting, fish and trapping privileges for life as well as jail time and thousands of dollars in fines.
A person convicted of poaching a trophy bull elk faces up to five years in the state prison, up to a $50,000 fine and $8,000 trophy restitution.
“FWP’s thorough investigation revealed repeated illegal conduct by the Page brothers,” Fergus County Attorney Kent Sipe said. “My office takes this conduct seriously, which is evidenced by the charges we filed.”