14 people charged in one of the largest hunting investigations in the last 20 years

By IR Staff

Great Falls outfitter Harold Gilchrist has been charged with a felony count of possessing illegally taken wildlife and a myriad of misdemeanors stemming from one of the largest field investigations into hunting violations in the past 20 years, according to Great Falls warden Terry Hill.

The case first came to light when a couple who was on a hunt with Gilchrist in November 1999 became upset with violations occurring and contacted the Montana Highway Patrol. The patrol put the couple in contact with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

After uncovering another couple unsatisfied with Gilchrist’s operation, FWP started watching the outfitter closely, Hill said.

In December 1999, one of Gilchrist’s guides started cooperating with FWP investigators.

What came to light was a string of abuses, involving the illegal taking of 12 deer, 10 elk and a turkey.

In Lewis and Clark County, Gilchrist is charged with one felony and seven misdemeanors.

Charges are also pending in Judith Basin, Chouteau, Fergus and Cascade counties.

The misdemeanor charges against Gilchrist are failure to keep outfitter logs, hiring an unlicensed guide, baiting game with a salt lick, allowing a client to hunt without the supervision of a guide, transferring licenses, providing outfitting services outside his approved operations plan and failing to report violations.

After catching wind of the violations, the FWP dispatched six officers across the United States, with two going to the Midwest, two to the Washington and Oregon area, and two to the San Francisco area (to interview people who hunted with Gilchrist).

Stemming from those interviews and other tips, 14 people have been charged with $16,230 in fines. Combined they have lost their hunting privileges for 88 years.

In addition, charges are still pending against a Wolf Creek landowner.

“It is one of the largest field investigations in the last 20 years,” Hill said. “(The investigators’) dedication did a lot for the sportsmen of the state.”

Gilchrist could be facing five years in prison and/or a $50,000 fine for the felony count of possessing unlawfully taken wildlife. Each of the misdemeanor charges could carry six months in jail and/or $500 in fines, in addition to loss of hunting privileges.

Friday 19 May 2000

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