But Trump Jr., though not charged with poaching, may be an idol of other bear poachers
“No one in this world, so far as I know,” observed journalist H. L. Mencken (1880-1956), “has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people.”
For that reason, it is not assured that Donald Trump Jr., 44, will never follow his father as president of the United States.
It is however, assured that Trump Jr. shares former Republican president Theodore Roosevelt’s passion for hunting, yet lacks Roosevelt’s oft-voiced concern for conservation and sportsmanship.
Certainly Roosevelt would not have approved of the circumstances under which Trump Jr. shot a bear in Carbon County, Utah, on May 18, 2018, as revealed by Eric Peterson of the Utah Investigative Journalism Project four years plus a few days later.
“Utah hunting guide Wade Lemon,” wrote Peterson for the Salt Lake Tribune, “faces five years in state prison” for the death of the bear.
What did Trump Jr. know & when did he know it?
“Trump Jr. is not named in a recent filing against Lemon,” Peterson continued, “but the Department of Natural Resources confirmed his identity as the person named in the felony complaint as Lemon’s ‘client’ on the hunt.
“Prosecutors have indicated there was no evidence showing Trump Jr. would have known about the alleged baiting that went on during the hunt,” Peterson added.
But concealing baiting and other unethical practices from affluent and politically well-placed clients is an ancient standard practice of gamekeepers, whose job since ancient times has been to preserve the illusion that their clients are mighty hunters, while providing the clients with a smokescreen of plausible deniability if anything goes wrong.
“The charges against Lemon from the Trump Jr. hunt were filed just before the four-year statute of limitations expired,” Peterson continued. “The DNR initially investigated allegations of illegal bear baiting on the hunt in 2018 and closed the case later that year.”
Case files withheld until after 2020 election
But the Utah Department of Natural Resources reopened the case in 2020, withholding files pertaining to it until after the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
The Utah Department of Natural Resources “turned the case over to the Utah Attorney General’s Office,” Peterson reported.
“Utah attorney general Sean Reyes has close ties to Trump,” Peterson observed, “having campaigned for him, even flying to Nevada to investigate the election results after Trump’s defeat at the polls and signing on to a lawsuit claiming ‘unlawful election results.”
The Nevada case was twice thrown out of court due to lack of supporting evidence.
“The Attorney General’s Office reinvestigated the case [against Lemon for alleged poaching for months, then handed it off to the Davis County Attorney’s Office,” Peterson said.
The Davis County Attorney finally charged Lemon.
Trump Jr. was in Utah on May 18, 2020 “to help launch Hunter Nation, a hunting advocacy group,” Peterson recalled. “That group would later launch its own super PAC, Hunter Nation Action, which spent $96,997 in ads against Democrats in the 2020 election, according to the campaign spending transparency site Open Secrets.”
Hunter Nation Action was founded in 2018 by persons including Don Peay, whom Peterson identified as “Utah campaign manager for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.”
Between political dealings, Trump Jr. shot “a bear on May 18, 2018 and a cougar on May 19, 2018, Peterson recounted.
Grain, oil, & pastries
Shooting either animal in only two days of hunting would be difficult, unless of course the hunt was somehow rigged to ensure the hunter with a quick trophy.
“Charging documents allege Lemon’s outfitters illegally used bait on the bear shot by Trump Jr.,” Peterson said, describing how “The illegal bait, ‘a pile of grain, oil, and pastries,” according to an eyewitness, “was discovered with a trail camera pointed right on it with ‘WLH’ (for Wade Lemon Hunting) written on the side and with Lemon’s own telephone number, according to court documents.
“The charging documents also include evidence from a subordinate confirming Lemon had him place the bait in the location several weeks before the hunt,” Peterson mentioned.
Investigated eight times
Explained Peterson, “Hunting guides who cater to the wealthy elite employ hunters to scout woods, deserts, mountains and plains for the biggest game, to ensure these high-profile clients have the highest chance for a successful hunt. According to DNR, Wade Lemon Hunting has been investigated eight times for allegedly breaking the law to ensure a successful hunt, though he was not charged with a felony” until the current case.
Lemon on May 25, 2009 was allegedly observed in the act of baiting a bear by Utah Division of Wildlife Resources officer Hal Stout, but beat the rap when the case was dropped in June 2012.
“A remark in the case file notes,” Peterson wrote, “that the level of illegality detected was insufficient to justify disclosing investigative techniques used in this case.”
Meanwhile, Peterson learned, “In 2011, an informant told the Utah Division of Natural Resources that Lemon had a mountain lion treed and that ‘the lion hunter had his own private plane and was flying in tomorrow to shoot it.’”
In 2016, Peterson continued, “Lemon’s company was investigated for illegally taking a Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep harvested in an off-limits area on Utah’s Mount Nebo.”
But Lemon has long been exceptionally well-connected.
“Former Division of Wildlife Resources director Mike Fowlks attended at least one hunt with Lemon’s outfit,” Peterson found. “In a May 14, 2020, Instagram post from Wade Lemon Hunting, Fowlks is shown posing with a recently killed bear.
“Fowlks was Division of Wildlife Resources director during the 2018 investigation” of the hunt by Trump Jr., “and was also law enforcement section chief during the times of the previous Lemon investigations,” Peterson reported.
“A month after the Division of Wildlife Resources provided records of Lemon investigation files” to the Utah Investigative Journalism Project, Peterson noted, “Fowlks announced his retirement.”
Teddy Roosevelt’s distaste for unsporting hunting tactics famously inspired the invention of the teddy bear.
Summarizes Wikipedia, “The name originated from an incident on a bear hunting trip in Mississippi in November 1902, to which Roosevelt was invited by Mississippi Governor Andrew H. Longino.
“There were several other hunters competing, and most of them had already killed an animal. A suite of Roosevelt’s attendants, led by Holt Collier, cornered, clubbed, and tied an American black bear to a willow tree after a long exhausting chase with hounds.
“They called Roosevelt to the site and suggested that he should shoot it.”
Refused to shoot the bear
Roosevelt, however, “refused to shoot the bear himself, deeming this unsportsmanlike, but instructed that the bear be killed to put it out of its misery, and it became the topic of a political cartoon by Clifford Berryman in The Washington Post on November 16, 1902.”
Roosevelt on April 24, 1903 dedicated the stone archway at the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park, just south of Gardiner, Montana, after 16 days of camping in the park with naturalist John Burroughs and others.
But contrary to a rumor first published and then retracted by The New York Times, Roosevelt did not shoot a puma in Yellowstone, nor a bear, nor any of the animals in the park, which had already been protected habitat for 30 years, and within which, Roosevelt observed and wrote, even coyotes and elk had lost much of their instinctive fear of humans.
Mr. Potato Head would be ashamed of these two
Nothing similar could be said of potato growers Jared Baum, 48, and his father Rex Baum, 79, both of Ashton, Idaho.
The Baums in March 2021 allegedly fired as many as 40 shots with handguns at a female grizzly bear, hitting her more than 13 times, left her remains in the Little Warm River, about 15 miles from Yellowstone, and left her cub to starve to death in their den.
Both men plea-bargained sentences that in effect amount to lifetime suspension of hunting privileges throughout the U.S.
Jared Baum was also fined $12,500 and ordered to serve 30 days in jail plus three years on probation; Rex Baum was fined $1,400 and sentenced to serve three days in jail.
Florida bear poachers cop pleas
Meanwhile in Florida, six of nine people charged with illegally using dogs to hunt bears in the Ocala National Forest have accepted plea bargains, Ocala Star-Banner reporter Austin L. Miller detailed on May 21, 2022.
Most recently, Miller wrote, William Tyler Wood, 32, “pleaded guilty to five counts of felony cruelty to animals and one count each of conspiracy to commit RICO Act violations, using an animal to fight or bait another animal, felony littering, unlawful use of a two-way communications device to facilitate a crime, and unlawful taking of black bear.
Wood, of Lake Butler, Florida, “was sentenced to serve 364 days in the Marion County Jail, followed by 10 years on probation,” Miller recounted.
Allowed to “spend time with son”
“Wood cannot hunt in the Ocala National Forest or own any hunting dogs. He and his co-defendants must pay the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission $22,847 and the Statewide Prosecutor’s Office (SPO) $14,688.43, according to the deal. He also must surrender 14 dogs.”
Wood was allowed a brief delay in serving his jail time “to spend some time with his son,” Miller said.
Accepting similar plea bargains have been Virginia resident William “Willie Bob” Edward Landrum, 43; Hannah Weiner Scarbrough, 30, and her husband Charles, 33, both of Callahan, Florida; Haley Reddish, 28, of Lake Butler, Florida; and Christopher Elliot Haun, 45, of Ormond Beach, Florida.
Not yet resolved are parallel charges against Dustin Reddish, 29, and Troy Travis Starling, 49, both of Lake Butler, and Mark Christopher Lindsey, 29, of Moultrie, Georgia.
“This case stretches back four years,” Miller summarized. “State officials said the defendants used trained dogs,” at least some of them apparently pit bulls, “to viciously attack black bears,” after allegedly dumpster-diving for donuts behind a Krispy Kreme franchise to obtain bait.
The dogs were tracked with radio collars until the bears, including cubs, were treed. When the bears fell or were knocked out of the trees, they were mauled by the dogs, while the defendants made videos to show on social media, and used social media to sell the dogs.
Wade Lemon might have approved of their tactics.
Theodore Roosevelt would have approved of their sentencing.
Donald Trump Jr., judging from their social media postings, likely would have their votes.