The Cody man accused of illegally guiding hunters was not paid “one dime” for services he performed on the Antlers Ranch near Meeteetse, according to the ranch owner.
Rather, his primary role was representing the landowner in a hunting/management program by showing hunters areas they could hunt and where shooting would not interfere with a privately-owned buffalo herd and ranch buildings. Any guiding activities by Jim Pehringer, 47, were done as an unpaid representative of the ranch,
“Beyond that, the hunts on the ranch were pretty much self guided, although Jim would assist the hunters from time-to-time,” reads a court affidavit signed by Sam May, an Antlers Ranch owner.
The affidavit responds to eight charges Deputy Park County Attorney Branden Vilos filed in circuit court April 8 based on an investigation by Dan Hodge, criminal investigator with the Wyoming State Board of Outfitters and Guides. The investigation included information from an interview with May.
In a statement filed last Thursday, May says Hodge’s accusation Pehringer worked on Antlers Ranch as a professional outfitter are either incomplete or taken out of context.
“I believe there are many assumptions being made which have caused Mr. Pehringer to be wrongfully accused of illegal outfitting,” reads the rancher’s affidavit. “ … Jim Pehringer has never served as an outfitter on the ranch, nor has he taken money as such to my knowledge.”
The misdemeanor counts accuse Pehringer of accepting fees for taking a group of four hunters from Texas and Louisiana on a four-day antelope hunt, a pair of hunters on an elk hunt and two others hunting deer.
The plaintiff’s affidavit filed by Vilos defines an outfitter as a person who provides a packing service or accompanies and helps a hunter in the field take big or trophy game animals for pay. It further states a landowner whose land is used primarily for agriculture may provide outfitting services on privately owned or leased land without a license. But anyone other than a landowner who provides outfitting services on those lands must be licensed as an outfitter.
In response to the charges, the rancher says it is not accurate to say Pehringer – who has a wildlife-related education and work background – was going to manage hunting operations. Instead, because the ranch had not previously allowed hunting, as a “wildlife management tool,” he agreed to have Pehringer help with hunting operations without pay.
According to May, when the ranch offered hunts to the public in 2013, Pehringer acted on behalf of the ranch and at May’s direction, mainly because
he did not have time to do so himself.
“He was a representative of the ranch and I understand the ranch can offer access for a fee without having to hold an outfitters license,” continues the affidavit.
The document addresses other charges, saying Pehringer had nothing to do with the Antlers Ranch website where the ranch advertises hunting fees and pictures Pehringer as the ranch’s head guide. The deposit fees were collected for ranch access and as a trespass charge.
In his affidavit, Hodge said while it was agreed hunters would pay the ranch, May received some cash and checks from hunters but did not receive any checks from Pehringer written to Antlers Ranch. Additionally, the court document charged Pehringer with accepting cash in a coffee can. May says funds in the coffee can were not given to Pehringer, but to himself. His statement also addresses the issue of checks collected from hunters as deposits.
“It was never agreed by [Jim] or I that he would keep the deposits for himself,” says May.
A search warrant of Pehringer’s bank account revealed he had deposited checks from hunters.
“He was just acting as the agent for the ranch to keep track of those and possibly hold those until we settled up,” May explains.
The ranch owner also counters the claim that Pehringer never gave the fees to May by check.
“That statement is inaccurate,” says the affidavit, which further explains May originally told Hodge he did not recall receiving checks but after Pehringer asked him to look, he found he’d put three outdated checks in his pickup glove box and had forgotten to cash them. Pehringer had put the money in his personal bank account because May told him to keep track of hunter deposits until they “settled up” at the end of the year.
The May 19 affidavit includes copies of checks he made out to Antlers Ranch in 2013 and three checks dated July 21, 2014, in the same amounts written to replace the outdated ones.
(Rhonda Schulte can be reached at email@example.com.)