Glasgow, MT -(AmmoLand.com)- Clay Chandler, 20, of Hays was found guilty in the Montana 17th Judicial District Court for the illegal rifle harvest of a bull elk.
Chandler was charged with hunting during a closed season, unlawful possession and transportation of a game animal, and hunting game animals while his privilege to do so was suspended. Chandler had pled guilty to each violation in Blaine County Justice Court, and appealed the case to the District Court.
The violations took place on October 1, 2013, on State of Montana School Trust Lands property in southeastern Blaine County, outside the exterior boundaries of the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation. Chandler’s privileges to hunt at such locations within the state of Montana had been forfeited due to a 2012 conviction for unlawfully harvesting two bull elk.
FWP wardens and Fort Belknap Fish and Wildlife tribal wardens worked together to compile evidence during the investigation. Wardens had received reports of the illegal harvest, and photographs surfaced showing Chandler with the harvested elk. Later, a spent rifle cartridge was collected that ballistic analysis showed belonged to the same 30-06 rifle that was seized and later returned to Chandler during the conclusion of his earlier 2012 conviction.
The court, with prosecution by the Blaine County attorney, found that Chandler had knowingly lured, shot, and removed the bull elk from the State land which he knew to be outside the exterior boundaries of the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation.
Chandler, an enrolled tribal member, had unsuccessfully attempted to argue to the court that his taking of the bull elk on non-reservation land within Blaine County was lawful because of the Blackfeet Treaty of 1855, and maintained that an 1888 treaty establishing the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation further reserved those hunting privileges.
The District Court denied Chandler’s claim, explaining that states have jurisdiction to regulate the wildlife within their borders, and that tribal members are subject to these state laws when they are off the reservation; unless their off-reservation hunting and fishing rights had been expressly reserved by the tribe when they ceded lands to the federal government. The Court found that the two treaties argued by Chandler and his attorney did not reserve those privileges, thus Chandler was subject to Montana’s fish and game regulations.
In March of 2016, Chandler was charged by 17th Judicial District Court for the following offenses:
- Unlawful possession of a game animal, second offense: 10 days in county jail, $600 fine, $1000 in restitution for the unlawfully taken bull elk, and loss of privileges to hunt for 60 months in Montana and all 48 states that are members of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact.
- Hunting while privilege is forfeited or suspended: 10 days in county jail, $500 fine, and loss of privileges to hunt for 60 months in Montana and all 48 states that are members of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact.
- Hunting during a closed season, second offense: 10 days in county jail and a $600 fine.
Chandler’s jail time and hunting suspensions were all to run concurrently, and his fines consecutively. In addition, Chandler was ordered to pay for his own incarceration costs.
About Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks:
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Region-6 manages the diverse area of northeast Montana.
For more information, please visit www.FWP.MT.gov.