Wyoming Moose Poachers Handed Stiff Sentences

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Although the violator claimed he launched the arrow accidentally on Sept. 5, 2009, the mature bull moose was still killed south of Lander and the contended accident had nothing to do with all the meat being wasted.

But the actions - and lack of actions - of the violator and his hunting partner have everything to do with the stiff sentences they are dealing with for their roles in the crime.

Gilbert A. Mascarenaz of Pavillion pleaded guilty to knowingly taking an antlered moose without a proper license and was sentenced by Circuit Court Judge Robert Denhardt in Lander. Mascarenaz, 37, was fined $7,530, ordered to pay $7,500 in restitution and sentenced to five days in jail. He also had his hunting privileges revoked for 10 years and was placed on one year unsupervised probation.

Devon D. Scherf of Riverton pleaded guilty to waste of big game (allowing game animal to intentionally or needlessly go to waste) and transporting game animal parts without an interstate game tag, was fined $1,560 and given a 60-day suspended jail sentence. Scherf, 26, also had his hunting license privileges revoked for three years and was placed on one year unsupervised probation and ordered to complete a hunter education course by December 2012.

The investigation started Sept. 10, 2009 when an archery elk hunter reported finding an ungutted bull moose carcass. The carcass, which had its antlers removed, was reported to be located near Blue Ridge about 20 miles south of Lander in the Shoshone National Forest.

Finding no evidence at the scene that pointed to any suspects, Lander Game Warden Brad Hovinga and Investigator Scott Browning contacted the five hunters who were fortunate to draw a moose license in hunt area 2 in 2009 and possible archery elk and deer hunters who may have been in the area that Labor Day weekend.

On Oct. 8, the officers asked the public for information about the crime through the local media and received some tips. That response combined with details gleaned from some of the interviews directed the officers towards the defendants.

Browning contacted Scherf at his Riverton home Oct. 8 and received a full confession about his role in the crime. Both officers interviewed Mascarenaz at his home Oct. 9. He admitted killing the moose, but contended he thought it was an elk when he shot. He said he was hunting near dusk and the long antler points he could see in the timber convinced him the animal was an elk. He did take the officers to where he stashed the moose antlers sporting a 38-inch-spread in willows near his home.

On Oct. 12, the officers got a unique response from the media request. Eric Manasco of Lander offered a series of photos - taken less than two hours before the crime occurred - of two bull moose just east of the crime scene. "It was easy to see, the moose in the photo with the wide palms and long points was the same moose that was illegally killed," Browning said.

The officers interviewed Mascarenaz again on Nov. 2 and the suspect admitted he knew the animal was a moose when he shot and collaborated most of Scherf's statement. But he contended he nocked and fully drew the arrow on his recurve bow just to get a "sight picture" on the mature bull and the arrow was released inadvertently when he accidentally hit the trigger release.

From the collaborating interviews with the suspects, both unemployed oil field workers during the investigation, the officers reconstructed the crime: Around noon Sept. 5, the archery elk hunters were returning to camp on an ATV from the back side of Blue Ridge when Mascarenaz spotted two bull moose a short distance from the two track road. He approached the moose raising and drawing his bow twice and one animal trotted off. He drew again on the remaining bull and released the arrow. The men followed up on the shot discovering the dead moose and returned to camp. Later that day, they hiked back to the moose from camp, removed some meat, but left it at the scene. The next night, Scherf returned to the scene and retrieved the antlers by sawing the skull plate off the moose and Mascarenaz later picked up the antlers at Scherf's house.

"This crime was just such a waste of the resource in several ways," Browning said. "All the meat - upwards of 250 pounds - was wasted and so was the chance for a long-suffering moose hunter to legally harvest this dandy bull, which is the nicest moose I've ever seen in the Lander area. Plus, moose populations have been depressed in western Wyoming and the Game and Fish works hard to tightly manage this species."

In 2009, it took 14 years of accruing preference points for a resident and 10 years for a nonresident to draw a license in moose area 2. In the random draw, residents had a one-in-241-chance of drawing the one license available.

In addition to the hunting license suspensions delivered, Judge Denhardt also ordered that Mascarenaz cannot be in possession of a firearm, or be in the company of someone in possession of a firearm while in the field, during any hunting season during his license suspension. The same order also applies to Scherf - with the exception that Scherf can accompany his wife on her hunts. In addition, if Scherf is cited for any Game and Fish violation during his three-year license suspension, the suspension is extended for an additional three years.

"The judge did not take this crime lightly and also viewed it as a needless waste," Browning said. "He actually gave Devon Scherf a harsher sentence than Brad and I recommended. It's clear that the judge takes wildlife violations very seriously."