May 3, 2016

Cody man charged with illegal outfitting in 2013

A Cody man stands accused of illegally guiding hunters while working for a Meeteetse area ranch in the fall of 2013.

Jim Pehringer, 47, pleaded not guilty to eight misdemeanor charges of outfitting without a license during an arraignment in Park County’s Circuit Court last week. He was released on his own recognizance pending a trial.

The charges filed by the Park County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office allege that Pehringer served as a guide for eight different hunters on the Antlers Ranch between early September and late October of 2013.

Jim Pehringer faces eight misdemeanor counts of outfitting without a license.
Affidavits by a criminal investigator for Wyoming State Board of Outfitter and Guides say Pehringer collected thousands of dollars from the eight hunters in exchange for his assistance. The investigator, Dan Hodge, wrote that Pehringer had been put in charge of managing the hunting on the ranch and all the arrangements went through him.

At that time, Pehringer was also working as the local supervisor of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services — a program that manages conflicts between wildlife and people. Pehringer resigned from his Wildlife Services post in late February 2015, said a staffer at the program’s main office in Casper.

The state of Wyoming generally requires people to get an outfitting license if they’re being compensated for helping big or trophy game hunters.

Ranch owners and other landowners are allowed to guide hunters on their own property without a license. However, a 2005 opinion from the Wyoming Attorney General clarified that landowners’ employees still need a license before doing any guiding.

When Hodge explained the ruling to Pehringer in an April 2014 interview, Pehringer said he hadn’t known that and “guessed he’d been in violation of this for the past 19 years,” Hodge recounted in a later application for a search warrant. (The opinion does not appear on the Attorney General's website.)

However, Hodge also said that — about six months earlier — he’d told Pehringer that Antlers Ranch employees could not legally provide hunters with “any outfitting or guiding services including animal recovery services.”

Within days of that initial conversation, in late September 2013, Pehringer allegedly accompanied four hunters from Texas and Louisiana while they harvested four antelope on the Antlers Ranch; he also helped two of the men haul their animals back to where they were staying on the ranch, Hodge wrote in the affidavit accompanying the charges.

The four men each paid Pehringer $1,400, and bank records show Pehringer put the $5,600 into his account, Hodge wrote.

In 2013, the Antlers Ranch’s website listed Pehringer as its “head guide” and said he had “guided hunters for trophy elk, deer, antelope, bear, mountain lion, deer and big horn sheep for over 20 years.”

A couple days later, on Oct. 1, 2013, two hunters bagged bull elk on the Antlers Ranch and Pehringer helped bring the meat back to their cabin; one of the hunters paid Pehringer $2,000, Hodge wrote.

Pehringer is also alleged to have accompanied two other men on deer hunts on the ranch sometime that fall.

The Antlers Ranch’s website listed Pehringer as its “head guide” at the time, saying he had “guided hunters for trophy elk, deer, antelope, bear, mountain lion, deer and big horn sheep for over 20 years,” Hodge wrote in the search warrant affidavit.

Records from the Wyoming State Board of Outfitters and Professional Guides say Pehringer did not have an outfitting license in 2013 or the years leading up to it. He applied for a license in 2014, but “the process was not completed and he was not issued a license,” said Amanda McKee, the board’s administrator.

Outfitters must pay a $1,600 application fee, pay $600 annually and meet various other state requirements to get and keep a license.

The Park County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office filed its criminal charges on April 8, with Pehringer arraigned on April 26.

Each of the eight counts of outfitting without a license carries a possible fine of up to $5,000 and the potential loss of hunting, fishing, trapping or outfitting privileges for up to five years.

A bench trial has tentatively been scheduled for July 28 in Cody.

While the case is pending, Pehringer is prohibited from hunting and from accompanying anyone who is hunting.

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