In a plea agreement entered with Fergus County late last year, two brothers pleaded guilty to poaching multiple bull elk and must pay more than $50,000 in combined fines and restitution in addition to losing their hunting, fishing and trapping privileges for more than 25 years.
Following an investigation by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks’ game wardens, James Stephen Page, of Garniell, and William Thomas Page, of California, were charged last August with illegally killing eight bull elk between 2006 and 2016 on the 3 Bar Ranch southwest of Lewistown.
James Page faced six felony counts of unlawful possession of a game animal, two counts of felony tampering with evidence, one misdemeanor count of hunting without a license, and two counts of misdemeanor failure to obtain landowner permission for hunting. The tampering with evidence charges stemmed from accusations that following execution of a search warrant, James Page cut the antlers off two trophy bull elk and threw them in a pond.
William Page was charged with one felony count of unlawful possession of a game animal, one misdemeanor count of unlawful possession of a game animal, and three counts of purchase of a resident hunting license by a nonresident.
Seven of the bulls met standards as trophy animals, which qualify as felonies in Montana. Bulls with at least six points on one side and scoring more than 320 inches under the Boone and Crockett system are considered trophies. The largest bull scored 365, according to investigators.
The Pages initially pleaded not guilty to the charges, but entered into a plea agreement late last year.
Under the terms of the agreement, prosecutors dropped one felony unlawful possession charge against James Page and deferred prosecution on the tampering with evidence charges. Remaining felony unlawful possession charges were reduced to misdemeanors, however, the Pages must still pay $8,000 in restitution per trophy animal. William Page must also pay $1,000 in restitution for one non-trophy elk.
The Pages also pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charges.
Under the terms of the sentence, James Page must pay $44,410 in fines and restitution and has lost his hunting, fishing and trapping privileges for 13 years. William Page must pay $11,635 in fines and restitution and loses his privileges for 12 and a half years.
The Pages’ attorney declined to comment for this story.
Area Game Warden Shawn Briggs called the case "A win for the resource and hunters of Montana.”
FWP Enforcement Chief Dave Loewen credited wardens on the ground for investigating this and similar cases.
“This case is a prime example of the dedicated work Montana game wardens do each and every day and the tenacity in which they work to protect Montana’s resources, and they are to be commended,” he said. “The sobering reality however is that this is not an isolated incident; these things are happening across the state.”