Buffalo – On Oct. 7, 2019, 4th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Shelley Cundiff approved the conditions of a plea agreement reached between the Johnson County Attorney’s Office and Bloomfield, Neb. resident Mark Miller, who pleaded guilty to accessory to taking a big game animal without a license and two counts of accessory to transfer of a big game license.
Miller agreed to pay $21,000 in fines and lost his hunting and fishing privileges in Wyoming, Nebraska and 46 other Wildlife Violator Compact states for two years.
The case began in January 2019 when Buffalo Game Warden Jim Seeman received information from another Game and Fish employee about discrepancies in records that indicated a possible hunting violation had occurred in September 2018. Seeman learned that a bull elk had been brought to a taxidermist and tagged with a license that belonged to an individual who did not have an archery license. In addition to an elk license, an archery license is required for hunting during the September special archery season.
Seeman ran additional checks and found that the license came back as a ‘party’ application of a family, Mark Miller and three of his children. Records indicated that not only Miller, but the other three license holders had all harvested bull elk, supposedly on the same weekend in September, though the animals were delivered for taxidermy work on different dates.
“Archery elk hunter success rates tend to be ten percent or less,” said Seeman. “I’ve been an archery hunter for over 40 years so I know the odds of four archery hunters from the same hunting party successfully taking four trophy-class bull elk on the same weekend and in the same area are next to impossible.”
Although Miller had an archery license, no other members of the party did.
Seeman contacted conservation officers with Nebraska Game and Parks Commission who determined that the two adult children and one juvenile child listed on Miller’s party application had never purchased hunting licenses in Nebraska.
Miller’s two adult children, living in Nevada and California, were subsequently interviewed about their license purchase in Wyoming. They both stated they did not know they had Wyoming hunting licenses, nor had either of them ever been to Wyoming, even though licenses with dates and signatures of their names had been put on two bull elk to make it appear as though the animals were harvested legally.
After further investigation, Seeman learned that Miller allowed one of his underage children to harvest a bull elk on Miller’s license. A fourth bull elk was legally harvested by another juvenile child of Mr. Miller’s.
“Elk licenses are tough to draw and some people wait many years before drawing one,” said Seeman. “In this case, of four elk licenses that were used on a ranch south of Buffalo, three of them were used illegally.”
As required by Wyoming state statute, fines imposed by judges in wildlife poaching cases are distributed to the school fund in the county in which the violation occurred.