Bullets and greed drive some people to criminal actions and when they are caught, they discover the penalties for illegally killing wildlife are severe.
Grant McOmie shares the story of a local man convicted of a federal wildlife crime.
A Bend, Oregon resident knew he crossed the line but he did it anyway.
Now he’s a convicted felon and he pays the price for his bullets and greed every day of his life.
Jim Robinson has admired majestic elk ever since he was a teenager and it’s the reason the Oregon native became a hunter.
Recently, at the Jewell Wildlife Area in Clatsop County, he scanned a large elk herd with binoculars.
He admired the animals as he watched them move across the lush pasture but he admitted that he doesn’t hunt anymore.
His hunting days ended when he crossed the line from sportsman to felon.
“There’s a cloud over my head that just doesn’t go away and I feel that weight everyday – I really do!”
Robinson went to Wyoming on an elk hunt in 2008 and he harvested his so-called “dream elk.’ It was an animal that any hunter would admire.
But the elk hunting tag that he used to harvest the animals wasn’t legal for the bull elk that he killed. It meant Robinson had killed the trophy animal illegally.
To make matters worse, Robinson took his son on the trip too.
“I bought into things that were going on,” admitted the longtime hunter. “Things that should have been a red flag, I ignored, but I didn’t see it and now I feel responsible for that.”
OSP retired fish and game officer Joe Schwab recently talked about the Robinson case. Oregon game officers got involved when Federal officers followed Robinson’s crime to Oregon.
Schwab said he had “seen and heard it all” in his nearly thirty-year career as a state game cop and he’s written a book about his encounters with game violators.
The new book, “Outlaws in the Big Woods” chronicles his experiences and the increasing challenge to protect wildlife.
“They cross that line and it’s because there’s something about a big bull that just drives them to kill it,” said the long time game warden. “I have met so many different kinds of violators; some guys getting even, other guys who are greedy, or others just mesmerized by a big animal. They kill it without even thinking about what they just did.”
What Robinson and his son did was violate Federal law when a Wyoming informant stepped forward and told the truth about the Robinson’s elk hunts.
By then, Robinson had brought his trophy elk back to Oregon where his dream hunt turned into a nightmare. By crossing state lines, his actions became a violation of the Lacey Act.
Robinson admitted that the punishments are life changing.
Last year, Robinson plead guilty in a US Federal courtroom in Casper, Wyoming for trafficking in “illegally taken elk.”
While he avoided jail, he can never own a firearm, he will never vote again and the total fines, fees and attorney costs will approach $400 thousand.
Still, the biggest price has been to his reputation:
“People say a reputation is like a book,” noted Robinson. “It takes seconds to burn and years to build! It’s something that I have taken pride in and it’s a now a very painful result from this situation.”
The judge also ordered Robinson to tell his story and now he gives public speeches to fishing and hunting clubs about his crime and the consequences.
He said he hopes his story convinces someone who may consider cross the line into illegal actions to know what waits on the other side of the line.
“To call myself a felon,” said Robinson. “It’s difficult for me, but I am and I have to live with the consequences and it’s painful.”
A jury recently found Robinson’s son, who had accompanied his father on the Wyoming hunt, guilty of similar federal wildlife crimes. He will be sentenced in US Court in Wyoming next month.