By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Three of the four Missouri hunters found innocent of criminal trespass last week are facing new criminal charges stemming from a separate Carbon County incident.
Documents from circuit court in Rawlins showed that new trespassing charges were filed on April 25 against Phillip Yeomans, Bradley Cape and Zachary Smith in connection with an incident that occurred in 2020.
They have been ordered to appear in circuit court on Friday, although they have been given the option to appear by video conference.
The hunters face legal action on two fronts — the criminal trespass charges filed in state court and an ongoing lawsuit in federal court filed against them seeking damages on allegations they violated the private airspace of the Iron Bar Ranch.
Yeomans, Cape and Smith, along with John Sloensky, were all found innocent of criminal trespass on Friday by a six-member jury in circuit court in Carbon County. Those charges stemmed from allegations they used a ladder-like device in 2021 to move from one parcel of public land to another without touching Iron Bar Ranch property.
In the latest charges, which were filed in the days before the jury’s verdict in the hunters’ favor, Yeomans, Cape and Smith are once again facing charges of criminal trespass, this time related to an incident in 2020 on the Elk Mountain Ranch, which, like Iron Bar Ranch, is owned by businessman Fred Eschelman.
Wyoming has a “checkerboard” land pattern in which public and private lands are intermingled. Often, private and public lands share common corners, with public land parcels resting diagonally from each other.
In the earlier criminal charges — and in the separate lawsuit pending in federal court — the hunters were accused of violating Iron Bar’s airspace to get from one public parcel to the other.
An affidavit filed with the latest charges accused the three of trespassing on Elk Mountain property when “corner crossing” to move between public lands, although no mention was made of a ladder-like device as was used in the Iron Bar case.
According to the affidavit by Carbon County Sheriff’s Deputy Patrick Patterson, a sheriff’s deputy was contacted on Oct. 2, 2020 about a possible trespass at Elk Mountain Ranch.
The ranch’s foreman reported that three hunters on Elk Mountain shot and killed a bull elk on public land, but the land on which they killed the animal could only be reached if they trespassed on private land.
The foreman said he also contacted the Wyoming and Game Fish Department and a game warden said the department did not want to get involved in the “corner crossing” dispute.
The deputy and foreman searched an access road in Hanna in attempt to locate the hunters and the bull elk, but were unable to do so. They then went and spoke with the ranch’s owner, who wanted the hunters either cited or arrested.
A deputy made contact with the hunters the next day, the affidavit said, and the hunters said they knew they were crossing an intersection of private and public lands, but added they did not intend to trespass, the affidavit said.
The hunters repeatedly told the officer that their intent was to “corner cross,” without trespassing on the private land and that they used a GPS to find the intersection of two private and two public lands and then cross at the point where the four join.
Cape told the officer that there was a “no trespassing” sign in the area where they crossed, but the hunters continued to insist their intent was not to trespass.
The Wyoming Backcountry Hunters and Anglers did not immediately return Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Wednesday.