A pilot who used a helicopter to access public land near Elk Mountain to hunt might called as a witness in the pending civil trial of the “corner crossing” case on the Iron Bar Ranch.
The defendants in that case want Kyle Scott of Weldona, Colorado, to testify on their behalf during the trial, which is set to begin at 9 a.m. June 26 in Casper, according to U.S. District Court records.
However, the plaintiffs in that case, Iron Bar Holdings LLC and owner Fred Eshelman of North Carolina, claim that Scott should not be called as a witness because his testimony would be biased and irrelevant to the case.
Scott told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that as a potential witness, he couldn’t comment on any specific details of the case. But he confirmed that in November 2020, he and his wife used a helicopter to fly over private property so they could hunt elk on adjacent public land.
Owner Claims Millions In Damages
The civil case stems from criminal trespassing charges filed against Missouri hunters Bradly Cape, Zachary Smith, Phillip Yoemens and John Slowensky.
They were accused of trespassing on Iron Bar Ranch land near Elk Mountain while attempting to cross from one corner of public land onto another section of public land in September 2021.
A Carbon County jury later found them innocent of those charges.
Iron Bar Holdings and Eshelman subsequently filed a civil lawsuit against the hunters, claiming they had violated the ranch’s air space when they used a ladder-like device to cross a fence from one piece of public land to another at a checker-boarded corner with ranch property, and in doing so damaged the value of the ranch by several million dollars.
Pilot, Wife Claim They Were Bullied
Scott and his wife claim they were confronted and bullied by Eshelman and his employee, even though they were on pubic land, according to court documents.
“Mr. Scott may be called to testify about how, while hunting and otherwise walking on public lands in this area, he and Mrs. Scott were confronted by Steve Grende and Dr. Frederic Eshelman on motorized vehicles such as a side-by-side, four-wheeler and/or truck with accusations that the Scotts were trespassers,” according the defendants’ listing of witnesses filed with the court. “Mr. Scott may be called to testify about how Mr. Grende and Dr. Eshelman’s actions scared off game the Scotts were pursuing and ruined their ability to use and enjoy the public lands.
“Mr. Scott may be called to testify about how he felt and believed that Mr. Grende’s and Dr. Eshelman’s actions were intended to scare, threaten and/or intimate Mr. Scott and Mrs. Scott from continuing to visit, travel on or hunt on public lands adjacent to Plaintiff’s private lands.”
Owner Says Pilot’s Story Is Irrelevant, Biased
However, Iron Bar and Eschelman claim that Scott’s testimony would be irrelevant to the case and biased, according to a brief they filed calling for Scott to be excluded as a witness.
The hunters’ claims hinge upon alleged violations of the Unlawful Inclusures of Public Lands Act of 1885 (UIA), according to the brief.
“Mr. Scott’s testimony is neither relevant to Plaintiff’s claims against Defendants, nor Defendants’ UIA defense with respect to Plaintiff,” the brief states. “Further, Mr. Scott’s proposed testimony is an improper attempt by Defendants to introduce evidence of Plaintiff’s alleged other unrelated wrongdoing to show Plaintiff somehow violated the UIA with Defendants.
“Because the proposed testimony is a clear attempt to introduce alleged other irrelevant acts or wrongdoing, Defendants should be prohibited from calling Mr. Scott to testify in this matter.”
The hunters and their attorney filed a responding brief this week, arguing that those claims about Scott’s potential testimony don’t hold up, asking the court to allow Scott to testify at the trial.
Sometimes Flying In Is The Best Option
Scott said that given the amount of public land that is “landlocked” by private property in Wyoming and elsewhere in the West, sometimes flying in is the best option for hunters.
He said he and his wife frequently hunt in Wyoming. The 2020 elk season was the first, and so far only, time they’ve used their helicopter here.
“That was a special case that year (2020) because we didn’t have elk tags for anyplace else,” he said.
Scott owns an aerial crop and firefighting spraying service.
“It’s not like I’m some rich guy,” he said. “We own that thing (the helicopter) from work, and it fits on a trailer, so we figured why not use it for that hunt?”
He added that there are specific rules for using an aircraft to reach hunting areas. Wyoming, like many other states, has strict rules against using aircraft to “scout” or spot game, or to push or otherwise harass the animals.
“You have to use the aircraft only to get from point A to point B, land and start hunting on the ground,” he said. “You’re not allowed to fly in somewhere and start circling around, looking for animals.”
Mark Heinz can be reached at Mark@CowboyStateDaily.com