By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
The president of a hunting advocacy group on Wednesday welcomed the news that two Sweetwater County hunters have been convicted of multiple wildlife violations and barred from hunting.
According to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Justin Chewning and Steven Macy were convicted of a series of charges filed in connection with numerous hunting violations committed in 2019 and 2020 and fined a combined amount of nearly $15,000. In addition, Chewning lost his hunting and fishing privileges for 15 years, while Macy lost his for two years.
Muley Fanatics president and CEO Josh Coursey told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday that he was glad to see both men convicted of charges including hunting elk out of season, but expressed concern that if they were willing to break the law before, they could be willing to do so again.
“We have law and order for a reason and we have rules and those that violate the rules are held accountable,” Coursey said. “It’s unfortunate, because wildlife is a public trust.”
Coursey said that Chewning and Macy were cheating the state’s hunting system by illegally tagging wildlife they also illegally killed, taking something of value from the Wyoming residents who own the wildlife.
He added that people do not have to be hunters in order to appreciate the wildlife in Wyoming.
“Yellowstone has beautiful landscapes, but I’ve said several times that if you remove the wildlife from the park, I imagine that the number of visitors would plummet to next to nothing,” Coursey said. “You don’t have to be a hunter to appreciate the beauty and seeing free ranging wild animals that are plentiful on our landscape.”
According to the Game and Fish Department, during an investigation into game bird violations, its wardens learned that between Oct. 1 and Oct. 6, 2019, both Chewning and Macy illegally killed mature bull elk during the closed season, which they then tagged with general elk licenses.
Game wardens were able to determine the locations of where the elk were killed. They also found the carcass of a bull elk illegally killed by Chewning on Oct. 1, 2019.
Using DNA analysis, the Game and Fish Department a skull and antlers Chewning had in his possession were from the bull elk.
Investigators also determined that on Oct. 4, 2020, Chewning and Macy were hunting deer in Sublette County when Macy illegally killed a buck mule deer and Chewning illegally tagged it.
Later that same day, while returning from the Pinedale area to Rock Springs, the two men hunted in an area using the wrong license and before the area had officially opened for hunting.
Macy shot and killed two mature bull elk, and Chewning tagged one of the two illegally killed bull elk with his general elk license.
Chewning was charged with violations including five counts of intentionally taking antlered big game without a license or during a closed season; two of transferring a license and two of intentionally wasting edible portions of game bird and big game back straps.
Chewning pleaded guilty to three counts of intentionally taking antlered bull elk without a proper license, one count of taking a buck mule deer without a license and one count of transferring a license.
Chewning’s hunting and fishing privileges were suspended for 15 years and he was ordered to pay fines of $1,585 and restitution of $7,000. All wildlife seized was forfeited to the state of Wyoming. All other charges were dismissed.
Macy was charged with five counts of intentionally taking antlered big game without a license or during a closed season and two counts of transferring a license.
He pleaded no contest to one count of taking a buck mule deer without a license and two counts of intentionally taking a bull elk without the proper license.
Macy’s hunting and fishing privileges were suspended for two years and he was ordered to pay $5,640 in fines, restitution of $1,500 and to forfeit the Browning .338-caliber rifle used in the commission of these crimes to the state of Wyoming. All other charges were dismissed.