Wyoming Guide Charged with 19 Poaching Violations

Wyoming Guide Charged with 19 Poaching Violations

Melanie Peterson of Merna, Wyoming, is facing 19 misdemeanor charges for hunting violations.

The charges include seven counts of taking game without a license or during a closed season, two counts of taking a furbearing animal without a license, and two counts of guiding without a license.

Peterson and her husband owned and operated Timberline Lodge and Big Country Outfitters near the Wyoming Range for over a decade. According to the Wyoming Board of Outfitters & Professional Guides, Bob Barlow now owns the Big Country Outfitters license. Court records state that Peterson held an outfitter license from 2009 to 2011 and 2013 to 2020. Because she was previously licensed as a guide, she is also being charged with eight counts of failing to report the previously mentioned violations.

In addition to guiding for years, Peterson also holds the title of the 2018 Extreme Huntress Competition Champion.

Investigator Dustin Kirsch of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department has been investigating this case since 2017. Allegations against Peterson began as early as 2011. The WYGFD provided a 50-page affidavit for the case with interviews, texts, emails, Facebook messages, state records, photos, and videos as evidence.

According to the affidavit, Peterson allegedly allowed clients to shoot several buck antelope, badgers, a black bear, a bull elk, and a bull moose without licenses.

Previous clients of Peterson told investigators that she would often claim to have an extra antelope tag they could use. Apparently, Peterson never knew that badgers were regulated as furbearing animals. One client couple couldn’t fill their tags, so Peterson allegedly offered to let them kill a different species. Another hunter with a deer license took an antelope instead, but it appears he wasn’t even listed as a client in their books.

The penalties for the charges recommend jail time and fines as well as suspension of hunting privileges for at least five years. On Monday Aug. 9 she plead not guilty while appearing in Sublette County Circuit Court remotely from Decatur, Texas.

In a 2017 interview with Premier Sportsman’s Guide, Peterson discussed working as an outfitter: “I love going to work every day. I love teaching people. It’s really satisfying for me to be on a horseback ride with someone and they tell me, ‘my God you are so lucky.’”

Stay tuned to hear how Peterson’s luck pans out in court.

Feature image via Premier Sportsman’s Twitter.

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