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By LeAnn R. Ralph
MENOMONIE — Four men have been accused of illegal bear hunting in the Town of Sheridan in northern Dunn County.
Brandon Guthrie, age 32, of Ridgeland; Cody Shafer age 27, of Ridgeland; Hunter Strenke, age 22, of Clayton; and Adam Millermon, age 37, of Glenwood City are scheduled for an initial appearance in Dunn County Circuit Court on August 9 on various charges stemming from the killing of a bear in the Town of Sheridan on September 10, 2021.
Guthrie and Shafer are charged with resisting a conservation warden and illegal bear hunting.
Strenke is charged with killing a bear without a license.
Millermon is charged with illegal bear hunting with the modifier of being a repeat offender.
According to the criminal complaint, a Dunn County deputy notified state Department of Natural Resources Conservation Warden J.J. Redemann on September 16, 2021, of a bear hunting incident that occurred on property along 1420th Avenue in the Town of Sheridan.
A landowner who owns 38 acres told the warden that on September 10, multiple bear hunters had trespassed on his property and other properties in the area.
The property owner said he believed the bear had been killed near a daycare in the area.
Redemann spoke to a daycare owner, who operates a daycare out of her residence.
The daycare owner said on September 10, she could hear hounds coming through the woods behind her house around 10:30 a.m., so she brought the daycare children who were playing outside into the house, according to the complaint.
The daycare owner said she saw Guthrie pull into her driveway with a pickup truck with a dog box and that she recognized him from prior contacts.
The daycare owner said she heard a gunshot very close to the daycare, and when she went outside a little while later, she saw Guthrie with a rifle slung around his back, according to the complaint.
The daycare owner saw another group of people that included Guthrie’s father and two other people who the daycare owner said she did not know.
Multiple trucks had pulled into her driveway and onto her grass.
The daycare owner asked Guthrie about having permission to hunt and asked who had the bear hunting tag.
Guthrie said he had “the tag covered.” The hunters told the daycare owner the bear had not been treed and that they had to drag is across the creek after it had been shot, the complaint states
One of the hunters introduced himself as Adam Millermon, and then Millermon began yelling at the other hunters for trespassing.
The daycare owner said she had not given anyone from the group permission to shoot on her property, according to the complaint.
Nearby land owners reported to the warden that the group of hunters also had trespassed on their land.
Redemann discovered that Guthrie had registered the bear on September 16 at 11:52 a.m., and entered it as having been killed on September 15, according to the complaint.
The warden’s investigation determined the bear had been killed on September 10.
Guthrie told the warden that he had started a bear hunt on land in northern Dunn County where he had permission to hunt on September 10, but the bear zigzagged around and ended up on property where he had been yelled at for trespassing, so he gathered up his hunting dogs and left, the complaint states.
Guthrie speculated that maybe his bear hunting group had pushed the bear to another group that had killed the bear.
When Redemann said Guthrie had been observed dragging a bear and in possession of a rifle behind the daycare on September 10, Guthrie said he had killed a little sow bear on September 15 but that he did not kill a bear on September 10.
Guthrie said his dad and Cody Shafer were with him in his truck during the hunt and also told the warden he had never talked to the daycare owner or another property owner on September 10 and that whoever said he had dragged a bear that day was wrong, according to the complaint.
Guthrie told the warden he was hunting with Adam Millermon on September 10 and that Millermon was the only one with hunting dogs.
Redemann and Warden Josh Loining spoke with Robert Guthrie about the September 10 hunt.
Robert Guthrie said he had been hunting with Branden Guthrie, Cody Shafer and Adam Millermon and that there were a few other vehicles but he did not know the hunters, the complaint states.
Robert Guthrie said they had followed the bear and the dogs to the property where the owners had been upset with them and told them to leave. The hunters attempted to catch the dogs, but the dogs made it to the property behind the daycare, according to the complaint.
Robert Guthrie said Brandon Guthrie drove them to the daycare and that someone had already shot the bear.
Robert Guthrie told the wardens he had helped load the bear into a truck but that he did not see who shot the bear, whether it was in a tree or on the ground.
Robert Guthrie showed the wardens pictures on his phone. There were no pictures of the bear killed near the daycare, but there were pictures of bears hanging in Millermon’s garage, according to the complaint.
The wardens spoke to Cody Shafer, who said he was hunting with Brandon Guthrie on September 10 and initially denied being on the property behind the daycare.
Shafer told the wardens that Brandon Guthrie had called him earlier in the day on September 16 and told him to tell the wardens that Brandon did not kill the bear on September 10, the complaint states
Shafer told the wardens they had used a GPS unit to track the location of Millermon’s dogs, and that brought them to the property behind the daycare. Brandon Guthrie was the first person there and ran to the creek bottom with his rifle. Shafer said he heard Brandon Guthrie shoot a minute or two later, and when Shafer arrived, Guthrie was there with bear and his rifle. Brandon Guthrie validated the bear with his tag, and Shafer helped drag the bear out, according to the complaint.
When the wardens talked to Brandon Guthrie again, Guthrie said he had shot a bear on September 15 but was adamant that was the only bear he had killed.
The wardens showed Guthrie the picture of a bear shot on September 11, and then Brandon Guthrie admitted he had killed the bear in the picture at a property in Barron County but had forgotten to register it until September 16 and admitted that he had lied to the wardens.
Brandon Guthrie then admitted he had lied about being on daycare property on September 10 but said he did not go down by the dead bear and continued to claim he did not know who had killed the bear, the complaint states.
Guthrie showed the wardens pictures on his phone, including a picture of two bears timestamped September 10 at 5:45 p.m.
Guthrie said one bear had been killed by Trenton Mast on September 10, but that he did not know who had killed the other bear.
Redemann learned later that the picture had been taken in Millermon’s shed.
Guthrie admitted he had provided false information to the wardens and apologized, but he continued to say he never left the driveway at the daycare property and had never dragged a bear from the creek bottom, according to the complaint.
Redemann talked to Mast by telephone, and Mast said he had shot a 264 pound bear (field dressed weight) on Shafer’s property on September 10 and was hunting with Nate Buss. Mast said two bears were killed that day and that Hunter Strenke had killed the second bear, according to the complaint.
Mast said Strenke shot the bear to stop the dogs because the dogs were heading to another property where they had been in trouble for trespassing earlier in the week.
Brandon Guthrie “tore the tag” for the bear, which refers to the way bear tags are validated, and Brandon Guthrie was the only hunter who had a bear tag. Mast provided a photograph of four individuals dragging the bear out from behind the day care, the complaint states.
The bear Strenke shot weighed 325 pounds field dressed. Millermon told Mast not to tell people what had actually happened because Strenke did not have a bear tag, and they had trespassed.
Mast said that was why no one had posed for a picture with the bear.
The bear was taken to Millermon’s residence on the back of Millermon’s truck. Mast, Buss, Strenke, Shafer and Millermon processed the bears at Millermon’s residence, according to the complaint.
Redemann spoke with Buss, who said Strenke had said he had shot the bear, and that Millermon told Guthrie to use his tag. Buss also said Millermon told him not to say anything to the game wardens about the incident, the complaint states.
The game wardens talked to Shafer again on September 23, 2021, and Shafer admitted he had lied about who shot the bear. Shafer had dropped Strenke off in a field, and Strenke told Shafer he had shot the bear by the creek, according to the complaint.
The wardens talked to Strenke on September 23, 2021, who said the only bear shot on September 10 had been shot by Mast. Strenke said he did not hunt with a rifle because he did not have a tag and also claimed he was not in the area of the daycare.
When Redemann said he had pictures of Strenke behind the daycare, Strenke eventually admitted he had killed the bear and that Brandon Guthrie had validated the tag for the bear.
Strenke said Millermon had told him not to talk to the wardens about the investigation. Strenke gave the wardens permission to look at his phone but said he had deleted the picture when he knew the hunt was being investigated, according to the complaint.
Strenke’s mother began asking questions about the incident, and Strenke explained that he did not have a bear tag and that you cannot party hunt for bears.
Strenke’s mother asked if this was the bear that had attacked the dogs, which the first the wardens had heard of the bear attacking the dogs, according to the complaint.
Redemann asked Strenke if there were injuries to his dogs, and Strenke said there were no injuries to his dogs although maybe they had internal injuries. Strenke’s mother said the dogs had cuts on them.
Redemann took a look at the dogs that Strenke had used on September 10, and the dogs had small cuts all in the same place, which were cuts consistent with the dogs being cut from crossing the same fence, according to the complaint.
Lt. Michael Melgaard and Redemann spoke with Millermon on September 26, 2021.
Millermon said he had asked who shot the bear on September 10, but no one had responded, so he claimed Guthrie had shot the bear and also claimed to have seen Guthrie rip his tag for the bear, the complaint states.
Millermon said Strenke called him on September 23 and said Strenke had shot the daycare bear. Millermon said he had told the hunting group to talk to a lawyer if they did not feel comfortable talking to the wardens and said that he told them not to lie.
Millermon agreed he had helped drag out the bear shot behind the daycare center and claims no one had any conversation about Strenke killing the bear, according to the complaint.
Millermon told the hunting group he did not want the bear on this truck because he felt something was “shady” and that he did not know the rules about transporting the bear.
Millermon said when Strenke told him Strenke had shot the bear, Strenke had asked Millermon what to do. Millermon told Strenke to give the bear to the wardens.
Millermon also said none of the dogs were hurt and that there had been no conversation about killing the bear to protect the dogs, according to the complaint.
The Dunn County District Attorney’s office reviewed Adam Millermon’s prior DNR related violations and revealed that Millermon was charged with using automated or elevated feeders (convicted September 16, 2021); placing material to feed and attract wild animals (convicted September 16, 2021); possessing or transporting untagged raw pelt or unskinned carcass of a bobcat, fish, otter or wolf, the complaint states.
Illegal bear hunting, upon conviction, carries a possible penalty of a fine of not less than $1,000 and not more than $2,000 and/or imprisonment for six months.
Upon conviction, the court also shall revoke all hunting approvals issued to the person and shall prohibit the issuance of any hunting approval for three years.
The court may revoke any or all DNR privileges for up to three years.
The court may also order any firearm used in the violation to be confiscated.
In the case of a repeat offender, having been convicted within the previous five years, the defendant may be fined not more than $100 and/or imprisoned not more than six months.
In addition, all hunting, fishing and trapping approvals issued to the person convicted of the offense shall be revoked and no hunting, fishing or trapping approval may not be issued for a period of one year after the second conviction.