Undercover agent shot sheep to avoid revealing his identity
GREAT FALLS – A Whitehall, Mont., man who authorities say illegally guided a state undercover agent on a hunting trip that resulted in the killing of a huge Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep has been charged with two felonies and three misdemeanors.
John E. Lewton was charged in Chouteau County District Court Monday with felony unlawful possession of a game animal, two misdemeanor counts of hunting without landowner permission, and a misdemeanor count of outfitting without a license. He was charged Wednesday in Jefferson County District Court with felony unlawful sale of a game animal.
Also charged on Wednesday were Blake Trangmoe, of Glendive, Mont., and James Reed, of Rexburg, Idaho. Each was charged with one felony count of unlawful possession of a game animal along with several misdemeanors.
The bighorn reportedly had a Boone and Crockett score of 204, ranking it among the largest ever recorded.
According to court documents obtained by the Great Falls Tribune, investigators say Lewton flew over the hunting area in the Missouri Breaks and located the large ram for his client, who turned out to be an undercover agent with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.
Investigators say Reed talked by radio with Lewton and Trangmoe, who led the client and another undercover agent across private land to Reed.
Authorities say the undercover agent purposely missed the ram on his first shot, but the next day was placed so close to the ram that he had to shoot it to avoid revealing his identity.
Prosecutors say Lewton then told the undercover agent not to reveal that he used a plane to spot the animal, that they crossed private land or the exact location of the shooting.