Coyote Hunters Win Big In Wyoming!
By: Wyoming Best of the Best hunting event
Date: December 16, 2017
In a real life David and Goliath fight in Wyoming over an insignificant issue like a hunting event led a small group of 4 Wyoming citizens, who stood their ground and fought back, to defeat the huge, aggressive, and wealthy California based Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF). The sound defeat sent ALDF back to California with their tails between their legs. A defeat that positively effects hunting events all across America. A defeat that shows the little guy still has a chance in America.
The issue was a seeming eccentric elderly woman in the Rock Springs area claiming that a small single day long local coyote hunting event interrupted her efforts to view wild life in the area. Seeing an opportunity came the 13 million dollar per year animal activist organization the Animal Legal Defense Fund. Using a recently relocated California Attorney in Casper for the action in Sweetwater County attempting to stop the event and charge the 3 hunters with violating Wyoming’s gaming laws and thus creating a public nuance. Those laws were written back in the 1930’s to address issues then and have never been updated to modern times so they took advantage of them. ALDF’s effort to have an injunction to stop the hunting event failed back in January. They then filed suit against the hunters and their hunting event called Wyoming’s Best of the Best. In two similar cases in Oregon and Kansas the rich ALDF bullied the hunters in to a settlement before trial. ALDF, using hundreds of liberal pro bono attorney’s across America, use this tactic to push their agenda of stopping all hunting in America. In the previous settlements they forced the hunters to agree to pay their legal fees and sign an agreement that they will never hold a hunting event again the rest of their lives.
In the Wyoming fight the 3 host hunters, Mark Gillespie, Ron Cheese, and Ray Pecolar decided to fight back and took on the animal activist giant in court. The charges in the ALDF suit were about the hunting events so called Calcutta, a Keno type activity, a common raffle, and the everyday activity of paying an entry fee and possibly winning a prize. Churches, soccer events, baseball contests, golf tournaments, carnivals, and even public agencies do this type of activity all the time across America. For Sweetwater County that was even acknowledged by the judge in open court. Somehow the viewing of wildlife and the protection of animals was lost in the aggressive legal action in Rock Springs.
Prior to the trial in Wyoming the hunters agreed that they had not properly followed Wyoming’s gaming laws concerning the simple Calcutta, the common raffle, and the Keno type game similar to a football pool they held. A local host small business was dragged into the fight with ‘guilt by association’ by allowing the hunting event to hold its awards dinner in their banquet room. In Wyoming if a person or group is found guilty of holding an illegal gaming activity then the host facility can also be guilty as well and all will be guilty of conducting a public nuisance too. In the case of the local legal drinking establishment they stated they had no idea an illegal gaming event was being held. Buddha Bob’s drinking establishment settled before the trial by posting a $10,000 bond and agreeing to be on probation for 3 years promising to not hold any more illegal gaming activities.
In open court and in District Court Judge Richard L. Lavery’s written summary on December 1st, 2017 it was noted that the ALDF attorney and the plaintiff clearly stated that they have ‘no opposition to hunting’ in general or ‘coyote hunting’ specifically. Considering the ALDF’s stated agenda used to raise money each year for the protection of animals it is likely that ALDF’s thousands of donor’s will be interested in that recorded remark. This ALDF defeat will likely raise a few more eyebrows with donors too. It also puts hunting events on notice to totally follow all of the laws during their event.
Coyote hunting in Wyoming is as old as Wyoming itself and is 100% legal and does not even require a hunting license, coyotes can be hunted year round, nor is there even a bag limit. Hunting events have been conducted for over 100 years across America without incident until recently. Somehow now they have suddenly become evil to the animal activists and the plaintiff herself feels that coyote hunting is not correct. District Court Judge Richard L. Lavery clearly stated she was “incorrect” in her thinking. He further stated that skill is involved in all hunting disagreeing with the claim that it does not.
In the end, despite 16 hours of depositions, hundreds of hours of research, conference calls, hundreds of copies of documents, pretrial meetings, and some sleepless nights for the defendants they prevailed in this effort by the Animal Legal Defense Fund to stop them from holding their small events. The final battle came down to if paying an entry fee and winning a prize is illegal gambling in Wyoming? This question can be addressed when asking about a simple carnival game like knocking three bottles off a base with a ball, or a soccer team winning a championship, or the winner(s) of a local golf or fishing tournament who paid an entry fee? The key point turned to a small exception. Does the activity require skill to win? ALDF argued that hunting does not require skill and there is an element of luck that makes it subject to Wyoming’s gaming laws. In a 16 page summary District Court Judge Richard L. Lavery clearly stated that ALL sporting events have an element of luck but skill is required too. He clearly wrote that “The hunting contest is not gambling”. He also noted in court that these gaming laws are being violated all the time in Sweetwater County by other small events but those events were not being sued. He pointed out that the gaming laws used in this suit were old and possibly out dated too.
During this entire process the coyote hunting events continued without incident across Wyoming. Hunters continued to exercise their legal privilege to enjoy hunting. It did cost the 3 determined hunters thousands of dollars in legal fees to defend themselves. In the end 3 hunters agreed to pay all the fees related to the bond for Buddha Bob’s Bar. The hunters also agreed to pay a $300.00 tax to the County too. They remain subject to pay attorney’s fees of not less than $50.00 and no more than $200.00.
ALDF vowed, in pretrial statements, that they would possibly continue legal action against hunting events in Wyoming if they were not successful in Sweetwater County. Perhaps chasing their own tail? The 3 hunters and Mr. Wing Lew of Buddha Bob’s Bar made changes to their operations to insure they were following all laws in Wyoming, not just the gaming laws, and their events continue with great support and success. It seems that David won again as he should.