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A matter of miles - trial begins for Utah/Arizona poaching case

In a trial beginning on Tuesday, December 6, 2022, hunter Alan Hamberlin and guide Ryan Hatch have been charged with the “wanton destruction of protected wildlife” - put in layman’s terms, the pair are charged with poaching a trophy buck within Utah borders.


The allegations of the case involve Hatch guiding Hamberlin, who had an Arizona tag, on a hunt that resulted in the pair crossing the border into Utah, where Hamberlin took the buck. The prosecuting attorney said of the case, “This case is about playing by the rules … the purpose of these laws is to protect wildlife, to ensure these animals are healthy and balanced and to ensure a fair playing field for all hunters. The evidence will show that these two did not play by the rules … they hunted a deer in Utah without first obtaining a Utah tag or permit.” The state is also charging Hatch with obstruction of justice, alleging that he withheld evidence in the form of the buck’s head, phone records of the event and misleading investigating officers in stating where the actual hunt took place. According to the state’s report, this incident occurred on or around October 26, 2020.


Hatch and Hamberlin’s defense state that the pair and the buck were provably in Arizona when Hamberlin shot the buck and that it was tracked across the border into Utah; in addition, the defense stated that the witness who called the incident in to wildlife management authorities had a “chip on his shoulder” for having been turned down as guide to Hamberlin’s hunt. Per one of the attorneys for the defense, “The state is putting a spin on this evidence. The evidence will really lead to a conclusion that Mr. Hatch and Mr. Hamberlin shot this deer in Arizona and followed it into Utah.” According to the defense, Hatch and Hamberlin tracked the deer into Utah, where they took the time to quarter and field dress it, which was long enough for authorities to arrive on scene and come across them in Utah. The defense states affirmatively that none of the witnesses to the case actually saw the shot take place; all parties agree that the witnesses heard the rifle’s report and saw the buck on the Utah side of the border, but contest where the buck was at the time of the shot. As the defense stated, “You will hear testimony of these witnesses that they heard this shot fired ... You will not hear testimony of any other witnesses as to where that shot was fired and who fired it. None of the state’s witnesses saw the shot fired. You will hear testimony from Mr. Derringer, who has a chip on his shoulder.”


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The trial will proceed over the course of the week, with multiple witnesses, including the hunting party who reported the incident, Arizona and Utah wildlife management officials, the BLM and the investigating detective on the case. Trial began in earnest on the morning of December 7, with the opening statements from which the above report was drawn.


All charges are allegations, and the defendants are to be considered innocent until proven guilty.

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