Saturday, February 4th, 2023
Saturday, February 4th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Poaching case corrals nine state hunters

Glasgow, Mont. — An array of illegal hunting charges in Montana
lodged against nine Wisconsin residents, one North Dakota man, and
two Montana residents will cost those defendants a little more than
$17,000 in total fines and court costs, as well as a combined 63
years of license revocation in all states that are part of a
violators compact.

Most of the charges revolve around the nonresident hunters using
resident tags obtained by friends or family members who now live in
Montana, according to Wisconsin DNR Conservation Warden Paul Nell,
of Horicon, who served as the case officer for the Wisconsin
investigation.  Conservation Warden Kyle Kosin, of Fond du Lac,
also worked on the Wisconsin part of the case.

Other charges stem from the nonresident hunters simply shooting
deer, turkeys, and pronghorn antelope without licenses.

Most of the violations occurred on public and private land near
the eastern Montana town of Poplar in Richland County. Some of the
violations also occurred in Roosevelt County. All of the charges
were adjudicated either by Richland County Attorney Mike Weber or
Roosevelt County Attorney Ryan Rusche.

As part of the court proceedings, Nell and Kosin seized from the
nine Wisconsin defendants seven big-game head and shoulder mounts
(four mule deer, two whitetails, and one antelope), 16 mule deer
and white-tailed deer antler racks, and one turkey fan/wing mount.
The state of Montana paid the expenses incurred for shipping those
seized mounts and racks back to Richland County. Nell and Kosin
arranged for the shipment.

Three firearms were seized during the investigation, but upon
completion of case and fines being paid, the rifles were to be
returned to the owners, according to Nell.

According to Montana’s Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks
Criminal Investigator Lennie Buhmann and Savage, Mont.-based FWP
Warden Randy Hutzenbiler, the total amount of fines, bond, and
restitution collected in the case was $17,416. The 12 defendants
also lost a total of 63 years of hunting, fishing, and trapping
privileges in the 34 states involved in the Interstate Wildlife
Violators Compact.

Buhmann and Hutzenbiler said the case primarily revolved around
Montana residents Paul D. Leinen, 60, and James A. Leinen, 66, both
of Poplar, loaning hunting licenses to nonresident family members
and friends so they could illegally kill big-game animals.

Paul Leinen and James Leinen each were charged with loaning a
license to another person and failing to properly validate a
license. Both were fined $370 and lost their hunting, fishing, and
trapping privileges for 10 years.

The 2-year investigation into illegal activities in rural
Richland County, which also involved the North Dakota Department of
Game and Fish and the Wisconsin DNR, led to a search warrant being
issued for vehicles and a private home along the Missouri River in
Richland County.

Other defendants and their criminal case dispositions in
Richland County and Roosevelt County courts include nine Wisconsin
residents and one North Dakota resident:

• Michael L. Leinen, 65, and Ron M. Leinen Jr., 40, both of West
Bend, Wis. Michael Leinen used another person’s license and killed
a white-tailed buck without a license. He was assessed $1,270 in
bond forfeiture and restitution. Ron Leinen Jr. used another
person’s license (two counts) and possessed an unlawfully killed
antelope. He forfeited a $1,005 bond. Both men lost privileges to
hunt, fish, and trap for two years.

• Scott Vercauteren, 37, and Lanna Vercauteren, 36, both of
Campbellsport, Wis. Lanna Vercauteren loaned a license to another
person and forfeited $235 bond. Scott Vercauteren killed three mule
deer bucks, a turkey, and an antelope without licenses, used other
people’s licenses, and failed to properly validate a license. Total
bond forfeited and restitution was $5,040. He lost privileges to
hunt, fish, and trap for three years.

• Scott Morenzien, 32, of Fond du Lac, Wis. He possessed an
unlawfully killed mule deer buck; total bond forfeited and
restitution was $1,035. He lost privileges to hunt, fish, and trap
for two years.

• Larry Morenzien, 51, of Kewaskum, Wis. He possessed an
unlawfully killed white-tailed buck and mule deer buck; total bond
forfeited and restitution was $2,070. He lost privileges to hunt,
fish, and trap for two years.

• Dennis G. Wittkopf, 67, and Scott D. Wittkopf, 32, both of
Fond du Lac, Wis. Each possessed two unlawfully killed white-tailed
bucks and each paid $2,070 in forfeited bond and restitution.
Dennis Wittkopf lost privileges to hunt, fish, and trap for two
years.

• Tammy Wittkopf, 34, also of Fond du Lac, Wis., possessed a
single unlawfully killed white-tailed buck. She paid $1,035 in
forfeited bond and restitution. Tammy and Scott Wittkopf each lost
privileges to hunt, fish, and trap for 10 years.

• Clete C. Leinen, 70, of Fairmount, N.D., was initially charged
with possession of an unlawfully killed white-tailed buck, loaning
a license to another person, and purchasing resident hunting and
fishing licenses as a nonresident. As part of a plea agreement, he
pleaded guilty only to the residency charges. He was fined $846 and
lost his privileges to hunt, fish, and trap for 10 years.

Nell said he and Kosin spent the better part of two weeks
interviewing suspects in Wisconsin. All of the interviews began at
the same time that Montana and North Dakota game wardens went to
talk to defendants in those states.

“When Montana did its warrants, we timed the interviews in
Wisconsin so all of the initial contacts happened at the same time
– there were phone calls being made (between defendants) after the
fact, but we had already interviewed all of the people,” said Nell,
noting that state law in Wisconsin allows conservation wardens to
interview suspects who might be involved in violations in other
states.

“The case evolved, and grew, as we talked to people,” he
said.

Nell said a number of Leinen family and friends have traveled to
Montana for several years on hunting trips. He said that Poplar,
Mont., residents Paul D. Leinen and James A. Leinen had lived in
Wisconsin at one time and moved to Montana.

“The all stayed at one house. There would be about 20 people in
any given year hunting in this group. Most of the people knew they
were doing wrong, but they were hunting in such a remote area that
they didn’t think they would get caught. A few of them don’t even
hunt in Wisconsin – this was their only hunting trip of the year,”
Nell said.

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