By Stevee Chapman
A 39-year-old Anatone man and his 22-year-old son have been charged in connection with the alleged poaching of two trophy-class bull elk near Anatone in early November. After seeing a post on Big Country News Connection about the discovery of the elk, tips came in to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife that claimed that Richard Kramer had allegedly gone into a Clarkston business and was "bragging about killing some bull elk," according to court documents. The tip reportedly "stated that his friend said that the man said he and his father shot a cow elk, small bull elk, a 320 class bull elk, and a 350 class bull elk."
Kramer has been charged with 2nd-Degree Unlawful Hunting of Big Game (x2), 2nd-Degree Spotlighting Big Game (x2), 1st-Degree Waste of Wildlife (x2), 1st-Degree Unlawful Transportation of Wildlife (x2), Unlawful Use of a Loaded Firearm (x2), and Unlawful Hunting on or Retrieving Hunted Wildlife From the Property of Another, while his son, Johnathan Kramer, has been charged with 2nd-Degree Unlawful Hunting of Big Game (x2), 2nd-Degree Spotlighting Big Game (x2), 1st-Degree Waste of Wildlife (x2), 1st-Degree Unlawful Transportation of Wildlife (x2), and Unlawful Hunting on or Retrieving Hunted Wildlife From the Property of Another.
WDFW Officer Matt Sabo said previously that two trophy class elk were killed within about 100 yards of each other near the intersection of Weissenfels Ridge Road and Kiesecker Road, and both had their heads removed and backstrap meat taken. One of the elk’s hindquarters were also taken with the rest of the meat left to waste. They believed the elk were killed either the night before or earlier that morning, most likely by the use of spotlights.
The 2014 Modern Firearm Elk season was open in the area at the time, but officials say to legally harvest a branched antler bull requires being drawn for a special permit which usually takes many years to draw. In addition, no hunting of elk is allowed at night.
Wildlife officials had received a second tip which stated that Richard Kramer had allegedly been at the Clarkston business discussing the killing of elk. One wildlife officer remembered his name because he had just spoken to Kramer about a week prior "because he called wanting to report that his neighbors were baiting deer with apples."
On November 8th, wildlife officers went to Kramer's property in the 45000 block of Highway 129 in Anatone. A fresh elk hide was laying in the dirt to the north of the front door area, court documents state.
"We also saw many sets of antlers and a moose head sitting on the roof of the single wide trailer. Many of these were complete heads with hide still attached," the report says, adding that there was no answer after they knocked on the door. They then went to a travel trailer that was near the single wide trailer.
"While knocking on the travel trailer door, Sgt. [Paul\ Mosman could see through the large clear glass window on the door and saw at least two large sets of elk antlers and a large pile of fresh meat lying on the floor of the trailer," the report says.
A check through the WDFW WILD system showed that Kramer did not possess any Washington 2014 hunting license or tags, the report says, adding that a check through Idaho's system showed that he had purchased a Resident Idaho Elk tag for 2014 utilizing an old address in Lewiston as his place of residence.
A search warrant was obtained and wildlife officers and a deputy from the Asotin County Sheriff's Office responded back to the property. A short time later, Johnathon Kramer arrived on scene and agreed to talk with officials.
"Johnathan told us that he and his father Richard Kramer had...ate dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Clarkston and decided to go home a different way. He stated that they drove south along the Snake River and then started driving up a ridge. He stated that once they reached the top of the hill they drove a little bit further and that is when they spotted a large bull elk in a field. Johnathan stated that his father was driving and he pulled over and shot the elk from the driver's seat with a black rifle that had a stainless steel barrel. Johnathan said that his dad shot the elk just before dark and then went over to the elk and removed the head, backstrap meat, and hind quarters," the report states. Kramer also reportedly told officials that they had shot "only one" elk.
During that interview, another vehicle arrived and the driver was identified as Richard Kramer. He was also interviewed and allegedly told wildlife officers that he had "spotted the elk in the headlights from his vehicle and shot the two bull elk on a spur of the moment while his son held a spotlight for him," the report says. He reportedly told officials that he shot one from the driver's seat and the other while leaning over the door pillar.
After shooting the elk, Kramer reportedly told officials that he and his son butchered the elk and carried the heads and meat back to their truck.
"After taking the heads and some of the meat they ran out of space in the bed of the truck so they brought what they had home and planned to come back and get the rest. When they came back there was another vehicle in the area so they decided to go back home," the report states Richard Kramer as saying.
After talking with with Kramer, officials then spoke to Johnathan Kramer again and informed him of some of the information his father had provided. At this time, officials say he allegedly admitted that his father had shot two bull elk while he held the spotlight for him.
"He stated that Richard shot three times and that they then jumped out of the vehicles and got the quarters and then took the heads. Johnathan said he took the backstrap from the elk. He stated that his dad shot the elk sometime between 1830-1900 hours. He said that after they got the heads and some of the meat they brought it to the Anatone residence and both unloaded it all. Johnathan said that they did not go back for the rest of the meat and that they did not plan to," the report says.
Wildlife officers asked Johnathan Kramer about other hunting activities.
"Johnathan said that in September, Richard killed a cow elk with a rifle in Idaho and that he helped him get the cow out. He stated that Richard shot a big deer near Clarkia, ID on the 2nd day of archery season. He was asked about the moose head that was sitting on the roof of the trailer and he stated that his sister...had an Idaho moose tag 2 or 3 years ago and shot it while hunting with Richard," the report says.
"Sgt. Mosman and I walked back over to where Officer [Douglas\ King was still speaking with Richard. I heard Richard say that the small carcass on the property was from a calf elk that he had hit with his truck by accident near the Anatone residence and brought it home to butcher. Richard gave a different explanation about the moose head than what Johnathan had told us. Richard said that the moose was a road kill that they found in Idaho while hunting," according to the report. A later examination of the calf did find injuries consistent with being struck by a vehicle, officials say.
Johnathan Kramer was placed under arrest for an active warrant and driving on a suspended license and transported to the Asotin County Jail at this time, the report says. He bonded out later that evening. Richard Kramer was secured in a patrol vehicle while the search warrant was executed.
Several items were collected as evidence, including two bull elk heads (7x6 and 6x6), elk meat, jerky, and various deer, elk, and moose heads that were reportedly found on top of the residence and other parts of the property. The report says the evidence included 7x6, 6x5, 5x9, 5x7, 5x6, 5x5, 4x6, 4x5 and 4x4 whitetail deer antlers, 4x4 mule deer antlers, 4x4 elk antlers, a Stealth game camera, a Remington .270 rifle with Tasco 3x9 scope, Ruger M77 MKII .270 rifle with Swift Premier scope, and other items.
After collecting the evidence, wildlife officers followed Kramer to his daughter's apartment in Lewiston to retrieve a bolt action .270 rifle that he allegedly claimed to have used to kill the elk, the report says. Kramer also gave officials permission to search his pickup.
"We found two hand held spotlights, a digital camera, and cartridges and spent shell casings. Officer Sabo found three .270 cases," the report says, adding that no pictures were discovered on the SD card related to hunting. In addition, officials say they did not find any blood or hair in the bed of the pickup at the time. The rifle and spotlight were seized as evidence.
2nd-Degree Unlawful Hunting of Big Game, 2nd-Degree Spotlighting Big Game, 1st-Degree Waste of Wildlife, and 1st-Degree Unlawful Transportation of Wildlife are Gross Misdemeanors with maximum penalties of 364 days in jail and a fine of $5,000 each. Unlawful Use of a Loaded Firearm and Unlawful Hunting on or Retrieving Hunted Wildlife From the Property of Another are Misdemeanors with a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a fine of $1,000 each.
Richard and Johnathan Kramer are required to appear in Asotin County District Court on January 14th at 1:30 p.m.