Elk Hunt Involving Nina Webber Called “A Massacre, Not a Hunt”
Written by Caleb Nelson on December 15, 2022
Trout Creek Ranch
More details are emerging about an unsafe hunting incident that took place near Wapiti on the 3600 block of the North Fork Highway in the early morning hours of November 30th, 2022.
The Park County Sheriff’s Office and Wyoming Game and Fish responded to the scene after receiving reports of bullets crossing the highway and traveling through Trout Creek Ranch.
Nina Webber, a Wyoming Republican Party national committeewoman and Wyoming House of Representatives candidate, has been cited with misdemeanor charges for reckless endangering while hunting.
KODI Radio spoke with the General Manager of Trout Creek Ranch, Cory Williams, and several residents in the area who wish to remain anonymous, about Webber’s elk hunt that day.
Williams says he was preparing for work that wintery Wednesday morning, “I went out a little before 7:15 and started my truck and was scraping ice off of it, and during that process, I heard a few shots.”
During this time of year, when hunting season is in full swing, it’s not uncommon to hear gunshots in the area Williams explains.
Williams says he initially heard “three” shots to the west and southwest, assuming people were hunting nearby on another piece of property. However, that all changed when a bullet crossed the North Fork Highway and went past Williams’ head.
“Towards the end of me cleaning my truck off, I heard another shot, and then I heard a whiz and a snap – a crack above me,” Williams states.
“I was like ‘oh man, that’s a bullet,’” after hearing the crack of the bullet above him Williams says he was forced to take cover behind his vehicle.
At that same moment, Williams’ wife came out of the house. She was also headed to work when an additional shot zipped through the ranch.
“We heard that whiz and snap again and I guess I didn’t realize she was coming across the porch, and she had said ‘jeez, what was that?’” Williams adds.
Williams remembers his wife just standing there in a “kind of lackadaisical way” before he finally said, “No, you need to get down right now.”
His wife also ended up taking cover behind a vehicle. As they were both pinned down by gunfire in front of their residence, Williams called Wyoming Game and Fish and the Park County Sheriff’s Office. In total, Williams says he heard five shots that morning.
After arriving on scene and assessing the situation, the game warden gave an initial citation to a hunter who was not wearing the required fluorescent hunter orange/hunter pink exterior layer of clothing, according to Williams. The Sheriff’s Office was on the scene shortly after Game and Fish.
The deputy searched for physical evidence on the ranch, looking for bullets in the snow, but nothing was found that morning.
Cory Williams describes himself as a hunter and believes hunting rights are an “excellent thing,” but says hunting done wrong gives “hunters a bad name.”
“As Wapiti grows here, those traditional places we’ve all enjoyed hunting, some of them are no longer safe to hunt on,” Williams states.
Witnesses Come Forward
A resident who lives near Wapiti, who requested to remain anonymous, witnessed the events of the elk hunt that Wednesday morning.
“The whole situation is just a mess, you have a handful of hunters who strategically surrounded a small herd of elk on a chunk of land that just can’t be hunted ethically. If you look at this land, you have residents almost surrounding every side of it for one, and two, you have a highway where shots were flying across,” the witness says.
The shooting alley on Montgomery’s parcel is extremely narrow because of surrounding livestock, highway traffic, buildings, and homes on the North Fork. Bullets were flying an additional “300-400 yards” past their target into residential areas, according to witnesses.
One witness was blunt when describing the hunt. They said, “This was a massacre, not a hunt. The elk had no escape, and this was not sport. You had vehicles deterring the elk away from crossing the highway and hunters on the highway-side shooting across the river, and hunters on the river-side shooting across the highway. These hunters were practically cross-firing each other.”
A second resident who also wishes to remain anonymous says, “I heard what sounded like a bullet whiz by me…I felt like I had to get down, like I was in a warzone.”
Both anonymous witnesses maintain they are pro-hunting despite their criticism of the incident.
Questions About the Hunt
Questions remain about who organized the hunting trip, the total number of hunters, and how many elk were harvested—information from the Sheriff’s Office has been sparse and limited.
It’s fully within a private landowner’s rights to accept money from residents or non-residents, via a “trespass fee,” to allow hunting on their property, according to the Wyoming State Board of Outfitters.
While the scope of who was involved in this hunting trip is still unclear, Wyoming has rules and regulations that govern commercial hunting for remuneration for both public and private land, which includes Outfitter/Professional Guide licensing, knowledge of first aid, a completed Outfitters/Professional Guide application, and successfully passing required state examinations.
In Wyoming, private landowners cannot hire anyone to guide hunts on their land, “Landowners cannot hire anyone to guide for them on their property, whether they are licensed or unlicensed. You must be a landowner (on the deed) to do any guiding/outfitting on the private land you own,” the Wyoming State Board of Outfitters explains.
The owner and anyone listed as an owner of private land can guide hunts on and within private property, however, it’s against regulations to guide hunters onto public land either within or surrounding private land.
The Wyoming State Board of Outfitters says that accepting remuneration for taking big game, in many cases, “would require an outfitter’s license.” A professional guide is required to work under a licensed outfitter. It should be noted that remuneration includes almost any kind of payment such as “tips,” “presents,” and “exchange of property or services,” in addition to money.
The parcel of private land used for the hunting trip is owned by “Jim” or James M. Montgomery and sits southwest or “kitty-corner” to Trout Creek Ranch.
Webber was the only member of the hunting party cited with reckless endangering. Wyoming law defines reckless endangerment as follows, “A person is guilty of reckless endangering if he recklessly engages in conduct which places another person in danger of death or serious bodily injury.”
Wyoming law adds additional context to this law as such, “Any person who knowingly points a firearm at or in the direction of another, whether or not the person believes the firearm is loaded, is guilty of reckless endangering unless reasonably necessary in defense of his person, property or abode or to prevent serious bodily injury.”
Nina Webber says she will fight these allegations and is working with legal counsel. Webber said in a statement, “I have retained a lawyer to confront this false allegation.” The Park County Sheriff’s Office has not returned a request for comment at this time.