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CSI: The Deer Edition

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Why did the trophy mule deer cross the road? It didn't, actually. But it took a three-year investigation to make sure it didn't. That's bad news for Ronnie Gardner and Gary Lehnherr, two hunters who pled guilty last week to the crime of shooting the right deer in the right location with the wrong gun.

What's the diff, you ask? Turns out it's a matter of syntax—that between a "supertag" and the mythical "super-dee-dupertag." According to court documents obtained by BW, Fish and Game officers became suspicious when Gardner mentioned to an officer that Lehnherr had won a supertag that allowed him to hunt for mule deer "in any game management unit with any weapon." The officer was familiar with the rules, which actually stated that weapons restrictions still applied to the supertag, despite its super-ness. The kosher weapon was a muzzleloader rifle, not the high-powered center-fire rifle that a witness spotted someone in Gardner's party using east of Highway 75 in October 2004.

After hearing that Lehnherr had brought down a record mule deer not far from the muzzle loader-only zone, Fish and Game agents wrangled up some super-search warrants and plundered both Gardner's and Lehnherr's homes. At the former, they found photographs showing the hunting party posing with the buck in the restricted zone; from the latter, they seized the buck's antlers and more photographs. Both hunters insisted that they had tried and failed to shoot the buck with muzzle loaders in the restricted area east of the highway on October 24, but spotted the same buck west of the highway a day later, in an area where their high-powered rifles are allowed. DNA samples from the antlers and the kill site told a different story, and the hunters were charged with illegally killing the buck. And here, at long last, is the ultimate diff between one side of the highway and the other: U.S. District Judge William Chubb sentenced the two men to three years of probation, during which they may not hunt. He also ordered Gardner to pay a $2,500 fine and $1,000 in restitution to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. Lehnherr was ordered to $2,300 in fines and $1,700 in restitution.

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