If Only They'd Been Loaded 

Muzzle-loaded, that is. Early this week, two men entered guilty pleas in federal court to misdemeanor charges of illegally killing a trophy mule deer east of Highway 75 in Lincoln County. The men also admitted lying to investigators about the location of the kill.

Gary A. Lehnherr, 41, of McFarland, Wisc., shot the deer on October 27, 2004, with a center-fire rifle in a game management unit open only to traditional muzzleloaders. Lehnherr then transported the antlers to his home in Wisconsin. When questioned later by investigators, Lehnherr claimed that the kill had been made west of Highway 75, in a GMU where high-caliber rifles are permitted.

Bummer, Gary! Investigators took a gander at the rack and found that if Lehnherr had been using a traditional muzzleloader, he might have had a shot at the record books. Investigators also said the giant rack also had an extremely rare antler configuration.

Ronnie A. Gardner, 54, of Jerome, assisted Lehnherr in making the kill and also misrepresented its location when questioned by investigators. Lehnherr and Gardner were hunting under an Idaho Fish and Game "supertag" that Lehnherr won in a lottery.

This week's guilty pleas were a long time coming. Fish and Game investigators found out about the kill on Oct. 30, 2004. They traced the deer to Gardner's son's taxidermy shop. Gardner claimed that he and Lehnherr were hunting with muzzleloaders east of Highway 75 when they shot at and scared the deer. He said they found it several days later on the west side of Highway 75, and shot it with a center-fire rifle. With the help of a local hunter, Fish and Game investigators found the actual kill site, east of Highway 75 in the muzzleloader-only area. DNA from blood and hair found at the site was matched to the deer's antlers.

For this crime, among others, Gardner and Lehnherr face a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a fine of $100,000. As part of their plea agreements, both men will have their hunting privileges revoked for three years. Lehnherr will also pay $700 in investigative costs and $1,000 in restitution. Gardner will pay $1,000 in restitution. The restitution amounts will go to Fish and Game.

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