One of Alaska's best known big-game guides has been busted in connection with a moose hunt gone bad near Icy Cape, south of Cordova.
Master Guide Vern Humble of Anchorage is accused of helping business partner Garrett Wayne Cox, a fellow guide, cover up the shooting of an under-size moose in Alaska Game Management Unit 6A, about 175 miles south of the state's largest city. As Alaska State Troopers tell the story, Cox was with Minnesota hunter Ronald Lehner when he shot a sub-legal bull moose.
Instead of reporting the illegal take, troopers said, Cox claimed the moose was shot in Alaska Game Management Unit 5A far to the south. It is legal for a hunter to shoot any bull moose found in that area.
How troopers discovered Cox's attempted cover-up is unclear. A phone call to Humble, a former administrator for the Anchorage School District and the former owner of the well-known Rainy Pass Lodge along the Iditarod Trail, was picked up by an answering machine. The 61-year-old master guide did not respond to the message left on the machine asking for an explanation of what happened during the Icy Cape moose hunt.
Troopers said they cited Humble along with the 44-year-old Cox and the 46-year-old Lehner because the master guide knew what happened and failed to report it. Guides are required by law to report the hunting violations of clients and fellow guides. Humble and Cox together run a business called Alaska Trophy Hunting. On the company website, Cox is
described as a former resident of Oklahoma who "has been guiding hunts for 18 years from Texas to Alaska.''
The website trumpets the company's $12,500 Icy Bay moose hunt, saying "our hunters always have an opportunity to harvest a bull that measures in the 55- to 60-inch class. This hunt is conducted near Icy Cape on private property where other hunters are not allowed to hunt.''
The "55- to 60-inch class'' refers to the width of the moose's antlers. Bulls in the GMU 6A -- whether on land public or private -- are not legal game until their antlers reach a width of at least 50 inches, according to Alaska Department of Fish and Game regulations. Among moose hunters, big antlers are considered a trophy.
"This is one of the areas in Alaska where large trophy moose can be found that can measure over 70-inches wide,'' the Alaska Trophy website says. "Fifteen years ago, many hunters did not consider the moose to be too important on the trophy scale,. However, today they are becoming increasingly popular and the possibilities in Alaska for a truly outstanding specimen are diminishing each year. Don't wait too long to add this fantastic animal to your trophy room.''
The odds now do not look good that Lehner will be adding a moose to his trophy room. His moose's antlers have been seized as evidence, troopers said. Meat from the bull -- required by law to be salvaged -- donated to a charity. Lehner is supposed to be back in Alaska in late October for arraignment in the Cordova District Court on a charge of shooting a sub-legal moose.
He'll be required to forfeit his trophy to the state if troopers prove their case.
Cox, meanwhile, faces charges of willfully failing to report a violation, aiding in or permitting the commission of a violation by a hunting client, illegal possession and transportation of a moose, failure to complete hunting records as required, and hindering prosecution. He is scheduled to join Lehner and Humble in court in Cordova on Oct. 26.