By Valerie Smith
A Bend man has pleaded guilty to charges related to running an illegal hunting guide service, in what Oregon State Police say may be one of the largest investigations for its Fish and Wildlife Division.
In announcing the case Wednesday, state police said Alan Roy Aronson, 43, became the primary suspect in an investigation that led to more than 200 charges against Aronson and 22 others. Oregon electronic court information shows Aronson faced more than 150 counts in Wheeler and Deschutes counties.
The case involved the killing of dozens of elk, including several large trophy elk and at least nine buffalo.
Aronson pleaded guilty in Wheeler County in June to two counts of first-degree theft and three misdemeanor counts of failing to register as an outfitter or guide. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail and a lifetime suspension of his hunting license and ordered to pay about $66,050 in fines and restitution.
He was also ordered to forfeit property including two utility task vehicles and a 2005 Ford pickup. Many of the charges filed in Wheeler County, and all in Deschutes County, were dismissed.
Aronson’s lawyer could not be reached for comment Wednesday, and two listed telephone numbers for Aronson were disconnected.
The investigation began in October 2012 when troopers in OSP’s Fish and Wildlife Division received an anonymous tip alleging illegal guided hunting was taking place in Wheeler County. Troopers from across the state coordinated efforts and conducted over 100 interviews, according to OSP.
From 2010-12, licensed and unlicensed hunters participated in Aronson’s guided hunts, which he solicited through Craigslist and by word-of-mouth, said Daniel Ousley, Wheeler County’s district attorney.
“Aronson was trespassing on private property for some of it, not all of it,” Ousley said. “He owned 160 acres of ranch, and there was about 120,000 acres surrounding him. He wandered onto neighboring property, and at least nine buffalo were shot and taken from the property.”
Aronson killed dozens of elk, including several large trophy elk shot by individuals without valid hunting tags, according to OSP.
Aronson charged individuals from $500 to $5,000, and possibly more, for the guided hunts, according to Ousley.
During the execution of search warrants in Deschutes and Wheeler counties, investigators seized documents, a computer, untagged trophy elk and deer mounts, vehicles, a rifle and three freshly skinned buffalo hides, state police said.
Of the others charged, nine have also pleaded guilty or no contest, and cases are pending for 13 others, according to state police.
Aronson’s wife, Emily Aronson, pleaded no contest to a charge of unlawfully shooting and killing a 6-by-7 bull elk. The dimensions refer to the elk’s rack and size.
She was sentenced to a three-year hunting-license suspension and ordered to pay fines and restitution of $15,350 for the illegal taking of the bull elk, according to OSP.
Hunting suspensions for Emily Aronson and the others totaled 34 years, state police said. They’ve also been ordered to pay $152,000 in fines, fees and forfeitures.
Duane Dungannon, state coordinator of the Oregon Hunters Association, said illegal hunting and poaching activities have become an increasing nuisance in Oregon. The association pays rewards for tips that come into its hot line, and much of the funding comes from court-ordered restitution, he said.
“Someone may see a poaching case like this and think it doesn’t affect them,” Dungannon said. “But in reality, it really does in one way or another. These types of things have a trickle effect.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0325