A Utah hunting guide who led Donald Trump Jr. on a successful bear hunt in 2018 is being charged with a felony for illegal bear baiting. Wade Lemon, a guide since 1978 and the owner of Wade Lemon Hunting, now faces up to five years in state prison for the alleged poaching violation. Trump Jr. is not named in the recent court filing, and prosecutors have indicated that there is no evidence showing that the son of former president Trump knew anything about the alleged violation, The Salt Lake Tribune reports.
The felony charge brought against Lemon stems from a guided hunt that took place in Carbon County, Utah, on May 18, 2018. The Utah Department of Natural Resources initially looked into bear baiting allegations surrounding the hunt but ended up closing the case later that year, according to the Tribune.
The DNR then decided to reopen its investigation in September 2020 following a file request by the Utah Investigative Journalism Project regarding closed investigations against Wade Lemon Hunting. The state agency turned the case over to the Utah Attorney General’s Office, which reinvestigated the case for months before eventually handing it off to the Davis County Attorney’s Office. Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings filed the charges against Lemon earlier this month, just days before the four-year statute of limitations was set to expire.
The DNR confirms that Trump Jr. was Lemon’s client during the hunt that is now under investigation, and that he tagged a bear on May 18 along with a cougar on May 19.
Prosecutors in the high-profile poaching case have alleged that Lemon’s outfitting company knowingly and illegally used bait to bring in the bear that Trump Jr. harvested on May 18. Charging documents show that “a pile of grain, oil, and pastries” was discovered in the area, along with a trail camera—which had “WLH” and Lemon’s telephone number written on the side—pointed right at the pile. As further evidence, prosecutors cite a subordinate of Lemon’s in the charging documents, who confirms that Lemon had him bait the location weeks before the May 18 hunt took place. Hunting bears over bait is legal in many states, however it is illegal in Utah.
Prosecutors have indicated that while Trump Jr. pulled the trigger that day, there is currently no evidence proving that he was aware of any game violations that allegedly took place. Rawlings did not name Trump Jr. in the court filing but said the hunter in the case “was actually a victim and now a possible witness in a fraudulent scheme to lead the hunter to believe it was actually a legitimate Wild West hunting situation.”
Further reporting by the Tribune and the Utah Investigative Journalism Project reveals that Wade Lemon Hunting has been investigated eight times by the DNR for alleged hunting violations. These allegations include other instances of baiting, trapping bears in trees, and harvesting a Rocky Mountain bighorn in an off-limits area on Mount Nebo.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune report, Lemon said he was surprised by the charges and thought that the hunt was “above board.”