OUT: Darner Sentenced January 18, 2009

Legendary hunter runs afoul of law in New Mexico

Former hunting legend Kirt Darner of Crawford hit the skids this week in New Mexico when he was sentenced to pay $10,000 in fines and perform 4,500 hours of community service for various wildlife crimes.

Darner, who once was recognized for his outdoor skills by some of the world’s best-known hunters, was convicted of illegally transporting elk and receiving stolen bighorn sheep heads.

The penalties included a lifetime suspension of his hunting and fishing rights. Because New Mexico is partner to the Interstate Wildlife Violators Compact, the lifetime suspension is valid in 30 states, including Colorado.

Cibola County District Judge Camille Martinez-Olguin also ordered Darner to pay an undetermined amount of restitution to the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, the Colorado Division of Wildlife and a taxidermy business in Montrose, where the sheep heads were stolen.

Darner, 69, pleaded guilty to the charges last summer, three years after officers from the New Mexico Game and Fish Department discovered a desert bighorn sheep head and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep head in his vehicle.

It was determined that the heads were stolen in 2000 from a taxidermy shop in Montrose.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife determined at the time of the theft the heads were worth up to $20,000 apiece.

According to the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, an employee of Darner’s later admitted being paid to steal the heads.

That same year, Darner, who along with his wife, Paula, was operating the Lobo Canyon Ranch near Grants, N.M., illegally sold three state-owned elk on his ranch for $5,000 apiece to another commercial game ranch in southeastern New Mexico.

Darner has a history of wildlife violations in Colorado. In 1994, he was convicted of illegal possession of wildlife and in 1999 Division of Wildlife officers witnessed a client he was guiding shoot at an elk decoy in a game unit for which the client did not have a license.

Last year,  Darner pleaded guilty to making a false statement to purchase a license after he attempted to purchase a landowner voucher from the Division of Wildlife even though he did not possess sufficient acreage to qualify.

Prior to his troubles, Darner was widely recognized for his books on hunting, including “How to Find Giant Bucks” and “Hunting the Rockies,” both ghost written by Rich LaRocca.

LaRocca later distanced himself from Darner by revealing evidence that Darner falsely claimed a mule deer trophy actually killed by another hunter.

Darner was featured in such magazines as Field & Stream and Outdoor Life, and at one time he had 11 record trophy heads listed by the Boone & Crockett Club, the conservation organization founded by Teddy Roosevelt.

The records later were rescinded after allegations surfaced that he had cheated to win them.


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