Massachusetts Hunters Charged With Leaving Entire Bull Moose In Field, Taking Only Antlers

Oct 2, 2018

The state of Alaska courthouse in Bethel, Alaska.
Credit Dean Swope/KYUK

A man from Massachusetts has pled guilty to what a state prosecutor is calling “one of the worst Fish and Game violations the state has seen this year.” The man is convicted of leaving an entire bull moose in the field and taking only the antlers.

What started as a hunting trip by two buddies from Massachusetts has ended in a total of five criminal charges and two minor offenses, as well as this declaration from Assistant District Attorney Monroe Tyler: “It’s a very serious Fish and Game violation. Like I said before, one of the most serious that we’ve seen in recent history."

The charges involve the wanton waste of a bull moose along the Lower Yukon River. The men were flown to the area by the hunting guide company Renfro’s Alaskan Adventures. On Sunday, when Renfro’s returned to pick up the men, the hunters were carrying moose antlers that did not match the moose meat they had harvested. Renfro’s immediately contacted the Alaska State Troopers. The Troopers responded, and the men appeared in a Bethel courtroom the next morning.

Forty-two-year-old Matthew Kelley pled guilty to four criminal class A misdemeanors. The first for killing a moose and failing to salvage the meat. The second for that moose being over the bag limit for nonresident hunters. Non-residents are only allowed to take one antlered bull moose in game Unit 18, and Kelley had already taken a bull three days before. Kelley’s third misdemeanor is for failing to fix a locking tag on the moose before leaving the kill site. The fourth misdemeanor is for the unlawful possession and transportation of big game meat. He also pled guilty to a minor offense of failing to validate his harvest ticket.

Kelley's hunting partner Michael Dagilus, age 44, received two charges. Dagilus pled guilty to a minor offense of failing to validate his harvest ticket. He pled not guilty to the criminal charge of the wanton waste of the moose killed by his hunting partner a short distance from their camp.

The maximum penalty Kelley could face is four years in jail and a $100,000 fine. For Dagilus, his maximum penalty could be one year in jail and a $25,150 fine. 

Both men are being held in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Correctional Center and will appear for sentencing on the convictions on Wednesday.