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Matson found guilty in unlicensed outfitting operation in Phillips and Valley counties

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Posted at 1:31 PM, Mar 19, 2021

GREAT FALLS — Wendall Matson of Birch Run, Michigan, pleaded no contest and was subsequently found guilty on charges of several infractions related to illegally outfitting in Phillips and Valley counties.

Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks said in a news release that Matson has been ordered to pay more than $10,000 in fines and restitution and has lost his privileges to hunt, fish, or trap for 18 months in Montana and all other states that are part of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact.

Matson, a former licensed guide who had worked with outfitters in the Hinsdale and Glasgow area, was operating as an unlicensed outfitter on Block Management and public lands in both Phillips and Valley counties from 2016-2018. Matson apparently retained some of the clients from his former employers to conduct the illegal outfitting operation.

“This case involved serious violations of laws under FWP jurisdiction,” said FWP criminal investigator Dirk Paulsen. “Mr. Matson’s actions exceeded those of someone who was confused about the regulations of the outfitting industry and were in direct conflict with the high standards and set practices implemented by the Board of Outfitters and the lawful outfitters of this state.”

Paulsen used outfitter client logs provided by the Montana Board of Outfitters to help identify clients utilizing Matson’s unlicensed practice.

In Phillips County, Matson was charged with:

  • Four counts of outfitting without a license, resulting in $1,120 in fines and $1,850 in restitution
  • Three counts of outfitting on a Block Management area, resulting in $405 in fines

In Valley County, Matson was charged with:

  • Eight counts of outfitting without a license, resulting in $2,240 in fines and $4,800 in restitution
  • One count of soliciting the offense of hunting without landowner permission, resulting in $135 in fines

This effort was a multi-year investigation that crossed several states. FWP wardens thanked the Montana Board of Outfitter and the out-of-state wardens they worked with in Michigan, Maryland and South Carolina to help complete this investigation. FWP wardens would also like to thank the County Attorney's offices in Phillips and Valley counties.

Anyone with information about crimes involving fish, wildlife, or park regulations is encouraged to call FWP’s 24-hour wildlife tip line at 1-800-TIP-MONT (1-800-847-6668). Callers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a reward up to $1,000 for providing information that leads to a conviction.