JACKSON - Wildlife agencies across the country not only encourage adults to mentor youth hunters, they applaud it – but in respect to fairness and safety, there are still some regulations and laws to abide by, even before getting the kid afield.
That’s what wildlife officers detected was afoul with a Jackson businessman’s big game applications submitted for his daughter – not just in Wyoming, but also in three other western states.
The result was Bronko A. Terkovich, 51, being convicted in Alaska, Arizona, Montana, and Wyoming in 2011-2012 and paying more than $20,000 in fines and restitution for applying for big game licenses and preference points for his daughter before she was eligible.
Terkovich’s 2011 troubles evolved from a June 2008 conviction in Nevada for inflating his daughter’s age to get her in the deer/elk license drawings. He pleaded guilty to two counts of providing false information to obtain a big game license and was fined $894. But what proved most consequential was revocation of his license privileges for three years, not only in Nevada, but also the 28 other members of the Wildlife Violator Compact at that time, including Wyoming.
In 2010, Arizona Fish and Game Department officer Alicia Nemlowill detected Terkovich had applied for licensesin Arizona while he was under suspension. Delving deeper she discovered Terkovich was applying for licenses in eight other states during his three-year suspension period. On Aug. 9, 2010, she alerted the Wyoming Game and FishDepartment’s Lander/Jackson wildlife investigator, Scott Browning, to Terkovich’s license activity.
Browning discovered Terkovich bought a 2009 Wyoming fishing license while under suspension for the Nevada violation. Plus, from 2005-2009 he filled out and signed the applications for nine Wyoming big game preference points and seven big game licenses for his daughter – not a violation of his suspension – but a violation because he used a false date of birth to make it appear she was the legal 12 years of age. On Dec. 10, 2010, Browning interviewed Terkovich at the Game and Fish Jackson office for 2 ½ hours.
“Unlike classic poaching of taking a big antlered animal out of season or shooting big game animals and leaving them to waste, this was ‘white collar’ wildlife crime,” Browning said. “In essenceMr. Terkovich was ‘cooking the books’ to gain advantage for his ineligible daughter – which robbed licenses from eligible applicants.”
In 2008, she drew an area 75 any elk license, which only had 21 percent drawing success, and in 2009 drew an area 72 any antelope license, which also had more applicants than licenses available. She also acquired three moose and bighorn sheep preference points before she was eligible.
On June 6, 2011, Terkovich pleaded no contest in Teton County to buying a fishing license while under licensesuspension. Circuit Court Judge James L. Radda fined him $790; suspended his hunting, fishing, and trapping license privileges for one year and placed him on one year unsupervised probation.
Terkovich faced the 16 counts of false statement on a hunting application in Laramie County Circuit Court because all applications are sent to the Game and Fish Cheyenne Office. Judge Catherine R. Rogers fined him $6,000 and suspended his hunting, fishing, and trapping license privileges for four years – running concurrently with thesuspension from Teton County.
Terkovich moved his family to Jackson from New Jersey in 2007. He’s employed as a realtor, engineer, and owner of a log home construction and hunting safari booking business.
With Terkovich residing in Wyoming, Browning not only conducted Wyoming’s investigation but also helped Montana, Arizona, and a rather involved investigation for Alaska.
The Alaska Fish and Game Department discovered Terkovich’s daughter drew a Kodiak brown bear license when she was just 9 years old – 10 years is minimum bear hunting age in Alaska – and harvested a boar that ranked 238 all time on the Boone and Crockett trophy list.
Browning and fellow Wyoming investigators John Demaree and Jim Gregory assisted two Alaska officers in serving a search warrant on Terkovich’s home March 1, 2011. The full-body mount of the bear, the skull, one rifle, and photos and documents pertaining to the hunt were seized and Terkovich’s computer files were copied.
On Oct. 7, 2011, Terkovich pleaded guilty in district court in Kodiak, Alaska, to “one consolidated count of false statement on Fish/Game license application.” He was fined $6,050, assessed $1,300 restitution for the bear, and ordered to forfeit the bear mount and skull and the .308 caliber rifle used in the crime. His hunting and fishinglicense privileges were also revoked for five years.
Since transporting the very large mount back to Alaska would be costly and difficult, Alaska relinquished possession of the mount to Wyoming. Its permanent home will be in the Boone and Crockett National Collection of Heads and Horns located in the Buffalo Bill Historical Museum in Cody. Terkovich’s daughter’s name will also be replaced with the museum’s name in the Boone and Crockett records.
In helping the other states with their investigations, Browning also delivered the citations for the Montana violations to Terkovich. In Lewis and Clark County, Montana Justice Court, Terkovich pleaded guilty to six counts of making a “false statement on an application for a wildlife conservation license,” two counts of “applying for a hunting license while suspended,” and one count of “obtaining a license without the required documentation or information.”
Terkovich was fined $6,290 and had his hunting, fishing, and trapping license privileges revoked for three years.
In Arizona, Terkovich pleaded guilty to two counts of “possession of a forgery device,” the state’s lowest level felony, in a plea bargain. Multiple misdemeanor fraud charges – potentially 31against Terkovich – can be prosecuted as a felony “fraud scheme” in Arizona. The plea bargain reduced the charges from a class 2 to a class 6 felony. On Jan. 10, 2012, in Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix he received a suspended sentence and one-year unsupervised probation. During probation he cannot possess firearms, ammunition, tasers, or stunguns.
In the seven states Terkovich submitted applications for his daughter, officers discovered he used six different dates of birth to make her appear to be legal hunting age. He started submitting the applications when she was 6 years old.
Terkovich was represented by an attorney in both Teton and Laramie counties and all other states.
“It’s worth noting that Mr. Terkovich was polite and cooperative in the investigation and eventually admitted to me that he falsified his daughter’s hunting applications,” Browning said.
The daughter was not charged because Browning did not believe she was aware the applications were falsified.
“The Wildlife Violator Compact deserves credit for exposing this case,” Browning said. “Mr. Terkovich’s illegal license applications would likely not have been detected without us examining his application history for compact violations stemming from his Nevada conviction.”
The compact was started in 1991 by Nevada, Oregon, Colorado, Washington, and Idaho to help prevent wildlife criminals from simply taking their illegal activity across state lines after having their license revoked in one state. Wyoming joined the compact in August 1996 as its ninth member. Currently, 37 states are members.
(Contact: Jeff Obrecht (307) 777-4532)