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Utah hunting guide charged with baiting bear for Trump Jr., leading separate 'canned hunt'

Donald Trump Jr. speaks on KSL NewsRadio on Sept. 21, 2016. A Utah hunting guide has been charged with baiting a bear during a 2018 expedition with Trump Jr. in Utah's Carbon County and another felony accusing him of leading a client on a "canned hunt" in Millard County.

Donald Trump Jr. speaks on KSL NewsRadio on Sept. 21, 2016. A Utah hunting guide has been charged with baiting a bear during a 2018 expedition with Trump Jr. in Utah's Carbon County and another felony accusing him of leading a client on a "canned hunt" in Millard County. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)



Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes

PRICE — A Utah hunting guide is facing a criminal charge accusing him of baiting a bear during an expedition in Carbon County with Donald Trump Jr.

Wade Cox Lemon, 61, of Holden, Millard County, was charged last week in 7th District Court with wanton destruction of protected wildlife, a third-degree felony. The case was filed by Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings on behalf of the Utah Attorney General's Office, according to court records.

Lemon was also charged in a separate case on Monday with another count of wanton destruction of protected wildlife, a third-degree felony, in Millard County's 4th District Court for an incident on Jan. 24, 2021. That case filed by Benjamin B. Willoughby, a prosecutor with the Davis County Attorney's Office, on behalf of the attorney general's office.

When asked why Davis County prosecutors filed the charges, the Utah Attorney General's Office referred all questions Monday to Davis County. Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes is a longtime supporter of former President Donald Trump. Reyes' website includes a section called "Standing with Trump," which includes pictures of him with the former president and Donald Trump Jr.

Lemon operates Wade Lemon Hunting, which on its website promotes itself as: "Your premium big game hunting outfitter since 1978."

Although court documents only list the person who killed the bear as a "client," the Utah Department of Natural Resources confirmed that Trump Jr. had two permits for the hunt. "These indicate the harvest of one bear and one cougar in May 2018 in Carbon County with Wade Lemon providing guide services," the department said in a statement Monday.

On May 18, 2018, Lemon guided a bear hunt in Carbon County. "The end of the hunt is recorded showing the bear surrounded by a pack of hunting dogs before the client shoots and kills the animal," according to charging documents.

A concerned witness, who recognized Lemon and the client, reported the hunt to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. The witness "listened to radio traffic and heard Wade Lemon say to let the dogs go. The witness entered the area after the group left. The witness observed that a section of dirt road had been dragged with a log to prepare the road to show a bear track," the charges state.

The witness also found straw used to line the cages of the hunting dogs, a pile of grain, oil and pastries, and a trail camera strapped to a tree pointing in the direction of the bait, according to the charges. Investigators say the camera had "WLH" written on it along with Lemon's phone number.

"DWR agents met with the witness on site and documented the graded road, straw, trail camera and half-eaten bait," according to the charging documents.

Investigators also interviewed several others "who knew the bear was baited to the property where it was pursued," the charges say, adding that one witness said "that he has known for years" which spots Lemon uses to bait bears.

It is against the law in Utah to lure a bear to a bait station and then chase it with dogs.

The case was originally investigated by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, "but we felt we needed additional evidence to prove that the bear bait had been used to lure the bear before it was harvested using dogs," a DWR spokeswoman said.

The case was closed, with the option of reopening it if any new evidence was discovered.

"In later reviewing this investigation report, there were aspects of the investigation that we wanted to better understand, which led us to requesting a review by the Utah Attorney General's Office. In the Utah attorney general's investigation, they were able to gather additional evidence, resulting in the filing of a third-degree felony," according to the DWR.

Rawlings did not return KSL.com's call for comment Monday, but told the Salt Lake Tribune that there is no evidence that the "client" or hunter in this case knew about the alleged baiting.

On the Wade Lemon Hunting Instagram account, a post from May 21, 2018, talks about spending "a few days in the field getting to know @donaldtrumpjr."

"His passion for hunting and the outdoors is genuine and contagious to all of us," the post states. "The entire WLH crew were all blown away by not only what a good hunter he is, but what a good person he is."

Trump Jr.'s Instagram account includes a post from May 19, 2018, which states, "Great weekend in Utah with some good friends in the outdoors" and later states, "Lots of quality time in the woods hanging out at 10,000 feet."

An initial appearance for Lemon in his 2018 case is scheduled for June 13.

According to the charging documents filed on Monday, the Utah Attorney General's Office opened an investigation into Lemon in 2021 regarding allegations that he "was guiding clients on 'canned hunts' — a hunt where the paying client is brought in after the animal has already been located."

A confidential informant met with investigators in Meadow Canyon in Millard County and informed them he had found a mountain lion track. He then found the mountain lion and informed Lemon about it, who then arranged for a client from Sandy to arrive, the charging documents allege. Investigators reported hiding on the ridge and watching as Lemon led the client in.

"The investigators observed Lemon's hunting party arrive on ATVs and watched as the group walked toward where the mountain lion had been treed," the court documents state.

The client then shot the mountain lion, and was later interviewed by investigators.

"The client reported that he had no idea the hunt was canned and did not realize the mountain lion had already been located before he arrived," according to the charges.

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Utah police and courtsEastern UtahPoliticsUtahOutdoors & RecPolice & Courts
Pat Reavy is a longtime police and courts reporter. He joined the KSL.com team in 2021 after many years of reporting for the Deseret News

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