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Montana Man Convicted After Shooting Into Elk Herd, Killing Three

The Realblog with Stephanie Mallory

Montana Man Convicted After Shooting Into Elk Herd, Killing Three

Posted 2024-01-22  by  Stephanie Mallory

The poacher must pay an $8,200 fine, spend 28 days in jail, and faces a 10-year-hunting ban

Image: elk_herd_montana

Earl Russell Benes faces 28 days in jail, a 10-year hunting ban, and must pay a $8,200 fine for poaching elk from his car. Image by Michelle Holihan.

A Montana poacher has received jail time, a steep fine, and hunting ban for shooting at a herd of elk, killing three of them in 2019.

According to, 27-year-old Earl Russell Benes was sentenced by District Court Judge Randal Spaulding in Musselshell County. Benes reportedly admitted to shooting three elk out of season from a vehicle over several days. He explained his actions by telling wardens that he emptied a pistol into the herd of elk on the way home from a party to “make these [expletive] move.”

Had Benes been convicted on all of the two dozen charges (including eight felonies) filed by a district attorney, he would have faced 83 years in prison and up to $278,500 in fines.

Before the 2019 incident, Benes had his hunting privileges revoked for antelope poaching.

Even though he admitting to shooting multiple elk out of season, Benes was only convicted of poaching one elk on five charges: Hunting without a license, waste of a game animal, hunting during closed season, hunting over the limit, and hunting while suspended.

A former county attorney told the Helena Independent he believes Benes was able to avoid charges on poaching the two additional elk because prosecutors couldn’t find the handgun he used.

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