Paul D. Coward, of St. Maries was sentenced in December in the First District Court in Shoshone County for various wildlife-related crimes to months in jail, thousands in fines and a 10-year hunting revocation.
Early in 2021, Coward was charged with numerous misdemeanor and felony violations stemming from multiple search warrant executions which included: possession of drugs and paraphernalia, outfitting/guiding without a license, unlawful possession of firearms, hunting big game over unlawful bait, and a felony count of possession of unlawfully taken wildlife, which was a mountain goat he killed in Washington and had been hiding in his St. Maries home.
Following nearly 23 years of complaints from concerned sportsmen about Coward's illegal hunting, and a three-year focused investigation, Idaho Fish and Game investigators were able to collect the necessary physical evidence demonstrating that Coward was illegally using bait to attract and hunt big game and providing outfitting and guiding services without a license.
In addition to wildlife crimes, Coward, who was prohibited from possessing firearms due to previous felony convictions, was also found to be in the unlawful possession of numerous firearms. Investigators said that Coward admitted he knew what he was doing was illegal, but chose to continue to bait, hunt unlawfully, and disregard the licensing requirement for outfitting and guiding.
On December 14, the 55-year-old Coward was brought before First District Judge Scott Wayman in Shoshone County, where he pled guilty to multiple charges including providing outfitting and guiding services without a license, conspiracy to illegally provide such services, unlawfully hunting over bait, being in possession of wildlife taken unlawfully, and being in unlawful possession of firearms.
As part of the pretrial settlement offer extended by the state, the parties agreed to proceed directly to sentencing on the matter. After over an hour of argument where both sides presented evidence and testimony, the court ultimately sided with the arguments made by local county prosecutor Benjamin Allen. The judge ordered that Coward’s hunting privileges be revoked for 10 years in Idaho (as well as the other 48 member states of the Wildlife Violator Compact), and handed down a 5 year suspended prison sentence, requiring Coward to serve 90 days in the county jail. The jail time will be served in 30 day increments during September 2022, 2023 and 2024 in order to prohibit him from being in the field during the archery elk season when many of his violations took place.
As a financial repercussion, Coward was ordered to pay a total of $16,000 in fines, restitution and court costs including a $10,000 civil penalty for the unlawfully possessed mountain goat.
Fish and Game enforcement officers said often the most serious and intentional poaching cases are the hardest to crack. These types of investigations are typically time consuming and complex, but necessary in order to protect Idaho’s big game resources, all while providing for game management and the recreational opportunities for law-abiding sportsmen in the community.
Through collaboration that began with community tips and ended with state agencies working together to gather the facts and evidence necessary for successful prosecution, this case demonstrates that justice can be brought to those who disregard Idaho's wildlife laws.