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Alaska master guide, 76, slapped with probation, big fine

Katie Medred
Jesse Millan / Flickr

On Tuesday, Master Guide Joe Hendricks was handed a five-year probation and $125,000 fine for big-game hunting offenses in Alaska. Last year, Hendricks, one of Alaska's oldest and most respected big-game guides, was charged with 34 felonies.

Through his business, Fair Chase Hunts, Hendricks has guided big game hungers to trophy Brooks Range sheep and huge Kodiak Island grizzlies for more than four decades.

According to a U.S. Department of Justice press release, 76-year-old Hendricks broke the law between 2007 and 2009 while employed as a big-game guide working in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

Hendricks entered into a plea agreement with the state to lessen his punishment. Hendricks was found guilty of wanton waste of a caribou, altering Dall sheep horns to obscure the fact they were not legal size and 13 counts of "subletting his assigned guide use area in ANWR to another guide for compensation."

According to a press release from U.S. Attorney Karen Loeffler, Hendricks "wasted the caribou because he believed he had killed it unlawfully." He allegedly asked "two employees to conceal the carcass in a ravine" and then lied about the incident.

Hendricks hammered down the horns of a client's Dall sheep to "make it appear that the horn was already broomed before the sheep was killed," according to a press release from Loeffler's office.

The indictment accused Hendricks of "unlawfully, knowingly and willfully...breaking off the tips of one of the horns of the said sheep to induce the false belief on the part of law enforcement that the horn was already naturally broken before a client killed the animal which, if true, would have made lawful the taking of the sheep.''

The exception to the full-curl rule is that hunters can kill sheep with horns that are "broomed.'' That's a fancy word for saying they're broken off.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge only "assigns exclusive areas to qualified guides as a game management and conservation measure."  Hendricks  violation of the permit is severe and "not permitted by law," according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Alaska has a complicated guiding system that parcels out hunting opportunities to a select handful of master and registered guides. They are then free to hire state-licensed assistant guides to work for them. As it now exists, the system is similar to limited entry in the commercial fisheries off Alaska's coast. The idea behind such systems is to ensure viable incomes for the people who work in them and, theoretically, to enlist the help of these businessmen to protect public resources as wise stewards of Alaska's resources.

"What I believe is that the reasonably good guides...they work like game wardens out there,'' Hendricks said in an interview with Alaska Dispatch last year.

Both guides and commercial fishermen have widely pushed the "wise-steward'' idea in an effort to portray themselves as more responsible conservationists than capitalist businessmen. The theme took a big hit when it was revealed that Arne Fuglvog -- a one-time Alaska "Fisherman of the Year'' before becoming an aide to Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska -- had long been a fish pirate.

Hendricks is now banned from hunting or guiding, or accompanying anyone engaged in those activities, for five years.

Alaska Dispatch reporter Craig Medred contributed to this report. Reach Katie Medred at katie(at)alaskadispatch.com