It’s been more than a year since 38-year-old Jason Rulon Davis of Corvallis was met by a state game warden at the Soft Rock Road parking lot with blood on his hands.
On Monday, Davis appeared before Ravalli County Justice Jim Bailey on three felony charges and an equal number of misdemeanors for allegedly trying to cover up an illegal hunt.
According to Ravalli County Deputy Attorney Daniel Browder’s charging affidavit, the owner of the Chaffin Butte Ranch called state game warden, Justin Singleterry, on Oct. 28, 2018, to report that hunters were on the ranch without permission.
Located east of Corvallis, the ranch includes Chaffin Butte and its popular “C” trail that is accessed from a trailhead on state lands along Soft Rock Road. The ranch owner allows the public to hike the trail, but a sign warns that leaving the trail would be considered trespassing.
The affidavit contained the following narrative:
The landowner referred Singleterry to a couple who live at the ranch. During a telephone call, the couple told the warden they had been watching an elk herd near their home. The elk were relaxed and browsing before suddenly becoming agitated and quickly bunching together.
The woman at the ranch said she looked around to see what startled the elk and spotted a man who was well within the ranch boundaries. He appeared to be attempting to herd or harass the herd of elk.
The affidavit said the woman yelled at the man, who immediately dropped to the ground. She eventually saw him walk up the ravine to the east.
Later that day, Singleterry showed the couple some body camera footage that he had taken of Davis. Both identified him as the man they observed trying to herd the elk.
Following the telephone call, Singleterry went to the ranch. Accompanied by the ranch owner, they began to search for the man the couple had seen. Shortly after the warden arrived, a nearby homeowner called the ranch owner to report seeing three males carrying elk quarters in packs just below the “C” on private property. The homeowner said two were wearing hunter’s orange vests and at least one was carrying a rifle.
Singleterry and ranch owner drove to the end of a road near the base of the butte. Using his binocular, the warden spotted the trio moving across the side of the butte, carrying packs with what appeared to be elk quarters.
Singleterry started hiking toward them.
Just as he did so, the affidavit said the landowner who first reported seeing the men called again. He said the hunters had removed their hunter’s orange vests, dropped the elk quarters and had started running around the butte.
The warden hiked to the area where the trio left the elk quarters. He found one quarter. About 350 yards to the east, Singleterry also discovered a fresh bull elk carcass that was missing its head, antlers and all portions of edible meat. It appeared that it had been recently field dressed.
Singleterry then called for assistance from the Ravalli County Sheriff’s Office. At about that same time, he received a call from the ranch owner, who said he had found a Ford pickup truck parked in the state-land parking area. When the warden ran the license plates, the vehicle turned out to be registered to Davis.
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There were no other vehicles in the parking lot.
The ranch owner reported that three people wearing camo were walking toward the parking area. The men were intercepted by sheriff’s deputies and held until the warden could arrive.
The men were identified as Davis, his teenage son and the son’s teenage friend.
The affidavit said Davis initially claimed he and the boys weren’t hunting and didn’t know anything about a freshly killed elk. He said the three were running up and down the trail to get in shape for hunting season.
Singleterry then asked if Davis had blood on his hands. Davis said no and then briefly flashed his hands at the warden before returning them to his pockets. The affidavit said the warden could clearly see dried blood around and underneath Davis’ fingernails after asking for a closer look.
The affidavit said Davis eventually admitted that he and two boys were the ones carrying the elk quarters across the butte. He claimed his son had shot the elk the night before and it had died 200 yards from where it was shot. The carcass was well over 200 yards inside the private ranch, the affidavit said.
Davis also admitted that he knew they were trespassing across the ranch to pack the elk out and that he had instructed the boys to drop their packs, remove their orange and run away after he saw the warden coming their way.
Davis twice denied having any rifles at the time.
Singleterry ordered Davis to bring the elk head and antlers to the trailhead. When he did, the warden seized the 6x7 bull elk antlers.
Later that evening, the warden received a call from a hunter. That man said he had been hunting on state land just off Soft Rock Road when he observed a maroon SUV with dark tinted windows stop in one of the parking areas. Two teenagers got out of the vehicle and began running up the “C” trail. A few minutes later, they returned carrying two rifles, he said.
The hunter took a video of the two boys on his phone.
Singleterry then traveled to the Davis home, where he saw a maroon SUV. On Davis’ daughter’s social media account, he found a photo of the vehicle and comment from the girl thanking her parents for purchasing it for her.
The next day, two game wardens returned to Chaffin Butte to pack out the elk quarters that were abandoned the day before.
Davis is charged with felony tampering with or fabricating physical evidence and two felony counts of accountability for the same charge for soliciting the aid of the two minors allegedly involved in the case. He also faces misdemeanor counts of unlawful possession of a game animal, failure to obtain landowner’s permission for hunting and waste of a game animal.
Bailey released Davis without bail.