By CLAIR JOHNSON
Of The Gazette Staff
31 Mar 2004
A coyote hunter who survived a plane crash that killed the
plane's pilot last year pleaded guilty to a federal misdemeanor Wednesday.
Paul A. Garrison, of St. Xavier, pleaded guilty to hunting
from an aircraft without a permit, which is punishable by up to a year in
prison and a $100,000 fine.
"I did what I did,'' Garrison told U.S. Magistrate Richard
Garrison said he never tried to hide his actions when he
gave a statement to investigators while in the hospital after the crash that
occurred Feb. 20, 2003, about six miles east of Garryowen on the Crow Indian
Reservation. He suffered broken bones.
Pilot Jeff Puente, 33, of Hardin, died from his injuries
four days after the crash.
Garrison told investigators in a written statement that
the two took off from the Hardin airport in a Piper PA-22 to shoot coyotes
at the request of some farmers. The plane crashed within 20 minutes of
Shortly before the accident, the two spotted a coyote
standing on a dead cow. The pilot made a pass at about 150 feet and Garrison
shot the coyote.
The plane made two more passes over the dead animals.
On the third pass, they started to land when the pilot
noticed another coyote standing on a rise about 400 yards ahead, Garrison
said. "We abandoned the landing and decided to go after this coyote,''
The pilot made a pass but Garrison missed the shot. So the
pilot made another pass at about 150 feet. "Just as I was ready to shoot,
the coyote dodged to the left. I was expecting the pilot to turn left for
another pass, when he decided to go right. Just soon after that the aircraft
struck the ground,'' he said.
Garrison woke up to find he'd been thrown from the plane.
He crawled back to it and turned on the emergency locator.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent Roger S. Parker, who
investigated the crash along with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the
Federal Aviation Administration, said the Montana Department of Livestock
had not issued an aerial hunting permit to Puente, Garrison or for the
Anderson set sentencing for July 8 and continued
Garrison's release without bond.