Hunting Accident File > VIOLATIONS: > 2004


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 Anderson.

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 take-off.

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,'' he said.

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 airplane.

Anderson set sentencing for July 8 and continued Garrison's release without bond.

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