Jury convicts La Jara man of outfitting without registration

A Sandoval County man was recently found guilty of outfitting without registration in Lincoln County.

Eddie Pacheco, age 48, was convicted in February based on charges filed a year earlier and received a 364-day suspended sentence, 364 days of probation and was ordered to pay a $500 fine in addition to court costs and make a $100 donation to Operation Game Thief. In addition, Pacheco’s hunting, fishing, outfitting and guiding licenses are up for revocation.

An Operation Game Thief tip received Feb. 22, 2019, and additional information from hunters in the field, led Department of Game and Fish conservation officers to Pacheco. He was suspected of outfitting without registration, under the name “Badland Outfitter”, on the McKnight Ranch in Lincoln County. Due to prior violations, Pacheco was not permitted to register as an outfitter since 2016, according to certified records from the Department. His registration had been officially revoked by the Department in January 2017; the State Game Commission rescinded all revocations in December 2017.

While visiting the McKnight Ranch, Corporal Jacob Lobato of the Roswell Supervisory District and Lieutenant Brady Griffith questioned property owner Joseph McKnight about his arrangements with Pacheco, according to the officers’ report. McKnight noted that Pacheco had paid him $12,000 for six hunters to hunt on his ranch, and that Pacheco was outfitting these hunters. McKnight also told the officers that “he had driven up there that evening because Pacheco had brought more hunters with him that weekend than he was supposed to.”

Shortly after the officers’ conversation with McKnight, a truck containing three hunters arrived at the gate, Lobato said. All three hunters identified Eddie Pacheco as their outfitter for their 2019 Barbary sheep hunt and said that they paid Pacheco $2,500 each. Another truck, containing Pacheco, his daughter, son-in-law and three more hunters then pulled up to the gate.

“I spoke to each hunter after checking their sheep, and they would not admit that they had paid Pacheco,” said Lobato. “I then pulled [Pacheco] aside and told him I knew he was outfitting the six hunters, charging them each $2,500 dollars for the hunt and paying McKnight $2,000 per hunter. [Pacheco] then admitted to all of it.”

A few days later, McKnight provided Lobato with copies of the checks that Pacheco had used to pay him for hunter access, and confirmed that Pacheco did not work for him under a written contract as an agent.

The Department regulates registered outfitters, guides and outfitted hunts throughout the state. The Department’s Guide and Outfitter Registrar, Leticia Mee said, “Outfitters are business owners and are required to follow the same rules as other businesses in order to protect the public from fraud and other illegal activity. Hunters need to be careful to only book a hunt with a registered outfitter.”

Here are a few tips before hiring an outfitter:

• Write down a list of your expectations for the hunt you hope to go on and what you want to pay for this hunt.
• Do some research online to find a list of outfitters who provide the services you want, for the species you want to hunt, in the area you want to hunt.
• Check with the Department to see if the outfitters on your list are registered and have all the permits and insurance required.
• Contact the registered outfitters you like best and ask if they provide all of the things on your list of expectations. Don’t assume anything! Ask questions and be clear about your expectations so neither you nor your outfitter are disappointed.
• Ask the outfitter for a list of references who went on similar types of hunts, then check with those references about their experience.
• Once you have selected the right outfitter, sign a contract with that outfitter and keep a copy for your records. Not only is this required by law, it helps protect you in case something goes wrong. Outfitted hunts can be expensive and you need a contract with the outfitter to spell out what will occur, what services will be provided etc.

Outfitters and guides are highly regulated, and hunters in New Mexico cannot use unregistered outfitters because they are operating outside of New Mexico State law, said Lobato. “Registered guides and outfitters are held to a certain standard,” he explained. “If they’re not registered, they’re skirting that system. Hunters should only book hunts with registered outfitters.”

A list of registered outfitters is provided on the game and fish website: http://www.wildlife.state.nm.us/hunting/guide-outfitter-information/

Corporal Jacob Lobato.  Department photo by Cody Johnston.

About Alexa Henry

Alexa Henry was the New Mexico Wildlife Magazine Editor for the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.