I know an out of state elk hunt is a dream for a lot of hunters some save for years to go on one trip. So it really burns me up when I hear of an outfitter or guide taking advantage of hunters. This is not the first time I have written about this type of thing. Last year I wrote about an Iowa whitetail guide that was convicted of ripping off hunters. But that story seems like small potatoes compared to this one here.
After receiving complaints from a dissatisfied hunter, Matt Gephardt and Cindy St. Clair, a pair of investigative journalists, launched an investigation. The focus of their investigation was Majestic Valley Outfitters an Elk and Deer guiding service in Utah. The more they investigated the more dirt they seemed to uncover.
According to their report published on KUTV Channel 2‘s website, Brian Carlson of Olympia, WA contacted the journalists after paying $16,068 in 2017 to Utah-based Majestic Valley Outfitters. He has a contract that shows he paid for an elk and deer hunt for September 2017. Carlson said he also paid the owner of Majestic Valley Outfitters, Tyler Watson, $7,175.70 for a custom made gun.
However, Carlson says that the hunts never happened and he never received his custom rifle. He states that he was contacted by Watson and asked to change the dates from September to October which Carlson agreed. After the change that is when he says relations pretty much dried up.
“He would either be busy, or gone, or couldn’t answer a lot of the questions,” said Carlson. At this time, Carlson still had not received the custom gun he had ordered and continued to text and call Watson about its whereabouts, and to confirm the hunt. In October, three days before the scheduled hunt, Carlson says Watson called wanting to change the dates again. He says no specific date was given for the hunt.
Carlson says the next time he heard from Watson was November 1, 2017, cancelling his deer hunt. The next day, Carlson sent an email demanding a refund for the hunts he never received. At first, Carlson said Watson was responsive to this, and agreed to send a refund. But later, Carlson says Watson turned the story around.
“His response was you cancelled it, I ain’t paying you crap,” said Carlson.
As they investigated they uncovered even more dissatisfied hunters. Joe Stokes of Georgia said he had a group of four hunters who planned on coming to Utah in the fall of 2018. They each paid $18,000 to Majestic Valley Outfitters. A month before the trip, Stokes said he was unable to reach Watson. A week before the trip, he finally got in touch with Watson and was told that they were unable to get approval to hunt in the planned area and the hunt was canceled. Stokes was promised a refund but it never received it.
Not only did the investigation turn up hunters who were scammed but also landowners who leased land to Watson that did not get paid. Debbie Hobbs of Delta, UT said she allowed Watson to hunt on her land in September 2018 and Watson paid her $5,500 by check. The check bounced for insufficient funds. Hobbs is now suing in order to get what she is owed.
The journalists were contacted by ten people stating Watson owes them money, totaling $143,975. Most of the hunters had the same basic story: paying thousands for hunts; communications halted; hunts canceled due to inability to secure tags.
The journalists got ahold of Watson and here is his side of the story.
Watson declined to be interviewed on camera, but said, “people from this year, you know we’re taking care of them as soon as we can.” He said, “the bank account’s at zero,” and he is “out of the outfitting business, period.”
Watson said he ran into trouble when the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) ran out of elk tags early in August. He said that he plans to repay everyone to whom he owes money, no matter how long it takes.
All except Carlson. Watson claimed it was Carlson who changed the hunt dates and then did not show up on the agreed-upon date. “Why should I have to pay him back that?” he said, “he didn’t show up for a hunt. He changed his dates on that elk hunt twice, and then didn’t show up on the third time. Is that my fault?” Watson insisted he had proof that the hunt was cancelled by Carlson, but despite repeated requests for that proof to be sent to Get Gephardt, it hasn’t arrived.
When we asked DWR if a tag had been purchased for Brian Carlson in 2017, the office said no.
We asked where the money went, and Watson indicated “I don’t get nothing back from the landowners, so I’m out tens of thousands of dollars per hunt myself for these hunts, because we weren’t able to hunt there.”
Watson said he did pay Carlson back for the gun that was never produced. A check for $6,700 was sent to Carlson earlier in 2018. Watson claimed “I paid him the money I’m going to pay him back.”
When asked about Debbie Hobbs, Watson claimed her address wouldn’t come up for overnight delivery. On November 26, 2018, he claimed he had a check ready and would send it out to the address listed on the small claims action. Hobbs claimed as of this airing, she has not received a check.
Majestic Valley Outfitters was sued in 2017 by Signature Products Group. The lawsuit alleged Watson “represented falsely that the Outfitter had secured the rights to eight elk tags in Nevada” and “refused to return the $42,000 deposit.” Watson’s filed response denied the allegations. The suit is still pending.
Currently, the Roy City Police Department is actively investigating the claims. They are currently seeking all victims of Majestic Valley Outfitters and then plan to send their investigation to the Weber County Attorney’s Office for possible charges.
If you have had any bad dealings with Majestic Valley Outfitters or Tyler Watson please contact the Roy City Police Department at (801) 774-1011
I personally did a little digging on my own and found that the outfitter’s website and Facebook page have been taken down, but I did find an interesting article from the Sportsmen’s News from 2017. They gave the outfitter and the guide glowing remarks and featured a give away on their website. I plan on contacting the author and asking his take on the subject.