A photograph purporting to show the corner in question. (GoFundMe)

Elk Mountain Ranch owner Fred Eshelman and four Missouri hunters he is suing for some $9.4 million are listed as potential witnesses in a federal corner-crossing trespass trial scheduled for June 26.

Attorneys for Eshelman and the hunters filed the lists earlier this month in federal district court, naming a total of 20 prospective witnesses. The lists outline some of the testimony attorneys expect to hear at the trial.

Eshelman’s civil suit claims Bradly Cape, Phillip Yeomans, John Slowensky and Zachary Smith trespassed when they stepped from one piece of public land to another and across the airspace of his ranch in 2020 and 2021. The hunters say they never set foot on Eshelman’s property as they hunted on federal and state property intermingled among Elk Mountain Ranch holdings.

The lists also include the Elk Mountain Ranch property manager, law enforcement officials, surveyors and a fly-in public-land hunter from Colorado. Pilot Kyle Scott may testify that Eshelman harassed him and scared away game after Scott landed a plane or helicopter to hunt on public land adjacent to the ranch.

A Carbon County jury found the four Missouri men not guilty of criminal trespass last year. They never took the stand.

Eshelman did not appear at their trial in Rawlins. The separate federal civil case he brought is scheduled to be heard in Casper.

Corner crossing involves stepping kitty-corner from one parcel of public land to another at their common corners with two pieces of private land, all arranged in a checkerboard pattern. Some 8.3 million acres of public land in the West are “corner locked” by any definition that corner crossing is illegal.

Laws, suits and criminal charges have not settled the issue.

The hunters’ witness list includes Wyoming Game and Fish Game Warden Ryan Kenneda, who was responsible for the Elk Mountain area for some time around 2015. He may be called “to testify about whether the Wyoming Game and Fish Department or he recommended that Plaintiff [Eshelman and his company Iron Bar Holdings] should install t-posts, signage, chains, or locks at the corner … to manage or limit trespass,” the court filing states.

Two fence t-posts were placed on adjacent private Elk Mountain Ranch parcels and chained together across the first corner the hunters crossed, according to photographs and descriptions that are part of the legal cases. The hunters used a ladder in 2021 to climb over the obstacle.

At other corners, which the hunters found by using a GPS device and then locating survey markers, they stepped across apparently unimpeded.

The hunters and others have asserted that the Unlawful Inclosures Act of 1885 prohibits blocking passage to public land and applies to hunting and corner crossing as well as grazing and wildlife movements.

Colorado hunter and pilot Scott, who is not named as a defendant in Eshelman’s civil suit, may testify about flying to public land adjacent to the Elk Mountain Ranch in 2020. While hunting and walking on public land in the area, Scott and his wife “were confronted by [ranch manager] Steve Grende and Dr. Frederic Eshelman on motorized vehicles … with accusations that the Scotts were trespassers,” a description of his potential testimony states.

Eshelman and Grende “scared off game the Scotts were pursuing and ruined their ability to use and enjoy the public lands,” the court papers state.

Those actions were “intended to scare, threaten, and or intimate (sic) Mr. Scott and Mrs. Scott from continuing to visit, travel on or hunt on public lands adjacent to plaintiffs private lands,” the filing states.

The Missouri hunters said they, too, were harassed by Grende while hunting on public land adjacent to the ranch.

Angus M. Thuermer Jr. is the natural resources reporter for WyoFile. He is a veteran Wyoming reporter and editor with more than 35 years experience in Wyoming. Contact him at angus@wyofile.com or (307)...

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  1. Perhaps the government should use eminent domain at that corner and build a road over the land in question to allow access for everyone. That way, there won’t be these frivolous suits filed by ranchers to try to corner lock the public lands. No more waste of taxpayers time and money.

  2. I am still waiting to hear why ranch Manager Steve Grende hasn’t been charged with hunter harassment. The actions he took are specifically what the law was intended to prevent. If it had been animal rights activists doing I guarantee they would have been cited. WY G&F and the County Prosecuting Attorney need to answer for their failure to enforce the law.

    1. Mark Harris, in almost every situation where there’s controversy or a dispute brewing such as an alleged trespass issue or hunter harassment, the redshirts (Wy Game and Fish) will, without exception, default to the protection of the mega landowner. In this Elk Mountain Ranch case, the County Attorney also immediately sided with the rich and powerful landowner. It should be noted that much scorn and hate was thrown towards this Co. Attorney and she wisely did not attempt to get re-elected. So, there you go, “your” Game and Fish taking your money and donations but always ready and willing to cuff and stuff you yet will look the other way when the mega landowner and or his henchmen harass you and haze your game away. This Elk Mountain case has garnered quite a bit of attention and the Game and Fish look pretty bad in the public court of opinion

  3. Just like Trump, another rich east coast guys using their wealth to intimidate regular folks through the justice system. The world needs fewer billionaires and more stand up guys who challenge them!

  4. Eshelman has an interesting back story. Pharmacist with financial gain through selling company that could then afford to buy “the out west”. I see this entitled person has a history of over using legal boundary issues such as pharmaceuticals for gain, manipulating land grabs, local “managers”, real estate, builders for his gain. I know this guy. I know a few of these guys. Moving to rural west.. manipulating government, citizens. Thankyou for staying on this ongoing story. There should be red-light warnings. One may Include applications for “conservatory, recreational developments, fly in access designed to avoid or reduce taxes” all on backs of local tax payers..just saying those people are next door to most rural people. Our idaho neighbor has a gun too, intimidation is his and her intent. The person holding the gun may not be the owner. The local police/prosecutor is aware of resources privilege..the under resource public sell out, move, and hunt somewhere else with there gps designed to document private property.

  5. This ranch Manager Steve Grende, a lucky guy. If it was my “4” hunting party vs. the Missouri hunters and Mr. Grende wanted to take great joy in harassing us and skittering away the wildlife, the situation would of been handled on the spot with -you know- what handed to him. It takes a special kind of sellout to work for these Eshelman types. As for Fred, don’t be surprised if the -you know what- is handed to him in this civil suit

  6. Why hasn’t WGFD and Carbon County district attorney brought Hunter harassment charges against the ranch manager? The hunters filed the complaints and the blatant harassment is documented in both body cam footage, cell phone, and statements made by the ranch. Where is the accountability of that office?

    1. Wyoming LEOs/Game Wardens ALWAYS favor the large/wealthy landowners in a dispute. It’s sure a lot easier to ticket/fine the avg. Joe versus holding the rich and famous accountable. This is exactly what happened in Carbon Co.

  7. Set aside the fact that Fred Eshelman , Doctor of Pharmacy, is a self-made megamillionaire from the realm of corporate Big Pharma who once gave a $ 100 million gift to his alma mater School of Pharmacy at UNC in Chapel Hill , North Carolina. Ignore if you can that Eshelman is on the gilded parchment scroll listing the nation’s largest donors to far right conservative Republican causes and PACs. He’s given so many million$ in light and dark money he is considered on the GOP’s greatest ” rainmakers”. Look past the fact he was one of Donald Trump’s biggest funders and supporters beginning in 2015 ( and might still be… I dunno) .

    But do vector in on one case that will explain a lot about his character and political integrity , or lack of it. Eshelman was a prime underwriter of the notorious Houston Texas voter fraud group called True The Vote (TTV) whose mission was to buttress Trump’s claim of massive voter fraud surrounding and preceding the 2020 election. That same True The Vote group provided the script for fraudulent filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza’s ridiculous ” 2000 Mules ” faux documentary film. Yup… the film that the likes of Chuck Gray and Harriet Hageman and the Wyoming Freedom Caucus believe to be cinematic gospel but everyone else knows is utter mendacious political propaganda. True The Vote was also behind a blizzard of lawsuits filed around the USA trying to prove voter fraud , but those went nowhere or were thrown out for lack of evidence, let alone merit.
    Eshelman invested in True The Vote without doing his homework. Waded right in with his checkbook. When he finally got clarity and realized True The Vote was a false flag organization, he had the audacity to demand his $ 2.5 million donation be returned. He actually did that, even though it was his own darn fault . Claims he had no idea what TTV was really doing with his money which he also claimed was given ” conditionally”. And when TTV wouldn’t cough it up, he sued them, but fell into the same pit trap they had. Apparently , with civil lawsuits you really do need actual evidence and a solid paper trail to make the winning case . Eshelman did not win the day with TTV. Two wrongs don’t …blah, blah.

    Out west there is a perjorative term for that kind of behavior Eshelman instigated . We call it ‘ Indian Giving “. It is really one of the worst things you can be accused of in western courtrooms regarding morals and ethics , and most definitely a violation of any real or perceived Code of the West. It’s a big reveal of one’s own character.
    Which brings us to the Elk Mountain Ranch trespass tussle. His criminal trespass case failed, so Fred goes the multimillion civil case” you cost me something” route. Like fallacious Trump voter fraud and that phantom string of TTV’s 2000 mules , Fred Eshelman is likewise invested in cattle baron mythology based on beliefs descended from medieval fiefdoms of ” the King’s Stags”. His 22,000 acre Stag Mountain ranch is a hybrid blend of private land and public (BLM) land in that infamous checkerboard pattern, except to Eshelman it’s more his personal chess board. His premise must be something like ‘ all the private land is completely mine. That public land I’ve got surrounded, that’s mine too.’ To him it’s worth what he says it is, or what he pays somebody else to say for him. If you infringe it ( trespass) I can conjure up a dollar value of what that can cost me [ even when nothing physically tangible has been transacted on the spot or in the file cabinets back at the Courthouse ] . It’s a kind of white collar property crime except it’s done in flannel shirts and blue jeans. Eshelman wants retribution for losing something he never really had. The value of … what?

    Oh by the way, this notion of the territorial imperative manifesting as real property wasn’t true back in 1860’s during the Manifest Destiny era and it’s no more true now , even though countless patricians have gotten away with evoking it ( and real estate brokers who incorporate the proxy of” million dollar views ” into the actual selling price of prime mountain ranch property) . The feudal Landed Aristocracy credo imported from the Old World still dies hard in the 21st century . The King’s Stags, indeed. The Cattle Baron’s sharecropped Elk. My fence, my rules. Summon the lawyers and petty peerage of the fief…

    I was a land surveyor here in Wyoming off and on for over a decade, and thus am acquainted with land corners , property lines, and boundary battles on both sides of the barbed wire fence. The deep dive reporting on this case by Angus leads me to wonder why this punitive follow on civil case even exists. When the four Missouri hunters were found not guilty of any trespass without even taking the stand in their own defense , all that’s left are the fulminations of a petty lord from a different far off fiefdom demanding a rematch to duke it out in Wyoming. ( Best two out of three ? ) We need to fully know who we are dealing with here , and refer back to Eshelman’s previous patterns of legal escapades as a disgruntled plaintiff. The Elk Mountain Ranch cases seems to have little to no merit.

    Wyoming can be remarkably tolerant of wealthy expatriate land owners or indifferent to their amoral sense of territorial imperative, but not as far as the eye can see.

    If I were standing across the fenceline from Eshelman the first Earl of Elk Mountain , I would ask him the two part $ 10 million question to his face. Do you comprehend how much damage your deeply personal but frivolous civil court case is doing to Wyoming ranching heritage and shaming its ethos of open lands ? If so, do you begin to care about any of that …?

  8. The rights and standard of living of common people get further eroded everyday, and Oligarchs like Eshelman would rather us be peasants than real citizens.

  9. I too was harassed on public land buy a armed guard from private property rich landowner above the Colorado River close to Burns,1986. It was late and I had about a 3 mile hike back to camp. The property was marked every 100 yrds. with a Private Property metal sign. This private want-to-be had a rifle in his truck but no handgun. He claimed I had walked over the property line to get where I was standing, 50 yrd, away from the signs. I respected land ownership. He want me to surrender my rifle and handgun and take me back to what ever. We I refused and kept walking, this dummy decided to get his rifle out of the truck and force me to surrender. No camera, only a Forest Service Map outdated, and again I was on Public land. I put a round in my chamber closed the action and he run off like a worn that he was. Didn’t see him ever again. Now I carry a GPS, map of the area and camera. Beware owners of Private Property do not have to post their property. Lots of bad hunt stories and bad people, in 50 years of hunting.

  10. Time these arguments were laid to rest. It is the government’s fault, state and federal, for not setting up public rights of way between these lands. They need to do it now to stop these greedy land owners from harassing ordinary people.

  11. I pray June 26th court date settles this illegal attempted land grab by Eshelman and he is charged and guilty of federal harassment and pays for it. Hats off the these hunters who have already been victorious in the trespassing suit we the public should CHEER for this win !!

  12. I’m imagining myself as a citizen of Mars or even England reading thie description of “corner crossing” and thinking that “Wyoming ” must be in another universe. In the world we live in, bedeviled by war, climate change, tornadoes, persecuted people leaving their countries and walking through jungles to get to a safer one, ( no “corner crossing ” allowed) not to mention the potential for nuclear attack etc this is the silliest and most irrelevant problem any sane person could imagine. It’s absurdity is bizarrely fascinating. This Eshelman character should go back to whatever planet he came from. And i agree that the hunters shoudd be reimbursed for their pain and suffering. And stay in Missouri henceforth.

  13. I should have mentioned in my earlier post that this should definitely go before a jury of their peers and not adjudicated by a judge only! Judge only decisions are a big cause of the problems we see in this country today. Twelve people will see through this quite easily having a little common sense.

  14. The intent of this lawsuit is to harass people who have legal access to public land, from exercising their rights to access that land. It’s just an effort from someone who has endless amounts of money to bankrupt those who don’t. I hope the hunters are able to collect attorney fees from Eshelman when this is all over. The gist of this lawsuit is a claim that a legal activity is taking away “value” from someone else. It’s a bit like saying my property loses value because I have a busy sidewalk, street or park in front of it. It’s without merit. The state court has already ruled that a hand, arm or leg crossing over the airspace above private land, without touching it, is not trespass. Eshelman’s case is meant to create injury to innocent parties and the court system should make clear that will create financial consequences for him. If it does, this “corner crossing” issue should begin to evolve into settled law.

  15. Exactly how much of that air does he think is “his”? How close to the fence does one have to be to keep from breathing “his air”? At least he is not a real Wyoming rancher, he is a big city guy from elsewhere playing rancher, and with a lot of money to blow on harassing others.

  16. A mean and malicious attempt to ruin four ordinary people. And as for his hunting ranch, any publicity is good publicity. Just more abuse of the court system and taxpayer dollars by another bully.

  17. If the multi millionaire, drug manufacturing owner of the 22,000 acre Elk Mountain Ranch wants to make it so people can’t cross into public land then maybe he should pay his fair share of property taxes, rather than claiming his property is worth only 1/3rd its actual value. This is just another example of an out of stater grabbing up a mega ranch and then sealing off locals. Shame on him.

  18. Not only should the Missouri hunters, as well as the pilot hunter, go to court. But they should countersue and make this landowner who’s bringing suit pay damages for their time and effort required to defend an absolutely preposterous court case brought against them. Damages to be paid should also cover all cost the hunters incurred getting to these venues and time lost as well as the opportunity to hunt. There would be a whole lot less frivolous lawsuits if the lawyers that took them up also were required to pay portion of those costs as it would make them at least think twice before taking the case. At this point it doesn’t take a genius to see that anyone who was in control of the sale of the property in the squared or checkerboard fashion to this landowner could see quite clearly that the only reason they bought in this manner was to garner or control, in their opinion, more land with less money. Obviously if he had bought all the land that he did in one contiguous fashion he could have kept everyone out of that domain legally and quite easily. A very simple answer to this situation is to allow for a twelve foot easement from corner to corner when purchased like this to stop land grabbing owners From purchasing in this manner. As a landowner myself I think that would be a very simple solution to a not complex situation.

  19. It is my understanding, prior to 1885 the Union Pacific.Rail Road owned 10 miles on both sides of the railway, fee title and mineral rights, given to them by the Federal Government as an incentive for building the railway.
    Not sure where it started and where it ended but, for sure all of Wyoming territory that the railway occupied.
    A problem began when UPRR started charging a fee/tax to access the rail heads. Cattle drives from Texas and all points north and south were being charged, a per head of cattle, fee/tax, too the disappointment and surprise of cattlemen.The federal government decided this was a huge problem that needed to be fixed. The fix, was to give UPRR every other section for 20 miles both sides of the tracks, with mineral rights under the private sections, (the infamous checker board)
    Did this solve the problem of access to public lands? Not hardly, it was thought too be be believed that the Unlawful Enclosures Act of 1885 was the fix and it was for many years until many individuals that had purchased private land from private land owners once owned by UPRR, decided that the Public Land next to their private land also belonged to them, tax free.
    Certainty the intent of the checker board and the UEA was that the public had the right to access Public Lands, but when you have mega rich (Trolls under the Bridge) like Eshelmen who could try to bully there way in the courts. The public needs to fight like he’ll to make sure he doesn’t bully the people of Wyoming and the rest of the public.

  20. Do you really believe that Eshelman or his “ranch” manager would have granted the Missouri hunters permission to corner cross? This is about the rich controlling access to public lands, which all of us “own”,

  21. the hunters already have a ruling from the state court of not guilty.
    not sure what the private property owner is going to prove differently from the federal court ?
    maybe to deter further hunting around his property ?

    hunter’s should of asked permission from the private property that they might have to corner cross !

    1. That’s the entire point: Most private land owners won’t give their permission to corner-cross, thus keeping the public lands locked-up for their own personal pleasure and use. For nine years, I was the Visitor Services Information Assistant for the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Regional Headquarters. During that period of time, I spoke with hundreds of hunters who complained they couldn’t access public lands or were harassed in their attempts to hunt by owners of large private parcels who would have their employees drive game from adjacent public lands onto their private holdings. In some cases, owners of private lands would inform unwitting (or knowledgeable!) hunters that the public land they were attempting to hunt was private! And in some instances the private land owners would be backed-up by local law enforcement officers. In the latter cases, I could have BLM Rangers or F.S. LEO’s correct the local law enforcement officers in their actions. But the hunters involved had already lost their window of opportunity, time, and money.

      1. i usually don’t respond to critics of my opinion,but,
        the hunters could of easily employed a local guide.

        i would have.the local guide would have local knowledge of the lay of the land
        & could og guided the party around private property.

        i understand their rights,probably spent a lot of money for a out-of-state tag,& hiring a guide.the property owner has rights to his property.i would of checked in with him as a courtesy.

        1. Besides adding an expense that is unaffordable to many, hiring a local guide isn’t a prerequisite to hunting on federal public lands. Perhaps it should be the local large landowners who should be courteous! Allowing an “aerial” trespass over a few square feet of soil on a corner isn’t asking very much of a person who owns several thousand acres. The up-coming trial will certainly result in a landmark decision.

          1. all your points are spot on.
            the decision to seek redress of grievances in the court is the right of the plaintiff.
            maybe expending a little courtesy towards the private property owner,weather he granted permission or not,
            would of caused him to not push the issue !

            p.s. i have no dog in this fight,just a opinion on who i think could of averted this trouble.

        2. none of this should be required to access land that you already own (public land is owned by all of us!). And there is no “getting around” checkerboard land, if you cant cross at the corner then you cant get to it, period.

    2. Paul, the criminal case was not precedent setting – ie, if the hunters went back or other people want to cross at other corners, the criminal case finding of not guilty holds no sway in a courtroom. The civil case could be precedent setting – ie, it could make it clear(er) that corning crossing is indeed legal (or not). The hunters, and many others, believe that you do not need permission to cross at a corner and Eschelman has made it abundantly clear that he would not give that permission, even if it was requested.

      1. Now that the criminal case has been lost, and the frivolous civil suit will be soon decided in favor of hunters, there should be a huge green light for Game and Fish and the BLM to end the old, old checkerboard problem.

        They should get roads into the BLM acres even if they have to TAKE a few hundred square feet at corners by adverse possession.

        Putting in permanent ladders over corners is a perfect way to encourage walk in hunting. These agencies should strike while the time is right.
        Hunters have been blocked while landowners rake in big dough selling access to public lands. Even though the civil lawsuit is bogus the ranch owner is making the case that what they are doing is VERY valuable.