A Monumental Tribute
By Dan Kelsey, Senior Conservation Officer (retired)
Idaho Department Fish and Game
In 1981, two conservation officers were murdered after responding to a complaint of illegal trapping activity in a remote area of Owyhee County in southwestern Idaho. The incident drew national attention and opened a discussion that would improve the way Idaho conservation officers were trained. It also changed the Fish and Game Department’s rules regarding the optional use of personal firearms by officers in the field to a policy of mandatory carry of agency-issued sidearms.
They came from every corner of the State to honor two men they had never met. But for members of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game it was an important event to commemorate these officers who made the ultimate sacrifice for the benefit of protecting Idaho’s wildlife resources. On May 13 2015, Conservation Officers William (Bill) Pogue and Conley Elms Jr. were honored with a monument placement and dedication ceremony at Bull Camp, where they were killed as they attempted to arrest a suspected poacher on January 5, 1981.
The idea of placing a monument at the site of the murders began in the fall of 2013 according to then Assistant Enforcement Chief Blake Phillips. As the project gained momentum, a small group of the enforcement staff made a few visits to Bull Camp to finalize the plan. From the start, the Pogue and Elms families had supported the concept of a monument and were kept updated as to the progress by Phillips, who had become close to both families though he had never worked directly with either of the two officers. After
A program commemorating the monument dedication was created as a keepsake. the murders, the families created a memorial fund from remaining reward money that had been offered to catch the killer. It was meant to provide Idaho Conservation Officers with additional safety equipment and training. In later years Phillips oversaw dispersal of those remaining funds, and so he acted as liaison between the families and the Department during the monument development process. Wanting something natural that would blend in with the surrounding environment it was decided that the monument style would be a rock inscribed with the names of the officers and their ‘End of Watch’ date. The monument was paid for by the Idaho Conservation Officers Association.
Since Bull Camp was in a Bureau of Land Management Wilderness Area, there were hurdles to overcome. The Fish and Game Department needed to obtain a special use permit to place the monument. But because the location was designated wilderness no vehicle travel was allowed or even feasible due to the rugged topography. To solve these issues a special stretcher-like carrier had to be fashioned out of metal poles and canvas to cradle the 600 pound chunk of granite rock and transport it over a mile across difficult terrain.
The day before the dedication attendees rendezvoused at the 45 Ranch, creating a memorial tent community around an open field near the ranch house. The 45 Ranch had played a significant part in the events of January 1981; ranch owner Ed Carlin had placed a call to Officer Pogue to report finding illegally set traps. Pogue then contacted neighboring Officer Conley Elms for assistance after two other officers, including Conley’s brother Mike, also an Idaho Conservation Officer, were unavailable. Leaving Boise late on January 4, the two officers drove through the night reaching the rim above the 45 Ranch in the early morning hours. They slept in the truck and later that morning had breakfast with the ranch owner where they learned of a second illegal trapping location, this time in the Bull Camp area.