ST. GEORGE — Residents of a rural community in Washington County have accused a Southern Utah state representative of shooting a doe as it was walking through the yard of a private residence and then being deceptive about the incident.
The residents, who live near New Harmony in the Blackridge Ranches development off Old Highway 91, contacted St. George News with information about the alleged Aug. 13 incident, involving a deer that was shot near the corner of 2500 South and 2900 East.
One of the residents, Sean, who requested to be identified by his first name only, said that shortly before 8 p.m., he was at home and heard a gunshot. He said he went outside and saw a man in a fenced yard directly across the road who appeared to be pulling a deer toward a GMC Yukon SUV parked nearby.
Sean said he confronted the man, who identified himself as Travis Seegmiller. Seegmiller is a Republican member of the Utah House of Representatives, representing District 62, which covers a large area of St. George and Washington City.
Sean said Seegmiller told him that he was out of work and needed the deer meat for his family.
When confronted about going onto private property to retrieve the carcass, Sean said Seegmiller told him he obtained permission from the property owner beforehand.
The property where the doe died is owned by Dr. Kelly Reber, who told St. George News he was behind his home when he and his wife heard the gunshot. Both went down a small hill to an area near their garage to investigate the sound, he said, but they were unable to see anything, as their view was obscured by trees. Reber said the sound seemed very close and came from the east side of his property.
He returned to the house while his wife remained near the roadway. Minutes later, he said she asked him to return to the fence, saying she had overheard a man telling Sean that he knew the owner of the property and had been given permission to enter.
Reber said he had never met the man before and told him that he could not shoot any deer in his yard. Seegmiller then allegedly told Reber he had actually shot the deer in the yard across the street, but the animal ran into Reber’s yard and he was just retrieving it from the property. Reber said the area where the deer was shot is clearly marked with several “no hunting” signs.
Seegmiller had a hunting map, Reber said, and repeated the same story he had given Sean about being out of work and needing food for his family.
When the doctor asked Seegmiller how it was legal to be shooting a doe out of season, Reber said Seegmiller presented two depredation tags and said he was allowed to shoot the doe. When Reber asked why he was shooting in a residential neighborhood, Seegmiller referred to his map and said he thought he was “out in the country.”
However, Reber told St. George News Seegmiller would have had to pass by “many homes” on his way to 2500 South and that the doe died less than 100 yards from the property, which is surrounded by the doctor’s farm and gardening equipment, showing clear signs of civilization.
According to Reber’s written statement to the Division of Wildlife Resources, a copy of which was provided to St. George News, the doctor wrote that Seegmiller told him the second depredation tag was for his neighbor who “was too sick to hunt today” and that he was new to hunting and “didn’t know all of the rules.”
St. George News spoke to two other residents who live on 2900 East, Ed Stancavage and Bob Hackerd, who are both retired law enforcement officers. They said they were present and overheard the conversations that took place shortly after the incident and corroborated the accounts given by Sean and Reber.
The residents called authorities, and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and Division of Wildlife Resources were dispatched to the scene to take a report. By the time they arrived, Seegmiller had reportedly left the area.
Washington County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Nate Brooksby told St. George News that deputies were dispatched to the call and the information gleaned at the scene was then turned over to the Division of Wildlife Resources to handle the investigation. He said the Sheriff’s Office was unable to comment on another agency’s investigation.
Phil Tuttle, outreach manager at the Division of Wildlife Resources, confirmed that the agency was contacted and that one of their officers also responded. He said there is an ongoing investigation into the incident and that they are still working out the details and possible charges. Tuttle said the agency will have more information in the coming weeks as the investigation progresses.
St. George News contacted Seegmiller for comment on the alleged incident. Via an email sent Friday, he stated, “I prefer not to speak with you about this matter.”
This report is based on statements from witnesses and law enforcement and may not contain the full scope of findings.
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