BUTTE — The U.S. Forest Service is investigating the filming of a reality television series featuring Montana game wardens because it appears at least one segment was filmed in the Bitterroot National Forest without a permit, Northern Region spokesman Brandan Schulze said.
The issue was raised after a Whitehall man who had been acquitted of state charges, including outfitting without a license, was charged last month with two federal counts of filming bighorn sheep hunts on public lands in 2008 without a permit.
The state charges were filed against John Lewton after an undercover investigation in which a state game warden shot a trophy bighorn ram. Lewton's defense was that he was filming the hunts.
Helena attorney Jack Morris said it appeared the state was bent on getting a conviction against Lewton and questioned whether Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks wardens might have been involved in illegal filming during the taping of the television series called "Wardens" now airing on The Outdoor Channel.
Steve Puppe, owner of Muddy Boot Productions, filmed the episodes that highlight the work of state game wardens. He told The Montana Standard he had all the permits for state lands, where the majority of the show took place, but given the nature of the show, he never knew where he and the warden he was following would end up.
"We don't have a problem doing it," Puppe said. "We just don't know in advance where we're going to be."
Puppe said he was seeking the permit to resolve the issue.